GFT Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle
16 min readOct 13, 2023

13 October 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

LAS VEGAS, NV — The Elite Eight: NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 8 kicks off Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger played spoiler in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 12 elimination race at the Charlotte ROVAL stealing the win from the Playoff contenders, four more drivers have been eliminated from the postseason — Brad Keselowski, Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch. Now, the eight elite drivers that have made it this far, need to regroup as the Playoff spotlight turns to the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway for this Sunday’s South Point 400.

Playoff contenders in the Round of 8 will battle Sunday in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Image Credit: GFT Digital)
Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts race 1 in the Round of 8 (Image Credit: lvms.com)

This is the sixth-year Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race (2018–2023). The 2023 season also marks the second-time the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 has opened at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — race №33 of the season and seventh of the postseason.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the sixth different track to host the seventh race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; joining Atlanta Motor Speedway (2004–2008), Talladega Superspeedway (2009–2010), Martinsville Speedway (2011–2019), Kansas Speedway (2020) and Texas Motor Speedway (2021).

Prior to the 2022 season, Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2018 and 2019 and the fourth race in the Playoffs, the first race of the Round of 12, from 2020–2021.

Five different drivers have won the five previous Playoff races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

A total of 11 different drivers have won the seventh race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, led by Jimmie Johnson with four postseason victories (Atlanta: 2004, 2007 and Martinsville: 2012, 2016). Team Penske’s Joey Logano leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in victories in the seventh race of the Playoffs with three postseason wins; including last season’s race at Las Vegas (Martinsville in 2018; Kansas in 2020; Las Vegas in 2022).

Six times the winner of the seventh NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race has gone on to win the championship later that same season: 2007, 2011, 2016, 2018, 2021 and 2022.

In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the sixth starting position at Atlanta Motor Speedway and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship. The win was the second of four consecutive Playoff victories he put up en route to the title that season (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).

In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his third NASCAR Cup Series championship (2002, 2005, 2011). The victory was his third of a record setting five Playoff wins that season.

In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his record tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship. The victory was his second of three Playoff wins during his title run that season.

In 2018, Joey Logano won from the 10th starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. It was his first of two Playoffs wins that season (Martinsville, Homestead-Miami).

In 2021, Kyle Larson won from the pole at Texas Motor Speedway and went on to win his first career NASCAR Cup Series championship. The victory was his third of a record tying five Playoff wins season en route to the title.

In 2022, Joey Logano won from the fifth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his second NASCAR Cup Series championship (2018, 2022). The victory was his first of only two Playoffs wins that season (Las Vegas, Phoenix).

The worst finish by a driver in the seventh NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race that later went on to win the title that same season was at Atlanta Motor Speedway (2004–2008), when Kurt Busch posted a 42nd-place finish in the 2004 Atlanta race, then the seventh event in the Playoffs, and went on to win the title that same season. The finish was due to an engine failure.

The finishes by the eventual champion in the Playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

· 4th by Joey Logano in 2018 — the first race of the Playoffs.

· 19th by Kyle Busch in 2019 — the first race of the Playoffs.

· 22nd by Chase Elliott in 2020 — the fourth race of the Playoffs.

· 1st by Kyle Larson in 2021 — the fourth race of the Playoffs.

· 1st by Joey Logano in 2022 — the seventh race of the Playoffs.

Three times non-Playoff drivers have won the seventh race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs: 2006, 2009 and 2010.

In 2006, Tony Stewart won the seventh race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he was 11th in points at the time of the win.

In 2009, Jamie McMurray won the seventh race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway, he was ranked 22nd in the points at the time of the win.

In 2010, Clint Bowyer won the seventh race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway, he was 12th in the points at the time of the win.

No non-Playoff driver has ever won the Playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But that could change this weekend, last Sunday’s Playoff race at the Charlotte ROVAL was won by a non-Playoff driver (AJ Allmendinger). Plus, the 2023 season has produced 15 different winners this season, tied with the 2005 and 2013 seasons for the fourth-most winners through the first 32 races of a season in the Modern Era (1972-Present).

Make sure to tune-in for all the NASCAR Cup Series on-track action this weekend. The Cup Series will first hit the track with practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday, October 14 and both can be viewed at 12:30 p.m. ET on the USA Network.

Las Vegas Clinch Scenarios: The first chance to earn a spot in the Championship 4

With the conclusion of the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the postseason challengers get their points reseeded once again and are now confronted with trying to earn their spot in the final round. This weekend’s South Point 400 (Oct. 15 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will jump start the Round of 8; the first of three races (Las Vegas, Miami and Martinsville) the contenders have to navigate through for a spot in the Championship 4.

Already Clinched

No drivers have clinched a spot in the 4-driver field of the next round.

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney

8 drivers will battle over the next 3 weeks to make the Championship 4 and race for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 5, 2023

NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, October 15
11:30am Local (Pacific) / 2:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,785,320

TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)

Distance: 400.5 miles (267 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 165), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)

Track Facts

Track Length: 1.5 Miles
Race Length: 400 Miles (267 Laps)
Grandstand Seating Capacity: 106,000
First Race: March 1, 1998 — Las Vegas 400
Banking in Corners: 20 degrees
Banking on Frontstretch: 9 degrees
Banking on Backstretch: 9 degrees
Frontstretch: 2,275 feet
Backstretch: 1,572 feet

Qualifying & Race Records

Qualifying: Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 196.328 mph (27.505 sec.); March 4, 2016
Race: Brad Keselowski, Ford, 154.633 mph, (02:35:24); March 9, 2014

Track Records

Most Wins: 4 — Jimmie Johnson
Most Poles: 3 — Kasey Kahne
Most Top Fives: 11 — Kyle Busch
Most Top 10s: 14 — Kyle Busch

Scouting the Round of 8 Cup Playoff field

The eight-driver Playoff field heading into this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a definite mix of experience. At one end of the experience spectrum sits the two former champions — Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Kyle Larson (2021), and at the other end, are two drivers making their first career appearance in the Round of 8 — Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick.

Of the eight Playoff contenders, four have made previous career appearances in the Championship 4 Round — Martin Truex Jr. has five appearances (2021, ’19, ’18, ’17, ‘15), Denny Hamlin has four appearances (2021, ’20, ’19, ’14) and Christopher Bell (2022) and Kyle Larson (2021) each have one appearance in the final postseason round.

Plus, the youth movement in the Cup Series is continuing to flourish, four of the eight drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 are in their 20s, the youngest being William Byron at 25. The oldest driver in the Round of 8 this season is Martin Truex Jr. at the age of 43. The average age of this season’s Round of 8 is 31 years old.

The crop of eight Playoff drivers also hail from six different states across the country — North Carolina (William Byron and Ryan Blaney), New Jersey (Martin Truex Jr.), Virginia (Denny Hamlin), California (Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick), Texas (Chris Buescher) and Oklahoma (Christopher Bell).

Las Vegas Motor Speedway: A diamond in the desert

Las Vegas is a great city with tons to do, but nothing on the ‘The Strip’ this weekend will compare to the drama that Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be dishing-up as the 1.5-mile track serves as the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 8 with the South Point 400 on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Eight Playoff contenders will begin their hunt for one of the four spots in the Championship 4 Round and a shot at this season’s title this weekend at Las Vegas — the second-to-last 1.5-mile track on the schedule.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was held on March 1, 1998. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won the pole for the inaugural event driving a Ford for Robert Yates Racing, and NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin won the race driving a Ford for RFK Racing. In total there have been 31 NASCAR Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1998–2023). The 1.5-mile track has hosted one race per season from 1998 to 2017. The 2018 season marked the first time Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted two Cup Series events in a single season (2018–2023) and the first season the track joined the Playoff schedule.

A total of 19 different drivers have won the pole in the NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kasey Kahne leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Las Vegas with three (2004, 2007, 2012). Kyle Busch (2008, 2009) and Joey Logano (2014, 2023) lead all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in poles at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with two each.

Of the 19 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Las Vegas, eight at active this weekend, and three are current Playoff drivers — Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney.

A total of 18 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and eight different drivers have won more than once at the 1.5-mile track. Jimmie Johnson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with four victories (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010). Brad Keselowski (2014, 2016, 2018) and Joey Logano (2019, 2020, 2022) lead all active drivers in NASCAR Cup Series wins at Las Vegas with three each.

Of the 18 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, nine of them are active this weekend at Las Vegas and four are current Playoff contenders — Martin Truex Jr., William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Best of The Best: Cup Playoff contender performances at Las Vegas

Only eight drivers left in the Playoffs to decide who will win the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship, and of those eight, four are former winners at this weekend’s Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Truex, Byron, Hamlin and Larson). With so much on the line heading into this Sunday, here is a look at the career performances of the eight Playoff drivers at Las Vegas.

1 — William Byron (№24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently the standings leader heading into Las Vegas this weekend, up +20 points on the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Byron has put up the series-best season-to-date Driver Rating at 98.1 and has collected six wins, 13 top fives, 18 top 10s and three poles. He has led 895 laps (second-most) and has an average finish of 11.5.

Looking to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Byron has posted one win (2023), two top fives and four top 10s. His average finish of 16.273, 13th-best at the 1.5-mile track and he ranks inside the top 15 in several pre-race Loop categories: Average Running Position of 11.705, ninth-best; Driver Rating of 93.3, ninth-best; 187 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best; 2,110 Laps in the Top 15 (71.4%), 13th-most and 623 Quality Passes, 13th-most.

2 — Martin Truex Jr. (№19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) is currently ranked second in the Playoff standings heading into Las Vegas this weekend, up +15 points on the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Truex has managed a season-to-date Driver Rating of 92.2 (fourth-best) and has put up three wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s and a pole. He has also led 832 laps (third-most) and has an average finish of 13.2.

Heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, Truex has posted two wins, seven top fives and 14 top 10s at the 1.5-mile track in Nevada. His average finish of 10.0 is third-best at Vegas and he ranks inside the top-10 in several pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 10.438, fourth-best; Driver Rating of 98.5, sixth-best; 340 Fastest Laps Run, third-best; 4,704 Laps in the Top 15 (76.1%), third-most and

1,141 Quality Passes, series-most.

3 — Denny Hamlin (№11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) is currently ranked third in the Playoff standings heading into Las Vegas this weekend, up +11 points on the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Hamlin has earned the second-best season-to-date Driver Rating (96.9) of the year and has posted three wins, 13 top fives, 16 top 10s and four poles. The Virginia native has also led 774 laps (fourth-most) and has an average finish of 12.3.

Looking to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Hamlin has accumulated one win, six top fives and 11 top 10s at the track in Nevada. His average finish of 12.783 is eighth-best at the 1.5-mile track and he ranks 11th or better in key pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 12.644, 10th-best; Driver Rating of 90.7, 11th-best; 179 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best; 3,963 Laps in the Top 15 (64.1%), fifth-most and 1,038 Quality Passes, third-most.

4 — Kyle Larson (№5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently ranked fourth in the Playoff standings heading into Las Vegas this weekend, up three points on the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Larson has put up a season-to-date Driver Rating of 94.4, third-best and has gathered three wins, 13 top fives, 15 top 10s and two poles. The California native has also led 898 laps (series-most) and has an average finish of 15.1.

Arriving at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, Larson has posted one win, six top fives and 10 top 10s at the 1.5-mile speedway. His average finish of 10.5 is fourth-best and he ranks inside the top-10 in several pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 11.161, seventh-best; Driver Rating of 99.4, fifth-best; 231 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best; 2,777 Laps in the Top 15 (74.0%), 10th-most and 747 Quality Passes, eighth-most.

5 — Chris Buescher (№17 RFK Racing Ford) is currently ranked fifth in the Playoff standings heading into Las Vegas this weekend, three points back from the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Buescher has earned a season-to-date Driver Rating of 84.5 (ninth-best), and has collected three wins, eight top fives and 15 top 10s. Buescher has led 237 laps and also has an average finish of 12.2 on the year.

Looking to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Buescher has posted just one top-10 finish. His average finish of 17.769 is 15th-best and he ranks inside the top-25 in several pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 21.649, 24th-best; Driver Rating of 60.9, 25th-best; 24 Fastest Laps Run, 24th-best; 471 Laps in the Top 15 (13.5%), 24th-most and 250 Quality Passes, 23rd-most.

6 — Christopher Bell (№20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) is currently ranked sixth in the Playoff standings heading into Las Vegas this weekend, eight points back from the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Bell has managed a season-to-date Driver Rating of 90.0 (sixth-best) and has posted one win, eight top fives, 16 top 10s and five poles. The Oklahoma native has also led 512 laps (fifth-most) and has an average finish of 13.1.

Heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, Bell has gathered one top five, three top 10s and one pole at the 1.5-mile speedway. Bell has also put up an average finish of 19.571 (18th-best) and he ranks inside the top-25 in several pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 17.525, 18th-best; Driver Rating of 76.2, 15th-best; 29 Fastest Laps Run, 22nd-best; 893 Laps in the Top 15 (47.5%), 21st-most and

336 Quality Passes, 19th-most.

7 — Tyler Reddick (№45 23XI Racing Toyota) is currently ranked seventh in the Playoff standings heading into Las Vegas this weekend, eight points back from the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Reddick has posted the fifth-best season-to-date Driver Rating of 90.2, and has secured two wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s, and two poles. Reddick has led 469 laps (seventh-most) and has an average finish of 15.8 on the year.

Arriving at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, Reddick has put up three top 10s and one pole at the famed track. He has also managed an average finish of 16.0 (12th-best) and is ranked in the top-20 in several pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 15.594, 13th-best; Driver Rating of 78.0, 13th-best; 52 Fastest Laps Run, 15th-best; 1,061 Laps in the Top 15 (56.4%), 18th-most and 356 Quality Passes, 18th-most.

8 — Ryan Blaney (№12 Team Penske Ford) is currently ranked eighth in the Playoff standings heading into Las Vegas this weekend, 10 points back from the Championship 4 Round cutline. This season, Blaney fashioned a season-to-date Driver Rating of 85.3 (eighth-best) and has put up two wins, five top fives and 14 top 10s. The North Carolina native has also led 362 laps and posted an average finish of 15.5.

Looking to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Blaney has posted five top fives, eight top 10s and one pole at the 1.5-mile track. He has also earned an average finish of 12.429 (seventh-best) and ranks 11th or better in several key pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 10.974, sixth-best; Driver Rating of 96.5, seventh-best; 166 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best; 2,827 Laps in the Top 15 (75.3%), ninth-most and 700 Quality Passes, ninth-most.

NASCAR Cup Series notes for Las Vegas

NHL champion Golden Knights’ Adin Hill and William Carrier to serve as Grand Marshals at Las Vegas

On Oct. 15, Las Vegas Golden Knights’ goalie Adin Hill and forward William Carrier will take part in one of NASCAR’s most thrilling moments, serving as this Sunday’s grand marshals, delivering the most famous words in motorsports, ‘start your engines’ for the sixth annual South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“This will be so cool,” Carrier said. “I’m all about fast cars and speed and I’ve been to the races before, but this will be an incredible experience for me and Adin to hear those engines fire up. I can’t wait!”

Earlier this year, the Vegas Golden Knights brought home the Stanley Cup in just their sixth year of existence. During this year’s playoff run, Hill became the driving force in net for the Golden Knights posting a pair of shutout performances during the post season. Carrier, one of five remaining original Golden Knights, scored two goals and had four assists in the championship run.

The veteran players from the Vegas Golden Knights will join a list of luminaries to deliver the command at LVMS, including Bryce Harper, Carroll Shelby, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Allen, Marcus Allen, Cole Hauser, Derek Carr, Kim Kardashian, Rascal Flatts, Brent Musburger and Dana White.

NASCAR Cup Series milestones to watch for this season — Below is a look at some of the anticipated NASCAR Cup Series milestones to watch for this season.

Driver Starts

Drivers that are expected to make milestone starts during this season are:

Daniel Suarez — 250th NASCAR Cup Series start — Martinsville Speedway (10/29)

Ryan Preece — 150th NASCAR Cup Series start — Martinsville Speedway (10/29)

Ty Gibbs — 50th NASCAR Cup Series start — Martinsville Speedway (10/29)

Denny Hamlin — 650th NASCAR Cup Series start — Phoenix Raceway (11/5)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — 400th NASCAR Cup Series start — Phoenix Raceway (11/5)

Driver Wins (10 or more)

Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in career wins with 63, followed by Kevin Harvick (60), Denny Hamlin (51), Brad Keselowski (35), Martin Truex Jr. (34), Joey Logano (32), Kyle Larson (22), Chase Elliott (18) and William Byron (10).

Organization Wins

Wood Brothers Racing is on the cusp a milestone victory in the NASCAR Cup Series and will look for their 100th NASCAR Cup Series win this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports leads all active NASCAR Cup Series organizations in wins with 300, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing (207), RFK Racing (141), Team Penske (138), Richard Childress Racing (116), Wood Brothers Racing (99), Stewart-Haas Racing (69), Trackhouse Racing (5), 23XI Racing (5), Front Row Motorsports (4), JTG Daugherty Racing (2), Kaulig Racing (2), Spire Motorsports (1).

Manufacturer Wins

Closing in on NASCAR Cup Series win number 850, Chevrolet currently has 849 wins — the most all-time in the Cup Series. Ford has the second most wins all-time in the Cup Series at 727 and Toyota has the fifth-most all-time at 179 (behind Dodge at 217 and Plymouth at 191).

Car Number Wins

№99 car’s next win will be its 50th in the NASCAR Cup Series.

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association