Peter Carcia's Kansas Preview
By Peter Carcia
TheRacingExperts.com Lead Reporter
Coming into Dover, we weren’t asking about the 48 team. Bad idea on everyone, he lead the most laps in dominating fashion compared to the other chase drivers (hence “chase drivers,” AJ Allmendinger was also leading the race for 143 laps) and ended up with his best win of the season. Now, since he was in the deep end last week, he has created the closest chase in a while, and those who were in mediocre mode are ready for all out war in Kansas. Whether the crowd is another sell out or the economy hits even this track, we know that this track is ready for anything the drivers throw at it.
1.) Denny Hamlin-5368 (Lead) Coming in as the top seed, Hamlin was on very good grounds. Two races and a team battle later, the point leader is even lucky he is even leading in my view. Denny has had a very mediocre feel to his driving to me, and it seems like it takes him to the final chunk of the race for us to see his best. That has his good marks however, he doesn’t feel really pressured and this doesn’t mean he has to push too hard and pull an Atlanta, as long as you stay out of FRM and Petty’s way in the beginning. So far, he has chosen a very veteran-like move, and hopefully, that can turn in some checkered flagsbefore the day’s done. This race will be a true test for him considering his lack of success in Kansas, and the day he has today will likely affect his terms later in the chase.
- Finished 9th last week @ Dover
- 19.0 Average finish @ Kansas
2.) Jimmie Johnson-5333 (-35, +4) Funny how Johnson’s light bulb comes on after the race sponsored by Sylvania. Each first race, everyone gets worked up about how he’s not gonna win it all until he kicks butt in the Dover race and everyone starts going, “Oh yeah, Mr. Domination.” I know everyone can argue that it’s still early and all that, but keep in mind, the same thing happened last year. Martin had won in NHMS, and then it goes downhill with Johnson taking the credit; this year, different driver, but same tactics. He knows how to win in all of these tracks, and from now until the “wild card,” this will be the best racing Johnson’s had all season, enough to give him number five.
- Won last week @ Dover
- 10.2 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 13 spots better than Hamlin to clinch lead
3.) Kyle Busch-5323 (-45) Kyle is part of a very weird but very real lack of success for drivers now at JGR on this track. As you can see below, Kyle has the worst with an average you usually see from Scott Speed type drivers. The main problem: he has been too risky. Twice of his six starts, he has gotten into a dream ending wreck. Other times, he simply hasn’t been able to keep his cool. Only once, 4 years ago, is a time where he’s received a top 10 finish. He has a mediocre top ten average right now in this chase that has helped him so far, but make no mistake, the two drivers ahead of him are as hungry as ever. He has a chance to be in the mix, but he needs to watch solely on numbers 11 and 48.
- Finished 6th last week @ Dover
- 24.3 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 5 spots better than Johnson and 16 better than Hamlin to clinch lead
4.) Kurt Busch- 5309 (-59, +1) For Kurt Busch, this is another driver normally on the deep end inKansas. He has not received a top 10 since he joined Penske, and he is yet to have any real impact on this race in a good way. For me, it’s these curvier, wider intermediates like here and Fontana where I don’t really hear from him that much. Races like this are key, and could decide his position after Homestead.
- Finished 4th last week @ Dover
- 19.7 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 6 spots better than Kyle Busch, 9 better than Johnson, and 21 better than Hamlin to clinch lead
5.) Kevin Harvick-5303 (-65, -3) Harvick, I told you once, and I’ll tell you again, you can’t make these kinds of finishes and expect to get a championship out of it. He’s taking all of the momentum he made this year and flew it out the window, and now he’s back into the square one that he ended up with last year.Kansas for him is key right now. In 2007 and ’08, Harvick came back from starting far in the field to finish 6th. Last year, only the first half of that was true. If Harvick can take that knowledge and bring it into this year’s race, he can do magic. He has won on one of these slower, less banked intermediate tracks this year, (Michigan) and it will take that kind of wit to bring him on top on Sunday.
- Finished 15th last week @ Dover
- 15.9 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 3 spots better than Kurt Busch, 8 better than Kyle Busch, 11 better than Johnson, and 23 better than Hamlin to clinch lead
6.) Carl Edwards-5295 (-73, +1) Carl is slowly but surely getting his shine back with very decent finishes in the first two races of the post season. Now, obviously everyone knows about his heartbreak in ’08 and all of his sorrow luck, but he is ready to arrive. All he needs to do is avoid the bad starts that have proved to fail him in the past years. Hey, he might be on a drought, but I’d very much rather put this on my bid instead of Junior. I’m just saying.
- Finished 5th last week @ Dover
- 13.3 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 4 spots better than Harvick, 6 better than Kurt Busch, 11 better than Kyle Busch, 14 better than Johnson, and 26 better than Hamlin to clinch lead
7.) Jeff Burton-5288 (-80, +2) I like to call him the Charlie Connerly of racing. He’s an inconsistent veteran, but when it matters, he delivers. I’m pretty much saying “Where did he come from?” this week after finishing runner-up to Johnson. I’ve said before that he can pull the punch; he just needs to keep the streak alive and continue to put up good finishes. Right now, he’s in a decent position; he’s only 80 points out with 8 races still to make it up. You would think the easy thing to do would be to just make up 10 at a time, but with a large, hungry field ahead of him, it’s WAY more difficult than the obvious. Composure is all that he can lose, for now.
- Finished 2nd last week @ Dover
- 18.6 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 4 spots better than Edwards, 6 better than Harvick, 8 better than Kurt Busch, 13 better than Kyle Busch, 16 better than Johnson, and 28 better than Hamlin to clinch lead
8.) Jeff Gordon- 5285 (-83, -4) Green White Checkers are not Jeff’s best friend. The other 4-timer in his garage is not Jeff’s best friend. Lug nuts are absolutely not Jeff’s best friend. Is there anyone but the loyal fans who wants this guy in the championship as much as he does? I don’t really know whether it was karma that is a little too high on the income tax of luck or what, but hey, top 10 finishes are Gordon’s average in this slab of concrete. With plenty of time remaining, now’s his best statistical chance of becoming more than just that other guy that made the Hendrick 1-2-3 last year.
- Finished 11th last week @ Dover
- 8.6 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 1 spot better than Burton, 5 better than Edwards, 7 better than Harvick, 9 better than Kurt Busch, 14 better than Kyle Busch, 17 better than Johnson, and 29 better than Hamlin to clinch lead
9.) Greg Biffle-5228 (-140, -1) Biffle is currently on a borderline so to speak in this type of situation, and this is the perfect time for him to change that. Of the tracks that the chase visits, this is Biffle’s most successful. Last year, he finished 3rd with the most laps lead. Three years ago, the greatness formulated into a win. There is one thing that I’m going to be watching with him, and it starts with qualifying. In the seven consecutive years where he hasn’t DNFed, Biffle’s performance was sub par for two of the 4 years where he hasn’t started in the top 10, and those are the only times where he hasn’t performed. The last two years, he has started 18th and 31st and ended up with the bronze. From current stats, he can generate win #2 of 2010 if he can hit the ground running Friday afternoon.
- Finished 19th last week @ Dover
- 9.0 Average finish @ Kansas
- Must finish 20 spots better than Gordon, 21 better than Burton, 24 better than Edwards, 26 better than Harvick, 28 better than Kurt Busch, 33 better than Kyle Busch, 36 better than Johnson, and 42 better than Hamlin to clinch lead
10.) Tony Stewart-5206 (-162) And now ladies and gentlemen, the Pat Benatar “Heartbreaker” musical number in today’s show. Sorry folks, no singing, but it’s a valid metaphor for Stewart’s chase. He’s gone from a win in sight to dragging in the points. Many right now are considering as they have all season if Stewart should just stick with the owner part of his deal. I don’t think so. He is the defending winner at this track, 2 wins overall here, and he has some pure talent left in him on these intermediate tracks. Smoke is down, but he needs to get up now before it’s too late.
- Finished 21st last week @ Dover
- 13.2 Average finish @ Kansas (defending winner)
- Cannot clinch lead in this race
11.) Matt Kenseth-5203 (-165) I’ve pretty much said everything I could about this man’s season. He’s at one of his worst tracks on the chase circuit and just over a race’s worth of points out of it. All we can hope now is that he can get a better sense of urgency.
- Finished 18th last week @ Dover
- 22.1 Average finish @ Kansas
- Cannot clinch lead in this race
12.) Clint Bowyer-5133 (-235) When I made the blog for last week’s race, it was the earliest I had finished one. Isn’t it funny how it HAD to be the blog that would end up out of date in a matter of hours? The reason why that was the case last week made one of the more exciting dark horses down right, well, down. Now, he’s gone from 35 points behind in second to the first driver to be more than one race’s points behind the championship. Not a single driver has gone on to win the championship, and clearly Bowyer has lost his sense of momentum after running three laps behind last week. Frankly, Newman seems to have deserved the 12th chase position rather than him.
- Finished 25th last week @ Dover
- 11.0 Average finish @ Kansas
- Cannot clinch lead in this race
Next week, we head to the second intermediate in a row as the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup heads to Fontana, California. Until then, see you on the track.