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Five things to watch for in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas

Kobalt 400 - Practice

Kobalt 400 - Practice

NASCAR via Getty Images

What’s next?

It’s easy for Jeff Gordon and his fans to ask that question with the way Gordon’s final full NASCAR Sprint Cup season has started.

Late-race crashes at Daytona and Atlanta have left him with no finish better than 33rd this year. Although he scored his second pole of the season Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he’ll start today’s Kobalt 400 at the rear of the field in a backup car.

He had to make the change after an incident with Danica Patrick late in Saturday’s final practice session. Patrick spun in front of Gordon, and he couldn’t avoid hitting her car. The damage was too much to repair.

Can Gordon make it through this race without any issues or will misfortune again strike? That will be among the things to watch in today’s race. Here are four other key points:

A Half Dozen

Reigning champion Kevin Harvick has placed first or second in each of the last five races, dating back to last season.

He wasn’t fast in his qualifying setup - he starts 18th - but he was fast in his race setup during Saturday’s practice sessions. Keep an eye on him and see how long it takes for him to get to the front.

Going for Three

Martin Truex Jr. seeks his third consecutive top-10 finish - something he did not do last season with Furniture Row Racing.

He placed eighth in last month’s Daytona 500 and was sixth at Atlanta last week.

Truex was fast in race trim in both practices Saturday at Las Vegas and starts Sunday’s race eighth.

Season Debut

Brian Vickers starts his first race of the season today. He missed the first two races of the year as he completed his recovery from December heart surgery. Brett Moffitt drove Vickers’ car to an eighth-place finish last weekend at Atlanta.

First Time?

Is this the day Kyle Larson scores his first Sprint Cup victory?

He starts fifth and ranked first in best average during 10 consecutive laps in Saturday’s final practice session.

llow @dustinlong