Is a Junior/Harvick showdown a safe bet in Viva Las Vegas?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) and Kevin Harvick (right) have won the first two races of 2014, respectively.

Chris Trotman

We roll into Las Vegas this weekend and once again I am expecting to see big things on-track. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a continuation of the battle between the No. 88 and the No. 4 this weekend. I just think Dale Jr., Kevin Harvick and maybe throw in the Penske camp to really make a bunch of noise this weekend.

I just think these camps have been able to figure out this new car configuration before the rest of the field and they are taking full advantage of it right now. The other group I am going to be watching this weekend is Joe Gibbs Racing. As good as they were last year, they just haven’t shown much this year outside of the non-points races at Daytona.

I just haven’t seen the competitive force out of that camp that I was expecting, especially considering that Denny won Homestead last year, plus won two non-points races during Daytona Speedweeks this year. So Las Vegas is a big race, to me, for that group. I hope to see this weekend that they haven’t fallen behind.

I think one of the biggest unknowns this weekend is how qualifying will play out. I think the tires themselves will be the biggest factor here. At Phoenix last weekend, we saw the tires were so good that we saw multiple long runs, yet drivers were still very fast.

Now, last weekend it was a two-segment qualifying, while this weekend is a three segment qualifying run. How you lay out your strategy for this weekend’s three-segment session is completely different from last week’s two-segment run. This falls into one of those new learning curves that the teams will be going through with the new 2014 qualifying program.

If we see Brad Keselowski up front again like we did last week, then we know that the No. 2 bunch has a really good handle early in the season on the qualifying procedure. I would not be surprised one bit if we see some big names struggle while some unknowns make some noise because they got it right at the right time.

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