NASCAR Las Vegas Auto Race

Kevin Harvick poses for photographers after winning the pole position during qualifying for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Friday, March 1, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

So now we take this new NASCAR package to Phoenix, with the hope that it provides what we thought we were getting after last year’s test of the new aerodynamic package.

But after Atlanta and Vegas, it’s not clear what happened to last year’s aerodynamic package.

For all the promise of pack racing and side-by-side action, we’ve really only seen a few laps of that before the races settle into a pattern with the fastest Ford driving away from the field and the others trying to keep up without being lapped.

Phoenix was traditionally a Ford track, the blue oval winning 11 of the first 15 races in the desert. Then somewhere along the way it became a Chevrolet track if for no other reason than Kevin Harvick drove Chevrolets for a while and he dominated Phoenix, winning eight times from 2006 to 2015.

Then when he switched over to Stewart-Haas Racing Fords, he won again.

So we’re likely looking at another Harvick win this week, and another Ford win and another week of waiting for NASCAR to change the rules to get this package corrected.

In case anyone hadn’t noticed, NASCAR has had a little bump in interest and attendance and viewership early on, and now would be a good time to actually start having some good races.

This is a track where people braved rattlesnakes and scorpions to watch the early races at the odd-shaped track near the Gila and Salt River meridian, It truly is an outpost for NASCAR and one that had been a success against all odds.

But these aren’t your typical hard-core race fans. These are fans who were fascinated enough by the novelty of the sport in the early days to watch something they’d never seen before.

A couple years back, it appeared they’d seen enough.

So a year ago, NASCAR itself finished a two-year renovation of IMS Raceway, a $178 million overhaul of amenities and fan-experience improvements that made it the second most modernized track in the country, Daytona Rising being the model.

Now the sport holds its breath and hopes the momentum carries westward, where fans had begun to walk away in recent years.

This might be one of the most important races ever for NASCAR’s modern movement, and it’s certainly the important race for Phoenix.

It would’ve been nice to have the new aero package working.

The last thing Phoenix and NASCAR needs right now is a bad race on Sunday.

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