Peter Carcia's Charlotte Preview
Lead Reporter 10/14/2010
Fontana gave us thrills, excitement, and occupied seats (at least from visual estimation) that were unexpected coming in. All in all, it wasn’t the forty-eight that got the victory. You had to subtract the number by 34. Yes, it was Tony Stewart who got the unexpected victory after taking an early jump on the final restart with Johnson finishing in third. However, since neither Harvick nor Hamlin did better than him, Johnson strengthens his lead in which he has been so popular for keeping. Now, after lack luster days from many drivers in the mediocre side of the field, only 4 drivers are within 100 of the championship.
Once we get into Charlotte , it will mark the halfway point of the chase. That being said, my “green zone” has been pushed up from 200 to 175. This leaves out Clint Bowyer (-247), Matt Kenseth (-241),Greg Biffle, despite the win two weeks ago (-215), Kyle Busch who officially prompted that his season was over (-187), and Jeff Burton, who has stayed quiet and is two points behind that green zone. Those who are inside it, well, it’s starting to form a pattern.
1.) Jimmie Johnson (5673 / Lead) Some may say it was a disappointing day for Jimmie Johnson compared to other years. Myself? I say it was just another day at the office for the 48 team. Johnson showed a lot of composure and stayed consistent throughout the race on Sunday and is clearly in his usual championship form. Heading into Charlotte, with some of Johnson’s wins in bizarre tracks if you take into consideration of him only having six this year, you need to look at his stellar performance as we continue through the part of the chase where he usually gets his momentum and his point advantage. Johnson dominated this track from 2003-2005 where he had not gotten a championship yet. Last year, he brought that success back with a win in dominating fashion. Now, with a 36 point lead, he has a good chance of bringing it home a little earlier than expected.
· Finished 3rd @ Auto Club
· 10.2 Average finish @ Charlotte (19.2 since Feb 2008)
· Finished 37th in spring race (Involved in wreck)
2. Denny Hamlin (5637 / -36) It has seemed that every week, we have heard Denny and his crew say that it was a victory for them to get a top 10 or top 5 at a certain track. Now, with an attitude like this, the championship is slowly slipping away from Denny’s grasp. Let’s be honest, it’s nice to see him have the success we have never seen him do before, but think about it. Denny Hamlin is right now and always has been the guy who looks to be the person who has the best chance of dethroning the 48 team. Denny needs to get his “A” a game on quickly. Go for wins, not just for personal bests.
· Finished 8th @ Auto Club
· 18.5 Average finish @ Charlotte (22.2 since Feb 2008)
· Finished 18th in spring race
· Must finish 13 spots better than Johnson for lead
3. Kevin Harvick (5619 / -54) Harvick is the other contender who has stayed consistent and has not gone for wins, but simply making sure he is still in this thing. However, like Hamlin, he has become too conservative. Why do I say that? I have 54 reasons for you right next to the heading. The difference between himself and Hamlin however is that he’s been in the Cup Series much longer than Hamlin has; beginning in 2001 to Hamlin’s 2005. However, if you think Denny’s problems at this track are bad, then look at this; Harvick has not gotten a single digit finish at this track since his rookie year. This is a real test for Harvick to see if he can overcome his mistakes. This will be tough, but Kevin has the know-how to get it done.
- Finished 7th @ Auto Club
- 20.7 Average finish @ Charlotte (19.4 since Feb 2008)
- Finished 11th in spring race
- Must finish 7 spots better than Hamlin and 19 better than Johnson for lead
4. Jeff Gordon (5588 / -85 / +1) You may call it momentum, but it was a good start. Despite a 9th place finish, it still was better than half the chase field, including the people that were in front of him last week. As a result, Gordon is now in 4th place, last among those who are behind than less than 100 points. He has something however that his competitors in front of him do not have, and that is the hunger for a win. It’s been since Texas last spring that he’s coughed up a win, and I know that this is tossed around like Dale’s chances, but I don’t know. For somebody with Gordon’s experience, he has a very good outset on how to win at this track with five under his belt, and he can take the rains just like any other past champion. The real focus he needs is the ability to combine the conservative matter with the hunger, something he has failed to do this year. When it counts the most, in places like green-white-checker finishes, plows to the front, etc., he keeps the hunger in him. When it comes time that you’re on the final restart and your in a decent position, it’s time to get rolling.
- Finished 9th @ Auto Club
- 15.43 Average finish @ Charlotte (7.2 since Feb 2008)
- Finished 6th in spring race
- Must finish 12 spots better than Harvick, 18 better than Hamlin, and 30 better than Gordon for lead
5. Tony Stewart (5566 / -107 / +5) The same thing happened last year in Kansas . Tony Stewart looked like the guy that was just going to fall off pace and just not go for the championship. Then, he gets an early win and keeps him on the borderline of success. This kind of thing did well for Stewart to get a top 5 points finish last year, and it will likely do the same here; if he can keep his cool at least. Tony is very successful, but you can tell from his racing when he gets impatient. He’ll get more aggressive in his driving and it will sometimes get the most of him. My simple advice, be smooth, don’t get caught up with the tracks where you’re weaker (this one included) and just have a ball.
- Won @ Auto Club
- 13.39 Average finish @ Charlotte (15.2 since Feb 2008)
- Finished 15th in spring race
- Must finish 9 spots better than Gordon, 19 better than Harvick, 25 better than Hamlin, and 36 better than Johnson for lead
6. Kurt Busch (5533 / -140) Evidentially, Kurt Busch is still being dogged by Jack Rousch after David Ragan took him as a dancing partner last week. Now, he has gone from a favorite to someone who is simply, there. Right now, I would have to say that he is desperate to make the sweep in Charlotte , not just so he can say that he did it, but so he can keep his championship hopes alive. All Kurt has to do right now is take the car that won that race (unless you wrecked it somewhere else and I don’t know about it) and simply do the same stuff you did last May.
- Finished 21st @ Auto Club
- 19.95 Average finish @ Charlotte (12.8 since Feb 2008)
- Won spring race
- Must finish 12 spots better than Stewart, 20 better than Gordon, 30 better than Harvick, 35 better than Hamlin, and 43 better than Johnson
7. Carl Edwards (5511 / -162 / -3) Carl was one of the unlucky recipients of a DNF car last week in Cali after his car unexpectedly had some kind of vapor lock on the restart. Thankfully for him, it was not early in the race, and it only cost him enough to stay in this. Knowing Carl however, this should be game time. He’s had terrible averages in the next two race tracks, and it’s up to him to decide where he wants his fate to go. Although he improved in the ’08 fall race and the 600 the following year, he’s had a heap of bad luck the next two times, including an engine failure in the 2009 chase race. This was the time he lost his chance last time, so hopefully he can rebound this year.
- Finished 34th @ Auto Club
- 13.18 Average finish @ Charlotte (20.2 since Feb 2008)
- Finished 16th in spring race
- Must finish 9 spots better than Busch, 20 better than Stewart, 27 better than Gordon, 36 better than Harvick, 40 better than Hamlin, and 43 better than Johnson to clinch second place. Edwards can not clinch first in this race.
Next week, it’s off to Virginia where we take the green at the shortest of the chase race tracks, Martinsville . Until then, see you out on the track.