LAS VEGAS -- The mega-horsepower NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with its caravan of racecar-toting big rigs and exuberant fans donning their favorite drivers' colors, pays its annual visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week.
The highlight will be Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400, when NASCAR's new sixth generation cars make their initial appearance on the speedway's 1.5-mile banked oval.
Since the Inaugural Las Vegas 400 in 1998, nine drivers have won the 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup races that have been held at the track. Eight of those victors (excluding 2002 winner Sterling Marlin, who has since retired), are still active and are expected to be in the starting grid when the green flag waves. Here, in alphabetical order, are those eight drivers:
Jeff Burton -- Winner of both the Las Vegas 400 in 1999 and the Carsdirect.com 400 the following year, Burton drives the No. 31 Catepillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. The 35-year-old native of South Boston, Va., entered the 2013 season with 21 wins in 655 starts. His hobbies include saltwater fishing, physical fitness, and rooting for Duke University basketball and Carolina Panthers football.
Kyle Busch -- The native Las Vegan, who took the checkered flag in the Shelby 427 in 2009, cut his teeth as a junior racer in the Bullring next to the speedway. Now driving the No. 18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, the 27-year-old Busch has 24 Sprint Cup wins to go with 51 victories in the second-tier Nationwide Series and 30 trophies in the third-tier Camping World Truck Series. Busch also has more than 313,000 followers on Twitter.
Carl Edwards -- The 33-year-old Roush Fenway Racing driver captured the UAW-Dodge 400 in 2008 and the Kobalt Tools 400 in 2011. Known for the backflips he takes from his racecar following victories, Edwards won last Sunday's race in Phoenix with his No. 99 Subway Ford. The native of Columbia, Mo., who captured the Nationwide Series championship in 2007, enjoys working out, riding bicycles and reading.
Jeff Gordon -- The four-time Sprint Cup champion won the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 in 2001, which also was the year he captured his last championship. Now 41, Gordon drives the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. With 87 Sprint Cup victories, the native of Pittsboro, Ind., is third on the all-time list behind only Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).
Jimmie Johnson -- He is the only four-time winner in Las Vegas, with victories in the 2005 through 2007 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 and 2010 Shelby American. Having won five consecutive Sprint Cup championships, a first in NASCAR history, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports also captured this year's Daytona 500. The 37-year-old native of El Cajon, Calif., was a proficient off-road racer early in his career.
Matt Kenseth -- Kenseth, who will celebrate his 41st birthday Sunday, won the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 in both 2003 and 2004. The native of Cambridge, Wis., also won the Sprint Cup championship in 2003 and is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500. After spending the past 12 years driving a Roush Ford, Kenseth switched to Joe Gibbs Racing this season and is behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota with sponsorship from Dollar General and Husky.
Mark Martin -- Winner of the Inaugural Las Vegas 400 in 1998, Martin is also an elder statesman of the sport at age 54. Born in Batesville, Ark., he is behind the wheel of the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Martin never won a Sprint Cup championship, though he has finished as the runner-up five times and managed to capture five crowns in the now defunct International Race of Champions series.
Tony Stewart -- The three-time Sprint Cup champ, who goes by the nickname "Smoke," won last year's Kobalt Tools 400. At age 41, Stewart is co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and drives its No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet. Arguably the most versatile U.S. racer, Stewart also won championships in the Indy Racing League, United States Auto Club and International Race of Champions circuits and once placed fifth in the Indianapolis 500.
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