6:05 p.m. -- Comments from Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's crew chief:
It was a great day for us today. We didn't start the weekend off like we wanted to, qualifying as poorly as we did. Pit selection and track position was a bit of a hindrance at the beginning.
The car was ill?handling to say the least at the beginning but Jimmie really manned up at that point and drove the car straight up to the top 10 -- even with the car handling as poorly as what it was. When we got to the first pit stop, we were able to make some adjustments to car and it definitely got better. I think it got faster. It was exciting. It was fun to be able to pass through all those cars and work through traffic and be able to get into the top five to where we could race with all the guys. We felt as though, coming into that last pit stop, if we took four tires and went out somewhere in the top eight, that we would have a shot to win the race if everybody else took two. To leave pit road in third position, we were really pleased.
(Jeff Gordon said that his crew chief, Steve Letart, was pretty upset after the race because of their decision ot take only two tires on the last pit stop. What do you say to him when you go to work tomorrow and he's upset that you out?smarted him?) I didn't outsmart him -- he did not make the wrong call. There wasn't a wrong call to make. They came in first, they wanted to maintain track position because track position is so critical. The only way for us to beat them was to do something different. I didn't know they were taking two tires, he didn't know we were taking four tires. So I went with my plan because I thought that's what we needed to do because I had assumed a bunch of people were going to take two tires. Steve is a fantastic crew chief. He has done a phenomenal job with that race team. I think the way he works with me in the shop is unparalleled. He's a great teammate and a good friend of mine. He did not make the wrong call. He did what he thought was right to try to win that race and he came up a little bit short -- just a little bit. So there's no fault to him.
5:45 p.m. -- Comments from Jimmie Johnson, who won the Shelby American:
I'm really proud of the car we brought to the track. We had to work on it some through the race. But, you know, it was so fast on the long haul that we could make up ground from the 20th-place starting position we had.
We worked up into the top 10 and then worked up into the top five. At parts of the race, we were kind of stuck there behind the 24 (Jeff Gordon) and the 17 (Matt Kenseth). I think we were all very equal at that point in time and just couldn't get by one another and it came down to pit stops. I thought the race was going to come down to pit stops and who got a good restart and it kind of turned out that way, although the four tires I think helped us more than anything. I got a good start and got around (Clint) Bowyer at the top of (turns) one and two. I was behind Jeff, chasing him. I'd been chasing him all day and I wasn't sure I'd get by him but I just kept putting a lot of pressure on him, hoping he'd make a mistake, hoping that I could get him to overdrive his car and make it tight or do something wrong. Finally, I was able to get inside of him and committed to trying the slide job on him in three and four and bombed it off in there and I was able to get by. It was a great day.
(Two wins in a row. Are you starting to feel invincible early in the season?) No. I don't know if it's just our makeup or mindset or what it is. If you get off to a quick start, I think (Chad and I are) both sitting here, even though we haven't talked about it, thinking that we can't sit still; complacency is going to kill you. We're looking forward to going to Atlanta with new ideas and new things. We're excited, it's early in the year and it is a relief to know that we worked in the right areas over the off?season but Richmond is a long, long way away from right now and we need to keep collecting points, winning races, make the Chase and then get to work for what we're really here for. It's great but we don't feel invincible, though. It was nice to go out there today and really earn this one, race Jeff that hard for the win. So I feel very good about things but 'invincible?' Far from that.
(You won three in a row here at LVMS but the past two years, you were off. Did you put any extra emphasis on this race in the off?season to try to get back on track here?) In 2008, we tried to come back to win that fourth one in a row, we were just off -- and not just the 48 car, but the company. We went to California beforehand and salvaged a good run there and then came here. We were trying new things, trying to advance because we didn't have a lot of testing take place pre?season and we just miss ed it. Luckily, then, there was testing allowed and I think it was 26 or 27 test sessions later, we found our stuff running how it should and ready for the Chase, just in time for the Chase. So in '08, we just got off a little bit and it can happen to anyone in the sport.
Last year we were really, really fast. We were leading the race coming to pit road under green and (Jeff Gordon) was trying to follow us in and missed pit in and flat-spotted the left-front tire and then I had to drive around, while I was driving around, the tire blew and got a caution. We were unlucky being on pit road at that point. Then I was trying to come back up through the field and stuffed it in the wall up in (turn) two. That's why we had such a bad finish. Last year really doesn't show what the team had in it but '08, we were off.
5:20 p.m. -- Comments from Kevin Harvick, who finished second in the Shelby American:
It was a good day. For us, I put us behind on Friday when I smacked the wall there in practice. The guys did a great job fixing the car and we just got behind from that point and we were able to make up ground today. That to me is the most promising thing we've been able to do the last two weeks, is go to the back and come to the front. It was tough to pass today and we were able to get the track position that we needed at the end of the race. We just came up one spot short.
I feel like the beginning of the run, (Johnson and Gordon) got out from us. I felt like at the end of the run we were just as good as they were. It's just a matter of we got a little bit looser than we had been all day long the last two runs. We can run with them and they know it.
(You took two tires on the last stop. Were you surprised that Jeff Gordon did?) I don't remember if the last caution was the caution where they had all the lap cars in between. But, you know, I think, yeah, it all just depends on how your car is handling. The balance of our car didn't change when we put two tires on it and it didn't change when we put no tires on it. Our car was fairly consistent all day. I don't know exactly what they were fighting. Sometimes if you're a little bit loose you put two tires on and the thing will tighten up a little bit. I don't know what the characteristics of his car were at that point.
(If you had a better starting position, a better Friday, do you think you could have given Johnson a run for his money?) I mean, we had the opportunity there at the end and just kind of got ?? we were fifth or sixth there on the restart and kind of lost the same distance that we were behind at the end of the race. You know, having a better Friday would have been very beneficial for us to keep our track position where we needed it to be there at the end. If we had been second or third, I think we could have run with him. Do I think we could have beat him? I don't know, but I think we would have at least had a shot.
5:05 p.m. -- Comments from Jeff Gordon, who finished third in the Shelby American:
Obviously it was a great day for us. It was a dominating performance. The car was awesome, everything was good, and I'm very disappointed to get beat by a two- versus four-tire stop. Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and I talked about it all weekend long and going into today and we came here to win it. We knew we were going to have to take chances and risks and we did throughout the day and it paid off for us, we just thought more people would take two tires (on that last pit stop) and it just didn't work out.
(Do you ever have a day where you ask yourself, 'Why did I bring Jimmie Johnson to Rick Hendrick?') Today I do. (Laughing.) Five or 10 years from now when I'm cashing in on it, I'm not. Somebody once told me that if you're gonna get beat, make sure you're getting a piece of it. That's one positive to take out of it. It doesn't matter to me who it is out there -- whether it's our own teammate or a competitor -- you want to go out there and compete against the best and you want to beat the best. While it's coming in-house, it's still another competitor and it drives us and inspires us and motivates us. The reason you saw us perform and dominate the way we did today is because of those guys (the 48 team) and we don't take that lightly. We came here today on a mission and we did it all day long and, unfortunately, the two-tire stop just didn't work out for us.
(On the decision to take two tires on the last pit stop) That's how it goes sometimes. When you're leading, that's the toughest position to be in and to make that call. (Letarte) felt like more people were going to take two tires. Shoot, we were thinking for a split-second to stay out. If we would have done that, I think we would have finished tenth. I felt like we needed to come in and get some tires but I felt like two tires was the right call, too. We just needed the 48 (Johnson) to take two and they did the opposite of us and that won the race for them.
(On leading 219 of the 267 laps and finishing third) I'm disappointed but at the same time, we haven't dominated like this in a very, very long time. I'm disappointed that the opportunity got away, that we dominated so much and that we had the car to win the race... but at the same time, I'm really excited about this race team. I've been saying it all winter long and even the first two races I've been trying to say it but if you don't have the results, then it doesn't matter. And so today we showed what we're capable of and it gives us a lot of momentum to go to Atlanta. I think we've got more of what we showed today ... I think we're just starting to tap into it.
4:25 p.m. -- Comments from Kyle Busch, who finished 15th:
Our M&M's Camry wasn't bad all day. We were a little tight early in the race and our balance wasn't bad, it just didn't seem like we had the speed. We ran a really patient race, but on our last stop there was too much rear brake and I slid across the line coming in; totally my fault. I'm just sorry for the guys since we had a decent car but didn't finish where we ran all day long.
4:25 p.m. -- Comments from Kurt Busch, who started on the pole but finished 35th after being collected in a wreck on lap 93:
Certainly not the day that we anticipated with our Miller Lite Dodge. We had great expectations starting on the pole here at my home track and Lady Luck wasn't on our side. We struggled a bit early with the slick track conditions, but I knew that Steve (Addington, crew chief) had the game plan to tighten us up during that first (pit) stop. We talked on the radio and we both knew that there was plenty of race left to get our Miller Lite Dodge back to the front.
We got the car back underneath us, but then we got caught up in the wreck with the 1 (Jamie McMurray) and 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) that basically ended our day. It was a bit confusing and I'm still not sure what happened. We were 11th on the board on the restart and the next thing I knew we're positioned on the outside of Row 6 in 12th. I was a sitting duck for the wreck in front of us. Do we get collected if we're on the inside lane? Who knows. It happened and we have to move on. The Miller Lite guys did all that they could to get the right side fixed so that I could go out, make some laps and finish the race.
3:09 p.m. -- Jimmie Johnson took advantage of a four-tire pit stop late in the race and passed Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon with 16 laps remaining and won today's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Gordon dominated for much of the race until the final round of pits stops, with 37 laps to go. Gordon opted to take two tires while Johnson took on four and Johnson was able to track down his teammate. It was Johnson's second consecutive victory, the 49th of his Sprint Cup career and his fourth victory in the past six Cup races at LVMS.
Kevin Harvick, who won Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at LVMS, beat Gordon to the line for second place. Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.
Stay tuned for race stats and comments from the drivers.
3 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 250 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Jimmie Johnson; 3. Kevin Harvick; 4. Mark Martin; 5. Matt Kenseth; 6. Joey Logano; 7. Tony Stewart; 8. Clint Bowyer; 9. Greg Biffle; 10. Kasey Kahne.
2:40 p.m. -- Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials announced that they sold all remaining tickets this morning for the Shelby American, marking the ninth consecutive year the race has been a sellout.
2:30 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 200 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Jimmie Johnson; 3. Kevin Harvick; 4. Kyle Busch; 5. Tony Stewart; 6. Kasey Kahne; 7. Greg Biffle; 8. Mark Martin; 9. Clint Bowyer; 10. Joey Logano.
There have been six cautions for 25 laps and there are 11 cars on the lead lap
2:15 p.m. -- Juan Pablo Montoya, on the incident on lap 93 with teammate Jamie McMurray: "He runs straight into my a**. He nearly ran me into the fence in (Turn 2), as well. I don't know; he's not doing himself any favors. I'm sure he (McMurray) is going to say, 'Oh, I didn't mean that.'"
2 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 150 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Jimmie Johnson; 3. Jeff Burt on; 4. Kevin Harvick; 5. Kyle Busch; 6. Tony Stewart; 7. Mark Martin; 8. Kasey Kahne; 9. Joey Logano; 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1:40 p.m. -- Pole-sitter and Las Vegas native Kurt Busch was involved in a three-car wreck on lap 93 and is three laps off the pace after 110 laps. The incident started when Jamie McMurray got into Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in Turn 4 and Busch was collected. Montoya's car is in the garage getting repaired and McMurray, this year's Daytona 500 winner, is the last car on the lead lap.
1:30 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 100 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Matt Kenseth; 3. Carl Edwards; 4. Greg Biffle; 5. Tony Stewart; 6. Jimmie Johnson; 7. Jeff Burton; 8. Kyle Busch; 9. Mark Martin; 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
There have been five caution periods for 20 laps.
12:52 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Shelby American after 50 of 267 laps: 1. Jeff Gordon; 2. Greg Biffle; 3. Kyle Busch; 4. Carl Edwards; 5. Kurt Busch; 6. Matt Kenseth; 7. Jimmie Johnson; 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.; 9. Ryan Newman; 10. Tony Stewart.
12:08 p.m. -- The drivers have been given the command to start their engines by co-grand marshals Carroll Shelby and Kim Kardashian. A.J. Allmendinger, who qualified 40th, will go to the back of the field after changing engines.
11:20 a.m. -- Some quick facts about the Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
10:55 -- Kim Kardashian is attending her first NASCAR raceat Las Vegas Motor Speedway but the reality TV star has more than a passing interest in today's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Kardashian is promoting her new fragrance by sponsoring Mike Bliss' No. 36 Chevrolet.
Although she said she is excited to be sponsoring a racecar and attending her first race, Kardashian is not a big fan of high speeds when she's behind the wheel.
"I don't really like to drive fast," she said. "I know it sounds crazy; I have a Bentley that drives pretty fast and Reggie (boyfriend Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints) has a Ferrari and for some reason he steals my car all the time and so I always seem to be stuck with it and I know it goes really fast. But I'd say I've never gone more than 90. That freaks me out."
Kardashian said she jumped at the chance to sponsor Bliss' car.
"When the op portunity came about to be involved here, I thought 'I'd love to torture the driver and put him in a pink jumpsuit,'" she said. "Why not?"
10 a.m. -- Good morning from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the grandstands are expected to be packed for today's Shelby American -- the 13th annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to be held on the 1.5-mile speedway. Forecasters are calling for a high 65 degrees today with mostly sunny skies and -- more important -- no chance of rain.
Pre-race festivities already have begun and driver introductions will begin at 11:30 a.m. (PST). The green flag is scheduled to wave shortly after noon.
Check back here often, as we'll be updating this blog throughout the day with news, stats and interviews from the drivers competing in the Shelby American.
7:15 p.m. -- Comments from Kevin Harvick, who won the Sam's Town 300:
(Tell us about your run.) It was good in the beginning and good in the end. We had a couple of hiccups (on pit road) today and we were able to overcome them because our car was so good. Everything just played out right there at the end. It seemed like we were able to maneuver through traffic better than anybody and our car was really good the middle of (turns) one and two and there at the end I knew, unless something crazy happened, that I could run eight or ten laps wide open and it seemed they were having to lift on the restarts. We were able to get out there and just kind of conserve in case we had another caution or a restart or whatever the case may be there towards the end of the race.
(Why are you so good at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?) This has just been a good place for us, even when it was flat, and ever since they added the banking, the cars have just been incredible to drive. It's just one of those places that fits our cars, our engines, our driving styles -- everything that we've done from the old track to the new track. Everything works for us here and it's always fun to do well ... we have a lot of fans out here and family that comes to the racetrack and friends and a lot of supporters that have come for a long time. It's always fun to win close to home.
(How did the track change after the rain delay before the race?) We really hadn't changed a whole lot since we've been here. We made very small adjustments through practice. When the race started, we were a little bit tight and we adjusted on tight for the whole day. If I had just listened to what (crew chief Ernie Cope) wanted to do on the first pit stop, we probably would have only had to adjust it once. The restarts were really what were good for us. We just had a good balance on our car all weekend and I felt really comfortable driving it as hard as I needed to drive it on the restarts to be wide open. I knew that was going to be good after qualifying today because the car was so solid and it was easy to drive and that's what you have to get to be comfortable here to make time.
6:53 p.m. -- Comments from Denny Hamlin, who finished second in the Sam's Town 300:
We were pretty good at the beginning. I felt like we had the best car at the beginning. We would run down Kyle (Busch) and he was really hard to pass at the very beginning. I would run him down and he made it kind of difficult to pass. Kevin (Harvick) would fade after about 20, 25 laps or so but he had a ton of speed up until that point and that's what really helped him out there at the end. He just had so much speed at the beginning of a run and we didn't have enough to get him.
Those four tires got us there at the end. We were coming there to (Harvick) at the end but don't be mistaken ... congratulations to all this Interstate Batteries team for putting a good car under me. That's for sure. We didn't have the best car all day -- I felt like we had the best car at the beginning of the race but we didn't have the track position to go with it. Once we had the track position it took off, but then those new tires got us there at the end.
6:40 p.m. -- Comments from Carl Edwards, who finished third in the Sam's Town 300:
A lot happened during the race. It seemed like every time we stopped, you can get two tires or four tires and somebody else was fast and somebody wasn't. At one point, I thought we had a really good shot at it and in the last run I just couldn't get to these guys (Denny Hamlin and his team) -- they did a really good job. Our team did a great job, Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) did a really good job back on the box and he called a really good race but third is what we came home with.
6:08 p.m. -- Sam's Town 300 fast facts:
5:45 p.m. -- Kevin Harvick overcame a bad pit stop early in the race and rallied to win today's Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Denny Hamlin was second, 1.361 seconds behind Harvick, and Carl Edwards was third. Brad Keselowski and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five.
5:09 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Sam's Town 300 after 150 of 200 laps: 1. Denny Hamlin; 2. Justin Allgaier; 3. Carl Edwards; 4. Trevor Bayne; 5. Kevin Harvick; 6. Kyle Busch; 7. Brad Keselowski; 8. Brian Vickers; 9. Colin Braun; 10. Paul Menard.
4:38 p.m. -- Danica Patrick, on the lap 85 accident with Michael McDowell that put Patrick out of the race:
"A car ahead of me was just going really slow and I caught him down the front straight. He was just going slow so I went to go underneath him as he drifted up to the wall and then he turned down in. I guess I probably should have seen all the tape on the left-rear bumper and said, 'I probably shouldn't be on the left-rear bumper.' But sure enough, he turned down and took us both out. What are you gonna do? It's a real bummer because I was really hooked up out there after we got tires on it and we were probably one of the quicker cars on the track because we had just stickered up and I felt good."
4:35 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Sam's Town 300 after 100 of 200 laps: 1. Kyle Busch; 2. Brian Vickers; 3. Denny Hamlin; 4. Carl Edwards; 5. Brad Keselowski; 6. Greg Biffle; 7. Justin Allgaier; 8. Kevin Harvick; 9. Steve Wallace; 10. Trevor Bayne.
3:55 p.m. -- The top 10 in the Sam's Town 300 after 50 of 200 laps: 1. Kevin Harvick; 2. Kyle Busch; 3. Denny Hamlin; 4. Brian Vickers; 5. Greg Biffle; 6. Justin Allgaier; 7. Brian Scott; 8. Brad Keselowski; 9. Michael Annett; 10. Steve Wallace.
3:05 p.m. -- The drivers have been given the command to start their engines for the Sam's Town 300. New UNLV head football coach Bobby Hauck, grand marshal for the Sam's Town 300, did the honors.
2 p.m. -- The start of the Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race is being delayed while workers with jet dryers dry the track from the earlier rain shower.
Some quick facts about the Sam's Town 300:
1: 25 p.m. -- It took a helicopter ride for Mark Martin to truly appreciate what he had accomplished when he won the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1998.
Martin said he was so busy with the Victory Lane celebration and post-race media obligations that he didn't have a chance to revel in his triumph.
"I remember after we won the race and did everything, it was late when I finished up with all the media and all the stuff and it had gotten dark," Martin said. "I took off in the helicopter to go to the airport and as it raised up to where I could see down and get a perspective from overhead, it hit me as to what we had accomplished. Before then, it could have been the quarter-mile dirt track back home because you were just doing one thing after another.
"I didn't really realize the magnitude of what it was that we had accomplished until I saw it from up in the air and looking down on it. I remember that moment and thinking, ‘Wow, we just won this race in Las Vegas.'"
Martin, who will start eighth in Sunday's Shelby American, said he and the other drivers look forward to coming to Las Vegas each year.
"It's a real racy racetrack," he said. "It's fast, it's competitive, it's fun, you can pass here and it's a great venue for us. Fans like coming out here and so do the competitors. It's better than going to a racetrack that's out in the sticks, it's the opposite of that. This (city) is very, very strong on service. They're here to serve you and that is a pleasure.
"When you come to Las Vegas, it is a whole different feeling than when you go a lot of other places where you feel like you're a burden on folks. When we come here, the people are here and they want to know what they can do. That's what it's all about. That's what Vegas does. I enjoy it here."
1 p.m. -- Saturday's final practice for the Shelby American was cut a few minutes when light rain began to fall on parts of the track. Clint Bowyer led the final session with a speed of 183.530 and was followed by Juan Pablo Montoya (183.318) and Mark Martin (183.299). Jimmie Johnson and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top five.
Pole-sitter Kurt Busch was 16th fastest during Happy Hour, defending race winner Kyle Busch was 17th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 26th.
Driver introductions for today's Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race are under way and the race is scheduled to take the green flag at approximately 1:30.
11:30 a.m. -- Kyle Busch, a Las Vegas native and the defending champion of the Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, topped the speed chart after the first of two scheduled practice sessions today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch, who will start fifth on Sunday, led all drivers with a lap at 184.037 mph.
Greg Biffle, who qualified seventh, was second fastest at 183.855 mph and pole-sitter Kurt Busch was third at 183.486. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified fourth, was seventh fastest in the practice session.
11:25 a.m. -- Brendan Gaughan won eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races during his career, but he doesn't have to think twice when he is asked which was his most memorable. His victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his hometown track, in 2003 before a crowd estimated at 70,000 was the highlight of his truck series career.
As thrilling as that night was for Gaughan, he said it would pale in comparison to winning today's Sam's Town 300.
"Whatever that (win) felt like, I promise you this would be 10 times more," Gaughan, a Las Vegas native, said this morning. "It would be a lot of fun to come to Victory Lane tonight and I do believe we have a Camry that can do it."
As the eighth driver to make a qualifying run, Gaughan said he was pleased with his qualifying lap of 179.892 mph -- but then watched as driver after driver posted faster speeds and knocked him down to the 26th starting position.
"I feel great about the car," he said of his No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota. "This racecar today feels like it's going to be very good. We're a little on the snug side, which has me nervous, but it can really roll through a center hard. I'm excited for the race."
Gaughan said he is looking forward to racing on his hometown track.
"The track itself, we know everybody has heard about the bumps and this and that," he said. "It's a bumpy track but the place has character. This place is a fast racetrack and the parabolic banking makes it real fun. The only thing I don't like about the parabolic is it puts more people in my race line and I'd like them to get the hell out of it."
Gaughan finished seventh in last year's Sam's Town 300. He is 28th in Nationwide Series points after finishes of 30th at Daytona and 24th at California.
10:50 a.m. -- Brad Keselowski shattered the NASCAR Nationwide Series track record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during qualifying and won the pole for today's Sam's Town 300 with a lap of 185.427 mph. Keselowski bettered the previous record of 182.451 mph, set last year by Scott Speed.
Kevin Harvick will start on the outside of the front row after posting a lap of 185.027 mph. A total of 10 drivers broke the track record during qualifying. Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five starting positions for today's 200-lap race.
Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan will start 26th and Danica Patrick 38th in the 43-car field.
8:45 a.m. - Good morning from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where NASCAR Nationwide Series teams are rolling their cars onto pit road in anticipation of qualifying for this afternoon's Sam's Town 300. Qualifying begins at 9 a.m. (PST) and the 200-lap race is scheduled to start at 1:30.
It's 50 degrees, the winds are calm and an expected morning drizzle so far has avoided the speedway - but the forecast calls for a 60-percent chance of rain today.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars are scheduled to be on the track from 10:40 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. and again from 11:45 a.m. until 12:50 p.m. to practice for Sunday's Shelby American.
Check back here often, as we'll be updating this blog throughout the day with news, results, driver interviews and weather reports.
6:40 p.m. - Comments from Kyle Busch, who qualified fifth for Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
(How was your car in qualifying?) I thought there was more in that lap than what it showed. That's all the M&M's Camry had in it. I was flat-out as hard as I could go -- didn't really mess up that much.
(How important is being on the pole here at Las Vegas?) You want to sit on the pole anywhere, but it seems like this is my best shot at getting it every year because I can't do it anywhere else except for here. We'd rather win the race -- the big prize is Sunday.
(What do you need to do to get better for Sunday?) We need to get over the bumps a little bit more. The bumps in (Turn) one seem to be throwing everybody for a loop, but ours isn't that bad. We'll see if we can't get it going.
6:35 p.m. - Comments from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified fourth for Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
That was a good lap. We worked really hard in practice to get the National Guard/Amp Energy Chevy as good as we could and it paid off. Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and the guys did a great job.
6:25 p.m. - Comments from Ryan Newman, who qualified third for Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
(Why did so many drivers break the track record?) Mother Nature is following us in the form of rain andit seems like it's been cool for qualifying almost every time. If it had been sunny, it would have been a bigger difference depending on where you drew.
(Does this give you confidence going into Sunday's race after the start you've had this season ?) What happened to us was poor luck; we got crashed at Daytona and we lost an engine there at California. It's tough but we know where we were at at this time last year and it's about the same spot. We've run a lot better than we did last year. I'm very confident for Sunday's race. We only get to come to places like here and Kansas and Indy one time each year so you're gambling when you have nothing to go off of (like we did with a new team lastyear). To come here with the experience of qualifying good last year and then improving this year, I think that we've done some good things.
6:10 p.m. - Comments from Jeff Gordon, who qualified second for Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
We're real happy. Obviously, we would have liked to have been on the pole but Kurt had a great lap there. I felt like we got a little bit free off of (Turn) four and that might have been the difference. But all in all, it was a great, great day for us and we look forward to Sunday's race.
(Eighteen drivers broke the track record today. Why was is so much faster?) Tires. There are some new tires. Goodyear brought a different tire ... and it's definitely the tire. The teams do a great job creating a little bit more power this year and we found ways to make the cars a little bit faster but the majority of what happened today was the tires.
We made two, maybe three short race runs (in practice), which is sort of what we're going to do this year and it certainly paid off today. The car felt real good. I felt like we were missing a little bit of speed at the beginning of the run, but it felt like it was really solid looking at the times on the fifth lap. But then we went into qualifying trim and made qualifying runs. But you've still got to qualify. You've got to qualify up front. Track position is important. We'll just wait and see what happens tomorrow.
5:50 p.m. - Comments from Kurt Busch, who won the pole for Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race:
KURT BUSCH: It was really an unexpected lap. Looking back at some of the decisions that (crew chief) Steve Addington made, just looking at our notebook, I'm following his direction on some of the key things that maybe I've been missing with the COT. To get a pole with the COT - this is my first one, I think, with this new car. It's been that long. I'm stoked and to do it here in my hometown of Vegas is really exciting to me.
(On taking the track record held by younger brother Kyle.) It's just neat sitting on the pole. Over time, things sink in and get better with time. Kyle's had great success here in Vegas and I've now got the right guy in my camp. It seems like Steve Addington definitely has his game on here at this track. I just hope that bleeds over to Sunday. To have the track record, that's cool. Next year could be better conditions for qualifying and track records are meant to be broken but to sit on it for 365 more days, we'll take it.
(What was the difference between this year and last year, when you qualified second?) You never know howfast your car can go sometimes. You go off the confidence that you see around you, which is the other guys going just in front of you. You base it off track conditions and today, the track conditions were ideal and we had a good pill draw. Luck always has to be on your side when you have a pole or when you have things go your way.
(How confident are you for Sunday's race?) We just hope that we find the right combination to make our tires last, to make the handling right and to be there when it counts Sunday.
(How special would it be to win in your hometown?) You can't count your chickens before they hatch but this would be a special win. It's hard to talk about it and play ‘what if' in m ymind. It would be even much more special this time around because mom issitting at home - she couldn't make the trip out this year with the surgery she had, but I know she'll be rooting us on sitting at home and I know she's pushing for both the 18 (Kyle) and the 2. It's the people that make it special to me. You always remember the people that helped you get to where I've gotten i nracing and when I get to see them again coming back to Vegas, it's just fun seeing everybody and being busy.
It's good to be up front because you get the first pit-box position, as far as choice. I'm a bit giddy and celebrating right now but we've got our job to do, which is a full 400 miles and I hope I find myself in position towards the endof the race - which means elbows up, feeling nervous and racing my Miller Lite Dodge for all it's got at lap 267.
5:20 p.m. - Kurt Busch, a Las Vegas native, captured the pole for Sunday's Shelby American with a track-record lap of 188.719 mph. Jeff Gordon (188.646) will start on the outside of the front row. Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
4:58 p.m. - Danica Patrick stopped by the media center this afternoon to talk about her progress as she prepares for her third NASCAR Nationwide Series start in Saturday's Sam's Town 300.
Patrick, who will be taking a break from NASCAR after this weekend to concentrate on IndyCar racing, said she is getting more comfortable in her No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. Patrick was 23rd fastest in Friday's first practice and slipped to 25th in the final practice.
"We had a better day out there in the GoDaddy car than we did last weekend - it was a little bit of a struggle at Fontana," she said. "I think that (crew chief Tony Eury Jr.) is just starting to learn my style and the things that I need when I arrive at a track for the very first time to give me confidence and help me drive the car into the corner hard.
"We pretty much spent the first and second session just getting the car to rotate more and more and more and more all the time. I'm pleased. I wish we were a little quicker because until you're up at the top, you're not satisfied. We're inching up on it and I'm feeling much more comfortable in the car than I did last weekend."
As far as the media attention she has been receiving, Patrick called it "mildly superficial" and said she is not taking it too seriously.
"I'm grateful for it now," she said. "It's great for the sport, it's great for me and it's great for the sponsors. I am having fun while I'm doing it but you just can't get too addicted to it because there's the other side of it where it goes away."
4:05 p.m. - Jimmie Johnson says he has no resentment for the media and fan attention that has been showered upon Danica Patrick since she decided to try her hand at NASCAR racing. What Johnson would like to have seen, however, was Patrick get a little more experience in stock cars before attempting her first Nationwide Series race.
"As a community, she couldn't have been more welcomed in a better way," Johnson said. "Drivers, competitors - everyone - has been excited to see her come to NASCAR and to be apart of it.
"I think where a lot of fear comes in is that it would have been really good for her to run in a couple seasons of Late Models, more ARCA races, more truck races before (she) even gets to Nationwide. It is a very competitive sport and you hate to have this great opportunity, the spotlight that's on her, and then for her to not run well. That's been the big risk in my eyes all along."
Johnson said his concern was that Patrick's star power in NASCAR could fade is she fails in her attempt to make the move to stock-car racing. Patrick will be making her third career Nationwide Series start in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"She is going to draw a ton of media attention and we need to take advantage of this and ride that horse as far as we can," he said. "But if we beat the horse to death before it completes the first lap and she's up to speed and knows what she's doing, it's going to be bad for all of us.
"As she finishes -- I guess this is her final race for a while in a stock car - (if) she can find a way to go and drive ARCA races or test or practice - even go race Late Models ... I think that's what she needs to do to speed up the (learning) curve to take advantage of this great opportunity she has in our sport."
1:30 p.m. - Paul Menard posted the fastest lap in Friday's first NASCAR Nationwide Series practice session for Saturday's Sam's Town 300. Menard topped the speed chart with a lap at 179.868 mph and was followed by Greg Biffle (179.313) and Carl Edwards (178.772).
Danica Patrick, making her Las Vegas Motor Speedway debut, was 23rd fastest among the 50 drivers who took part in the session. Las Vegas natives Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan were fourth and 24th, respectively.
1:25 p.m. - With rain in the forecast for Saturday, which could jeopardize the two Sprint Cup Series practice sessions for Sunday's Shelby American race, most teams and drivers are altering their preparations for today's qualifying by concentrating on race setups rather than qualifying setups.
At least one driver, 2008 LVMS race winner Carl Edwards, said that change might turn out to be a benefit to the No. 99 team.
"It might help us," Edwards said Friday morning. "It seems like the harder we try, the slower we go. Right now, what we're focused on -- what Drew (Blickensderfer) has been working on and what Bob (Osborne) have been working on -- what everyone has been working on -- is trying to figure out what we're missing.
"The more time we can get to practice race stuff the better and I think that, in a way, not having to focus on qualifying is a little bit of a blessing. We can try some things we've been wanting to try because, let's face it, we've got to get better and we've got to get faster and this track is representative of a lot of the ones we'll be racing at this season that are going to make a difference."
Edwards opened the season with a ninth-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a 13th-place showing last weekend at California Speedway.
11:45 a.m. - Good morning from Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the first of three days of on-track action leading up to the 13th running of the Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and the 14th annual Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
The Nationwide Series drivers are on the track for their first practice and, 40 minutes into the session, Greg Biffle sits atop the speed chart with a fast lap of 179.313 mph.
The weather is pleasant with a temperature of 57 degrees under mostly sunny skies with little chance of rain predicted for this afternoon. Practice for the Shelby America is scheduled to begin at noon (PST) while qualifying will start at 3:40.
Check back here often throughout the day and the weekend, as we'll be updating this blog with news, stats and plenty of driver interviews.
"When I was your age..."
How many times did you hear that line - usually delivered by your parents - while growing up?
Well, I'm not your father, but I am a race fan - and NASCAR is coming to town Feb. 27-28 for the 400-mile Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300.
When I was a kid, fans drove long distances to the tracks, parked the car and then sat around waiting for something to happen. There wasn't much to do or see until the event started. If you were lucky, a local high school marching band performed prior to the opening green flag. When the race ended, you hopped back into the family car for the long ride home. Although the racing was good, the total experience left much to be desired.
In the mid-1990s, NASCAR exploded into the nationwide, major-league sport we know it as today. That explosive growth sparked a demand for distractions and amenities comparable to baseball and football venues. The millions of new NASCAR fans caused a crushing demand for access to its stars, the drivers.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway was constructed during the NASCAR explosion (in 1996) and underwent a substantial overhaul in 2007. The track now offers an experience befitting Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world.
It isn't hard to convince auto racing fans to come to Las Vegas because there is so much to see and do here. And when NASCAR fans take over the city during the last weekend of February there is a non-stop flurry of activity to keep them blissfully occupied.
Many drivers will participate in autograph sessions at local hotels and casinos. Joey Logano, NASCAR's 2009 Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year titleholder, will appear at a local Home Depot on behalf of his sponsor. Race cars and simulators will be stationed at hotels, supermarkets and retail outlets. Traffic on the Las Vegas Strip will halt as the NASCAR haulers (the colorful 18-wheelers that carry the race cars and equipment) rumble into town on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. (Remember when the circus train came to town?) All of these activities are free to the public.
The speedway boasts the ultimate fan experience: the Neon Garage. Fans are able to stand safely within inches of their favorite drivers and cars and take in the hectic activity in NASCAR's "locker room," the garage area. The Neon Garage also is home to non-stop live entertainment (on the center stage) and the speedway's victory lane. Neon Garage ticketholders are invited to celebrate right along with the winning driver.
Speedway Children's Charities will host two events: a track walk and a NASCAR driver auction. The driver auction will take place at Sam's Town Live! on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. The highest bidder on each driver will have the opportunity to ride around the speedway with him (in front of a crowd of 150,000 of their cheering peers) during the pre-race driver introduction ceremony. The track walk for charity, led by a top NASCAR driver, will take place on the 1.5-mile superspeedway at 8 a.m. on race day.
What other sport allows fans to peer into the locker room and walk on the home court?
And if NASCAR alone does not offer up enough of a racing fix, the most rabid fans will find themselves at the half-mile Dirt Track for USAC and World of Outlaws Sprint Car racing on Thursday and Friday night, watching alcohol-burning machines broadslide through the turns amid the delightful aromas of fried dough and Italian sausage.
It's a great time to be a race fan, especially in Las Vegas.