Monday, October 3, 2011

Kansas Storylines

Keselowski took the checkers in the first Kansas race (Getty)
After Richmond, when points for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field were reset, two drivers shared the points lead, and 12 points separated the top-nine drivers.

Now after three races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, two drivers shared the points lead and 19 points separate the top-nine drivers.

In other words: This championship battle is tight. Don’t expect that to change.

Heading into Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards – two drivers consistently in the "Who Can Dethrone Jimmie" discussion – share the points lead after three Chase races. The top spot is familiar territory for both. Edwards held the points lead after 15 races this season; Harvick after three – including two of the three Chase races. (Harvick officially owns the points lead now, thanks to the tiebreaker of wins.)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has opened up a hefty lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series after another top-10 finish, this time at Dover International Speedway last weekend. Now enjoying a 22-point over Elliott Sadler, Stenhouse looks to pad the cushion in this weekend’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas.

With five races remaining in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, just three points separate the top two: Austin Dillon and James Buescher. Up next for the trucks: Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 15.


Points Fit To Be Tied
After three races in the Chase, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards technically sit 1-2 in the points – though both are tied at the top with 2,122 points. It’s the first tie for the points lead since after the first Chase race in 2008.

In another points tie, past series champions Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch trail Harvick and Edwards by seven points, in third and fourth, respectively.

And just behind them are three more champions (Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon) and two bona fide young guns (Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski).

In all, nine drivers are within 19 points of the lead.

Johnson Down, Never Out
Heading into last weekend’s race, five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson sat 10th in points, his lowest ever in the Chase. Plenty thought he was done, his reign over.

Then, typically, he drops a runner-up finish on the field, vaulting five spots and now sits fifth in points, 13 points out of the lead.

Figure on that upward trend continuing. Johnson, whose next Chase win will be No. 20 in NASCAR’s playoffs, is strong at Kansas. At the 1.5-mile track, Johnson has a win (2008) and eight top 10s in 10 races.

Kansas Site Of Keselowski’s Coming Out Party
At first, most thought it was a fluke victory. In hindsight, it was merely a sign of things to come.

Brad Keselowski, now sixth in points, conquered Kansas during the series’ first visit in June, leading nine laps and besting the field with solid fuel mileage strategy.

It was his first victory with Penske Racing, and the first of third wins on the season. During the post-race interviews, Keselowski mentioned how his goal was to make the Chase. Now, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title seems realistic.

Local Boys Battle For Home Track Supremacy
Bowyer should run well this week on home track (Getty)
Watch for a race-within-a-race this weekend.

Emporia, Kansas-native Clint Bowyer and Columbia, Missouri-native Carl Edwards both consider Kanas Speedway their home track. And surprisingly, both have come up empty in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition there. This, without little exaggeration, is their Daytona 500.

Both have won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Kansas – Edwards in 2004 and Bowyer earlier this season.

Biffle A Spoil Sport
Chase drivers are three-for-three to open the Chase this season – a rather predictable streak. Only 13 Chase races since the Chase’s inception in 2004 have been won by 2004.

This might be No. 14. And count on Greg Biffle as a prime candidate.

Biffle has two wins at Kansas, and has finished in the top 10 in each of the last five races (and in the top five in four of the last five). He is one of three active driver who average a top-10 finish at Kansas: (Biffle, 8.3; Jeff Gordon, 8.1; Jimmie Johnson, 9.1).

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