Brad Keselowski declared it “such a strange year” after the fourth NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday in Las Vegas.
For Keselowski, he and Team Penske again found success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Keselowski finished second, while Ryan Blaney was fifth and Joey Logano ended up ninth. Hendrick Motorsports continued its strong start to the season with a second consecutive win, while Joe Gibbs Racing was also in the mix.
There have been four different winners through the first four weeks. And there have also been surprises like Michael McDowell, plus questions around Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick was the highest-finishing SHR driver Sunday in 20th, but one lap down.
“I think definitely we’ve seen over the last four weeks different teams in different places than I think pre-season predictions would have said,” Keselowski admitted. “Still early. Got a lot of running left to do, but very interesting and a provocative year.”
Perhaps that is due to Keselowski believing every company is doing something different right now. Keselowski said some might have punted to preparing for the arrival of Next Gen, with teams set to begin receiving their cars this summer before it debuts next season. Others might be doubling down on the current vehicle and on-track product.
“To each their own,” Keselowski said. “It’s hard to tell in the first three races who’s done what. I felt like all along, Vegas was the clearest indicator of what we’re going to see for a lot of the season. Both of these races, Vegas and next week in Phoenix, I think they represent what it’s going to take to win the championship, being good on tracks of these two types.
“We can tell the most from these races.”
Five drivers from three different teams led more than 20 laps at Las Vegas. Kyle Larson led a race-high 103, followed by Denny Hamlin at 47, Keselowski at 27, William Byron at 25, and Chase Elliott at 22. Those five were consistently in the mix all afternoon.
The first two weeks in Daytona could be dismissed because of their unique styles of racing. From the Daytona 500 being a superspeedway and a race all its own because of the prestige to the second week being a road course. But Homestead and Vegas are intermediate facilities that dominate the schedule while Phoenix is the championship finale host.
No driver has finished in the top 10 in all four races. Hamlin, Larson, who won Sunday, Kevin Harvick, and Michael McDowell have three top-10 finishes in four races.
Hamlin leads the point standings over Keselowski and Larson. Two of the three Penske drivers are inside the top 10 in points. Three of the four Hendrick teams and three of the four Joe Gibbs teams are inside the top 11 in the standings.
“As far as teams that might be ahead or behind others, it’s still pretty early,” said Keselowski. “Certainly, cause for concern if you weren’t towards the front today.”