Chase This – Kansas Preview

By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)

Jimmie Johnson is coming off of an eye-opening win in Dover, that has put him right back in contention for his fifth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. How can we expect Johnson and the other Chasers to do this weekend? Look no further. Here you will find all of the stats that could possibly help guide you through race number three of ‘The Chase’.

1. Denny Hamlin; 5,368 points

Hamlin of course inherited the number one seed in the Chase after finishing the regular season with a series-high six wins at the time. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota has been able to keep his points lead steady due to a great second-place finish at New Hampshire, and ninth-place finish at one of his statistically terrible tracks.

Of course last season Hamlin got off to a rough start in The Chase, which he was unable to recover from, even after two victories in the final ten races last year.

So everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing must be very excited to see the team firing on all cylinders when it matters the most.

Hamlin’s 2010 Stats

Six wins, 11 top-fives, 13 top-tens, one pole

Driver Rating: 94.6

Average Finish: 14.5

Has led 15 races, for a total of 918 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

One top-five in five career starts

Average Finish: 19.0

Average Running Position: 18.4 (16th-best)

Driver Rating: 80.9 (16th-best)

28 Fastest Laps Run (12th-most)

288 Green Flag Passes (11th-most)

2. Jimmie Johnson; -35 points

Johnson as we know is chasing his fifth straight championship under The Chase format. His victory at Dover last weekend tied him with Denny Hamlin as the series-leader with six victories.

He has been known to stumble through the regular season, only to pull it together just in time for The Chase. Well now the Hendrick Motorsports driver sits second in the standings, and there isn’t a track inside the Chase that he’s not a threat to win at.

Johnson’s 2010 Stats

Six wins, 11 top-fives, 16 top-tens, two poles

Driver Rating: 108.2

Average Finish: 14.4

Has led 19 races, for a total of 1,274 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

One win, two top-fives, six top-tens, three poles in eight starts

Average Finish: 10.3

Average Running Position: 6.3 (Series-best)

Driver Rating: 122.6 (Series-best)

204 Fastest Laps Run (Series-high)

328 Green Flag Passes (fourth-most)

3. Kyle Busch; -45 points

One of the most talented drivers in the sport today, Busch is on the verge of hoisting a Sprint Cup trophy. He, just like his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, usually gets off to a slow start in the Chase, but this season has been a huge improvement.

If Rowdy can get through this weekend at Kansas, there may not be anything that can come between him and the championship.

Kyle Busch’s 2010 Stats

Three wins, eight top-fives, 16 top-tens, two poles

Driver Rating: 98.8

Average Finish: 12.1

Has led 15 races, for a total of 1,024 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

One top-ten in six starts

Average Finish: 24.3

Average Running Position: 21.9 (25th-best)

Driver Rating: 74.4 (18th-best)

43 Fastest Laps Run (ninth-most)

351 Green Flag Passes (second-most)

4. Kurt Busch; -59 points

Kyle’s older brother, and the only one in the Busch family with a Sprint Cup Championship, was either very hot or very cold during the regular season. When he was good, nobody was better, but when he was bad it seemed that nobody was worse.

However now that the Chase has begun, Busch has been very quietly consistent. A 13th-place finish in Loudon, coupled this week with a fourth-place effort at Dover puts him within 59 points of Denny Hamlin. Watch out, he was the very first ever winner of ‘The Chase’ in 2004.

Kurt Busch’s 2010 Stats

Two wins, nine top-fives, 16 top-tens, two poles

Driver Rating: 95.6

Average Finish: 14.0

Has led 15 races, for a total of 820 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

Two top-tens in nine starts

Average Finish: 19.7

Average Running Position: 18.8 (17th-best)

Driver Rating: 82.0 (14th-best)

54 Fastest Laps Run (sixth-most)

326 Green Flag Passes (sixth-most)

5. Kevin Harvick; -65 points

Harvick had the unfortunate role of being the points leader, who lost it all when the Chase began. Harvick though had remained upbeat and focused on the prize… that is until Dover.

After Denny Hamlin made comments about the Richard Childress organization, Harvick took it to heart. In the first practice session in Dover, Harvick made contact with Hamlin several times to prove his point.

Following a 15th-place finish Sunday Harvick also started showing signs that the pressure is beginning to get to him in an interview with Jeff Gluck of SBNation.com (Warning there is graphic language in that article).

Harvick’s 2010 Stats

Three wins, 12 top-fives, 18 top-tens

Driver Rating: 95.1

Average Finish: 9.8

Has led 11 races, for a total of 230 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

Three top-tens in nine starts

Average Finish: 15.9

Average Running Position: 16.4 (14th-best)

Driver Rating: 81.2 (15th-best)

328 Green Flag Passes (fourth-most)

6. Carl Edwards; -73 points

Edwards came into the Chase with more momentum than anyone else, despite not collecting his first checkered flag of the season. There just simply hasn’t been any more consistent driver over the last couple of months than Carl Edwards.

This week he heads into Kansas within 73 points of the lead, could he leave there with the points lead?

Edwards’ 2010 Stats

Seven top-fives, 15 top-tens, two poles

Driver Rating: 90.5

Average Finish: 11.6

Has led 8 races, for a total of 139 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

Two top-fives, four top-tens in six starts

Average Finish: 13.3

Average Running Position: 13.9 (seventh-best)

Driver Rating: 94.2 (sixth-best)

71 Fastest Laps Run (fourth-most)

305 Green Flag Passes (eighth-most)

7. Jeff Burton; -80 points

Burton has been oh-so-close to winning several times this season, yet for one reason or another in 2010 there has been a ‘curse of the Jeffs’. Burton’s latest sniff at victory was this past weekend in Dover, where he came on strong at the end to finish second.

With his second-place finish Burton has now climbed two spots to seventh in the points, and is one of eight drivers within 100 points of the lead.

If luck can begin swinging his way, and he makes it to victory lane the sky is the limit for this guy.

Burton’s 2010 Stats

six top-fives, 14 top-tens

Driver Rating: 99.4

Average Finish: 12.4

Has led 12 races, for a total of 390 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

One top-five, two top-tens in nine starts

Average Finish: 18.6

Average Running Position: 21.1 (23rd-best)

Driver Rating: 73.0 (21st-best)

285 Green Flag Passes (13th-most)

8. Jeff Gordon; -83 points

Gordon is more evidence of ‘The curse of the Jeffs’ in 2010. Through the first ten weeks of the season, it seemed Gordon was in position to win in every single one of them… yet here he is after race 28 still win-less.

However Gordon has shown incredible consistency throughout the 2010 season, and as a result he was second in the standings before the regular season ended.

Just like his Jeff-counterpart (Jeff Burton), if he can get a win don’t be surprised if he comes away with the championship.

Gordon’s 2010 Stats

10 top-fives, 14 top-tens

Driver Rating: 102.3

Average Finish: 11.9

Has led 15 races, for a total of 815 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

Two wins (Tied for series-best), six top-fives, seven top-tens in nine starts

Average Finish: 8.9

Average Running Position: 9.5 (third-best)

Driver Rating: 104.7 (third-highest)

45 Fastest Laps Run (eighth-most)

197 Quality Passes (second-most)

9. Greg Biffle; -140 points

Biffle just can’t seem to catch a break. This past week he finished 19th two laps down, because of his teammate’s misfortunes. When you finish two laps down because of someone else’s misfortunes that is the definition of tough luck.

However as the only Roush-Fenway car to hit victory lane this season, Biffle could go on a late season surge.

That surge could begin this week, at a track he has won at before.

Biffle’s 2010 Stats

One win, five top-fives, 14 top-tens

Driver Rating: 86.2

Average Finish: 15.5

Has led 9 races for a total of 258 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

One win, five top-fives, five top-tens in eight starts

Average Finish: 9.0

Average Running Position: 6.3 (second-best)

Driver Rating: 119.6 (second-best)

117 Fastest Laps Run (second-most)

181 Quality Passes (third-most)

10. Tony Stewart; -162 points

I didn’t hit the panic button on Tony Stewart after his failed attempt to gamble on his gas at New Hampshire for a couple of reasons.

First because he put himself in a position to win that race, sometimes that’s all you can do. Secondly he has been one of the strongest cars over the last several months. Lastly he was heading into one of his best tracks… Dover.

After a 21st-place finish in the AAA 400 at Dover this week, I am officially hitting the panic button on Smoke. If he can’t turn it around at Kansas (a place he has won twice before), then I will consider his hopes for the title dashed.

Stewart’s 2010 Stats

One win, seven top-fives, 14 top-tens, two poles

Driver Rating: 92.1

Average Finish: 13.6

Has led 16 races, for a total of 432 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

Two wins (tied for series-best), four top-fives, six top-tens in nine starts

Average Finish: 13.2

Average Running Position: 11.0 (sixth-best)

Driver Rating: 99.0 (fifth-best)

58 Fastest Laps Run (fifth-most)

163 Quality Passes (fifth-most)

11. Matt Kenseth; -165 points

A shattered tire, and an 18th-place finish at Kenseth’s favorite track I believe solidifies him as a 2010 Chase pretender. This team has been decent all year long, but there is a fine line between decent, and championship caliber.

Unfortunately I believe this team will have to wait until next year, but you can’t truly ever say never in this sport.

Kenseth’s 2010 Stats

Five top-fives, 10 top-tens

Driver Rating: 82.7

Average Finish: 13.1

Has led 6 races, for a total of 35 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

Two top-fives, three top-tens, one pole in nine starts

Average Finish: 22.1

Average Running Position: 14.5 (ninth-best)

Driver Rating: 93.7 (seventh-best)

73 Fastest Laps Run (third-most)

113 Quality Passes (13th-most)

12. Clint Bowyer; -235 points

The emotional ups and downs this team has had to endure over the past week is unreal. First they thought they had pulled the ultimate upset in winning at New Hampshire sending them from 12th to second in the standings.

Then Tuesday they were docked 150 points when it was determined by lasers at the NASCAR R&D center that their car was 60-thousandths of an inch off. So it was back to 12th in the points.

Then their teammate (Kevin Harvick) defended their honor when points leader Denny Hamlin dogged them in a media availability. Finally Bowyer’s tumultuous week was capped with a horrid 25th-place finish at Dover.

He isn’t mathematically eliminated from contention just yet… but in my opinion he’s mentally eliminated.

Bowyer’s 2010 Stats

One win, five top-fives, 15 top-tens

Driver Rating: 92.6

Average Finish: 14.5

Has led 12 races, for a total of 340 laps

Kansas Speedway Career Stats

One top-five, two top-tens in four starts

Average Finish: 11.0

Average Running Position: 14.5 (10th-best)

Driver Rating: 93.4 (ninth-best)

35 Fastest Laps Run (10th-best)

Author: Toby Christie

Toby is the Editor of TheFinalLap.com and Social Media Director of all things @TheFinalLap. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly radio show and podcast, and he is the writer and co-host of the Racing Legends podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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