Wednesday, September 30, 2009

KANSAS PREVIEW: Gordon Likes His Chances This Week

by Micah Roberts

NASCAR rolls into Kansas this week for the third race of the Chase for the Championship. Kansas is a track that runs similar to a lot of the modern day cookie cutters, but is unique on it’s own because of its flatter 15 degree banking in the turns.

If there was one track it resembles, it would be the old configuration of Las Vegas Motor Speedway before their fantastic changes to the facility. Of the existing configurations, Chicagoland, California, and Michigan may be the closest.

The only driver with two wins on the track since its debut in 2001 is Jeff Gordon. Gordon won the first two races ever on the 1.5-mile track, but finds himself down 122 points in the Chase after the first two races were run.

Of all the tracks on tour, Kansas fit’s the mold as being a player in the chase who could perform best for Gordon using his 1.5-mile track experience this season. He’s been pretty solid on all occasions.

"I think our chances are really good," Gordon said about this weeks race at Kansas. "I've been really excited about the mile and a half’s in the final 10 races in the Chase. I feel like that's something that we have really done a great job with improving from last season, and I feel like that's where this championship can really get turned around for us in the DuPont Chevrolet."

"I feel like we learned a lot from Chicago earlier in the year," Gordon said. "Obviously Mark Martin is very strong in Chicago and I look for him to be strong again in Kansas but I feel like we have a great shot at winning there."

In the final eight chase races, Gordon is looking at five of those races that fall under the 1.5-mile to 2-mile tracks that he should be on a higher plateau than most based on this season.

"California was a track earlier in the year where I felt like we let one slip away. And I'm hoping that we can get that one back the next time we go. Martinsville I feel like is a great track for us but we have been getting beat by Jimmie and a couple other guys have been doing a little bit better than us there. So we have got to make some improvements."

A for the remainder of the season, Gordon feels pretty confident based on their past performances that he can legitimately win the title, especially after getting his first career win at Texas in the spring.

"I feel like Talladega is a great track for us," he said. "I feel like Texas, I can't wait to get back there after the win earlier in the season; it's totally changed our attitude about being able to go and win at Texas. I feel like we have been really good at Homestead, not a winning car but I feel like we have been a Top 5 car and maybe we can make that into a winning car."

Gordon’s odds will vary at different bet shops, bet he be expected to be around the 8 to 1 range as the third or fourth choice to win. He looks like nice value this week.

Last years Kansas winner was last weeks winner at Dover, Jimmie Johnson, who swept the Delaware season. He’s ten points behind Mark Martin for the season lead.

Despite all of Johnson’s greatness coming in, Martin has been just as effective in only one more start at the track. Each have one win on the track and each also have two top-5’s.

It was a bit disappointing that Greg Biffle didn’t finish better last week, but he’ll back on the prowl this week again after having an unsatisfactory finish at Dover last week. Biffle is a former winner at Kansas and has a total of four top-5 finishes in his seven starts on the track making him one of the top rated drivers in NASCAR‘s loop data timing.

Not quite sure what has gotten into the Juan Pablo Montoya squad, but they are putting some quality cars out there for the former Formula-One star. They have been right up there the last few weeks with the best of NACAR competing for a win each week. Look for his style to drop a notch this week, but yet still be competitive with his fellow Chasers.

Clint Bowyer is from Kansas and has shown how important it is to win on his hometown track by having the best finish among all drivers at the track with a 7.7 average finish. Chances are, Bowyer will not be as good as the top drivers of the day, but he could squeak out a top-10.

Another driver from the area who considers Kansas his home track is Carl Edwards who is sitting a miserable 11th in points. In five career starts he has two top-5 finishes. He hasn’t been close to what he showed last season on the 1.5 mile tracks and is still looking for his first win of the season.

Look for Jeff Gordon to take control of the race late as he hangs around and battles teammates Martin and Johnson for most of the race. Gordon needs this race to catapult him higher from his seventh position in points.

Top 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
3) #5 Mark Martin (8/1)
4) #16 Greg Biffle (12/1)
5) #11 Denny Hamlin (18/1)


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