Podium Preview: Pennzoil 400

Kevin Harvick looks to add to his winning ways in today's Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Kevin Harvick looks to add to his winning ways in today’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

While Atlanta showcased some of the promise with NASCAR’s aero and engine package for 2019, Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas may be the real deal.  That’s right, it’s time to roll the dice and potentially see some of the most competitive but intense action yet on an intermediate track.  Fast, wide, and treacherous, Las Vegas Motor Speedway won’t offer any gimmes to this year’s talented field.

Each week, The Podium Finish’s columnists, Adam Lucas, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKatie CoopleKobe Lambeth, Matt Sisoler, and Stephen Conley will share their thoughts on the latest happenings in NASCAR.  This weekend, we contemplate about Kyle Busch’s win total in NASCAR’s top three series and Brad Keselowski’s “flu race” from last Sunday at Atlanta!

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Question 1
Is it truly a time to be alive for Kyle Busch's winning ways? (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Is it truly a time to be alive for Kyle Busch’s winning ways? (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

When considering Kyle Busch’s combined win total of 197 in NASCAR’s top three series, how does it rank in consideration to legends of the sport?

Cassidy :  Legend – not yet. I believe Kyle Busch will need to prove himself more in the Cup series for many more years before he can be compared to other Hall of Famers. Although he has an impressive resume under his belt, most of these accomplishments come from lower series. To be a legend, I think a driver must not only be able to win races or championships, but impact the sport in a new way.

Conley : It’s been said through the years any win in NASCAR’s top divisions is a huge accomplishment, especially with today’s level of competition. So I ask, why is 195 wins looked up by Kyle Busch as something of a mortal sin. Kyle has been on top of his game every race he’s run, he’s won multiple races in a weekend, he’s won multiples in a row and he’s done it with vehicles that are under a rule book that is scrutinized 100 fold compared to those of Petty, Pearson and other legends. Kyle’s accomplishments deserve to be recognized and mentioned in the same sentence as those legends. It means just as much.

Copple :  Kyle Busch is a great driver. Is he a legend as far as ranking him up there with the likes of Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon? No. Not yet. Will he ever be? He could. Busch might be a veteran driver, but he still has a lot of racing years left in him. There is no doubt that he is one of the best drivers, but he is winning consistently in lower series where the drivers are nearly half his age with half of the experience.

Kyle consistently racing in the lower series is like sticking LeBron James on a collegiate or high school basketball team and being surprised when he racks up more points than anyone else on the court. Busch is a talent racer and one of the best in Cup today, but he needs more wins, even another championship under his belt in Cup before he can be considered a legend.

Lucas :  Considering all the greats that have come before and during Kyle’s NASCAR career, I think he’s easily a first ballot hall of famer and a complete legend. If you do not include Kyle in the ranks of greatest NASCAR drivers of all time, you obviously have either been living under a rock, or are an ignorant racing fan.

Sure, Kyle doesn’t have the greatest personality, but sometimes that cockiness just makes everyone more jealous of you. When people are envious of your on track success, you must be doing something right. Another thing that has always been in Kyle’s back pocket during his racing career has been his teams.

Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports invested millions of dollars into funding and giving him the greatest opportunities to be successful. Without a good team behind him, the entire complex of Kyle’s racing career could be flipped on a dime, meaning that he could have been just “a driver”, instead of being one of “the drivers”.

Shoppe :  Kyle Busch is no legend yet but I am sure he will be one day. Busch’s ownership of the record number of wins in two of the three top series is hall-of-fame worthy for sure. I think Busch should be focusing more on getting those Cup series numbers up there before we consider him a legend. Maybe once he wins a Cup championship having completed the entire season I will reconsider.

Question 2
How does Brad Keselowski's gutsy performance at Atlanta rank in NASCAR's recent history? (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

How does Brad Keselowski’s gutsy performance at Atlanta rank in NASCAR’s recent history? (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski earned his first win of the season despite battling flu like symptoms.  Would you consider this one of the most gutsiest performances in NASCAR?

Acero :  Won’t be the first nor will it be the last time we see a driver battle some sort of illness and or injury and still go out and drive for 500 miles! Gutsy yes! I know if that were me,  I’d probably be in bed binging on Netflix!

Conley : It’s a cool story and a great job but it’s been said that for ailing drivers, their best medicine for an ailment is a fast car. He had that. Just like the great Ken Squire said, “Common men doing uncommon things.” He can do it. The rest of us, worshiping the porcelain throne and not wanting to get out of our pajamas.

Hobbs :  This is not the first time a driver has competed when feeling ill.  However, it is one of the only sports where it happens way more often than not. I think we all recall Tony Stewart’s victory in 2005 at Watkins Glen – now THAT was guts.

Lambeth :  I am not sure if I consider it one of the most gutsiest performances in NASCAR history, but Brad Keselowski deserves a ton of credit for fighting through illness. I guarantee that the majority of us would stay out of work if we had the flu. But Keselowski persevered and truly earned the checkered flag. In 2011, Keselowski won at Pocono a few days after fracturing his ankle in a testing crash at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. He is one tough customer.

Sisoler :  I think it is a gutsy performance from Brad, considering he had to get medical treatment during one of the practice sessions. NASCAR drivers have proven to be one of the toughest sets of athletes when it comes to performing sick. I don’t know if I’d put Brad’s “Flu Race” up there with Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game”, but it is definitely up there.e8

Tiongson :  We’ve seen some gutsy performances over the years. I’d put it up there in my top-10 gutsiest performances. I think of drivers like Ken Schrader who raced with a flak jacket in the 1998 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt at Watkins Glen in 1996, and Jeff Gordon at Bristol in 1999 following his grinding accident at Texas.  Drivers are tough and I’d like to think Brad Keselowski demonstrated this facet.

From winning to persevering, we’re thinking of it all before the green flag at Las Vegas!  Now, here’s a look at our performances and points tally from last Sunday at Atlanta!
Lucas made his first start in grand fashion.

Lucas made his first start in grand fashion.

The points race is on but it's early in the game!

The points race is on but it’s early in the game!

Before thinking about the win, Ashley Hobbs is about ready to make us a bit smarter. Now, she drops by and Crunches the Numbers, Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas style!
We live in cities you'll never see onscreen, not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things.

We live in cities you’ll never see onscreen, not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things.

Las Vegas - where NASCAR's best often wins.

Las Vegas – where NASCAR’s best often wins.

How do past Cup champs fare in Las Vegas' spring race?

How do past Cup champs fare in Las Vegas’ spring race?

I promise we don't have any connection to Skynet to conjure these stats.

I promise we don’t have any connection to Skynet to conjure these stats.

In the city where winning is better than sinning, let’s reveal our picks and see which one is the jackpot for today’s Pennzoil 400!
And now, we present our crazy eight for the Pennzoil 400!

And now, we present our crazy eight for the Pennzoil 400!

Acero :  He won the pole last year and come this Sunday, he will win the checkers; Ryan Blaney!

Tiongson :  I don’t think you can go wrong with Ryan Blaney this weekend.  Team Penske has amazing speed and I believe this Jedi Knight can make it happen in Sin City.

Copple :  Gotta go with one of the homeboys…Kurt Busch!

Lambeth :  Chip Ganassi Racing displayed a decent amount of speed last week at Atlanta. Therefore, I am picking Las Vegas native Kurt Busch to score a victory at home.

Hobbs :  Champion Joey Logano finds his way to victory lane.

Lucas : Joey Logano hits the jackpot in Vegas this weekend!

Cassidy : Two in a row for the 2 crew of Brad Keselowski.

Conley:  A rookie shall lead them. Daniel Hemric gets career win number 1!

Shoppe:  Kevin Harvick will win again in Vegas this time without a collapsible roof!

Sisoler :  I am gonna lean towards one of the Las Vegas natives, and if you knew me personally, you’d be shocked about which one of the Vegas natives I am taking. I am taking Kyle Busch to steal the show and win at his home track.

TPF Stats :  For some crazy (maybe not so crazy) reason, the numbers point towards Erik Jones ending up in victory lane.

Young or old, this is why NASCAR rocks. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Young or old, this is why NASCAR rocks. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Pennzoil 400!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019.  

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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