6 favorites to win Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field rolls off Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to start the Kobalt 400, there will be some familiar names battling to win.

Las Vegas is a fast, 1.5-mile track, but with relatively young pavement and progressive banking in the corners, it’s completely different than Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the Cup teams raced last week.

Speeds from Thursday's first test session at Las Vegas

NASCAR’s new low-downforce setup means we could see some surprises on Sunday. Then again, The usual suspects bear watching closely this weekend.

Here are the six favorites for Sunday’s struggle in Sin City:

6. BRAD KESELOWSKI  — The 2014 winner here, Keselowski hasn’t finished worse than seventh in any of the last three Las Vegas races. He’s also won here in a NASCAR XFINITY Series car, so it’s obviously a track he feels comfortable at. 

5. JIMMIE JOHNSON — Where isn’t Johnson a threat to win? No one has more victories at Las Vegas than Johnson, a four-time winner here. With last week’s win at Atlanta locking him into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus can afford to gamble this weekend on strategy. Expect them to be dangerous again.

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4. KYLE BUSCH — All of the four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are fast right now, and Carl Edwards has better career numbers than Busch at Las Vegas so far. That said, Busch gets the nod here because he’s finished ahead of Edwards in each of the first two races of the year, he’s the defending series champion and Las Vegas is his home track.

3. KEVIN HARVICK — Last year’s winner here, Harvick has shown remarkable speed and consistency ever since joining Stewart-Haas Racing prior to the start of the 2014 season. Harvick won the ’14 title and finished second last year. And he’s opened this campaign with a top-five finish in the Daytona 500 and a sixth-place run at Atlanta.

2. DALE EARNHADT JR. — Two years ago, Earnhardt nearly won here before running out of gas on the last lap. In his last eight Las Vegas races, Earnhardt has posted seven top-10 finishes, including a pair of runner-up runs and fourth-place last year. Coming off a second-place finish in Atlanta, Earnhardt’s confidence is high right now.

1. MATT KENSETH — This is a no-brainer. Kenseth leads the all-time stats in laps led at Vegas (516) and average finish (11.375), and is tied for most top-five finishes with six. Among active drivers, he has more lead-lap finishes than anyone and is tied for most top 10s. Plus, after disappointing finishes in the first two races, he’ll be ready to find Victory Lane at Las Vegas for a fourth time.