By Ben White
When it comes to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, two numbers stand out as the very best in the 23-year history of the 1.5-mile track.
The No. 99 and the No. 48 have the best winning records there, thanks to former Cup Series drivers Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards with eight total victories. Burton and Edwards drove the No, 99 to victory for Roush Fenway Racing in 1999, 2000, 2008 and 2011. Johnson wheeled the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports into the win column on four occasions in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010.
Edwards held off Tony Stewart, driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, by 1.2 seconds at the finish there in 2011. Ironically, it was Edwards only victory that season coming on March 6 which was very early in the season. The winner of 28-career Cup Series races anticipated many more victories would come but what promised to be a banner year fell far short of his goal.
“Yeah, we’ve been performing really well. It’s just a joy to drive these race cars right now,” Edwards said during post-race interviews that day. “I mean, if you look at the way we qualified and the way we ran, the Fords are back, and we’re strong. That’s due to a lot of work from these two guys next to me (crew chief Bob Osborne and team owner Jack Roush) and the guys back at the shop, Robbie Reiser, everyone has worked really well together, and it’s just great to drive these race cars.”
Osborne felt the race went well but still more could have been done.
“I think the team performed well, but I don’t believe they performed their best,” Osborne said. “There’s more to come. They did what they had to do at the right time, which I was very happy with, but I think they’re going to get better from here. I believe all the programs probably will, but I know there’s more potential in the crew that goes over the wall for me and the crew that works on these race cars for me. So I’m very excited about that.”
Johnson’s Las Vegas performances were also stellar. Some call it luck but Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief for 81 of the seven-time champion’s 83-career victories, doesn’t believe in luck but rather preparation as a way to find success for his teams.
“You know, I think they can call it luck, whatever it is. It doesn’t really matter,” Knaus said. “You know, I feel that we do a very good job at Hendrick Motorsports preparing our team, preparing our cars, preparing our pit crews to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. If you’re prepared and a situation arises that you can take advantage of a top five or a victory, and you do that, I don’t think that’s luck…”
Today’s drivers, Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet, may be the numbers to play at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.