Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NASCAR Hits Downtown Las Vegas

Jimmie Johnson signs autographs Wednesday in downtown Las Vegas on the Fremont Street Experience (Getty)
Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart play the Newlywed game Wednesday in downtown Las Vegas hosted by Bob Eubanks

Stewart and NASCAR Hit Las Vegas for Sprint Cup Awards

By Mike Hembree
SpeedTV.com

Even in a down economy, even in bad weather, even with some of its giant hotel/casinos practically begging for customers, there’s always something big going on in Las Vegas.

It might be the annual convention of the International Paper Towel Manufacturers or the gathering of the Scottish clans from all 50 states or a comeback concert by the Dave Clark Five or a heavyweight title fight (if they still have those).

The Las Vegas Strip is one of the busiest roadways in America – and probably the busiest of all those that pass a Statue of Liberty, an Eiffel Tower AND a pyramid.

NASCAR knew when it moved its Sprint Cup awards banquet from the concrete canyons of New York City to the neon overload of Las Vegas that – as in Manhattan – it would share the billing. Las Vegas is so big and bustling and brawling – and so in need of the cash influx – that it can absorb a laundry list of big events and do so in such a fashion that one never really infringes on the other.

That will be the case this week as Sin City hosts, in addition to its normal list of concerts, shows, nightclub acts and off-the-cuff performances by street people, the Sprint Cup Champion’s Week and its Friday awards banquet finale, the opening nights of the National Finals Rodeo (THE national event for those of the rough-ridin’, Stetson-wearing, boot-stomping persuasion) and the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon.


Read More Here.........


Pictures from the awards and festivities will be posted

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Final Homestead-Miami Driver Ratings Following All Practices

Micah Roberts Top 10 Driver Ratings
Ford 400
Homestead-Miami Speedway
Sunday, November 20, 2011 - 12:16 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds       Practice 1   Practice 2   Qualified   Texas*

 1. Carl Edwards 9/2                 2nd            1st              1st          2nd
Two-time winner with a track best 5.7 average finish in seven starts; using Texas chassis.
 2. Matt Kenseth 6/1                 3rd            15th             6th          4th
2007 winner with two wins on 1.5-mile tracks in 2011; using Texas chassis this week.
 3. Kevin Harvick 6/1                 9th           18th             21st       13th  
Two-time runner with a 7.9 average finish in 10 starts; using sixth-place Charlotte car.
 4. Tony Stewart 4/1                15th            28th            15th        1st
Two-time winner under old configuration, no top-5s since 2004; using eighth-place Charlotte car.
 5. Jeff Gordon 10/1                  8th            12th             7th         6th
One of two Cup tracks that he’s never won on; owns an 11.8 average finish in 12 starts.
 6. Jimmie Johnson 8/1             5th            14th             9th        14th
Two-time runner-up; one of only five tracks he‘s never won on. Using Charlotte chassis.
 7. Ryan Newman 40/1              4th            26th            14th       16th
Career best finish of sixth came his rookie season in 2002; good practices Saturday in race trim.
 8. Greg Biffle 15/1                   14th           11th              8th         5th
Three-time winner from 2004-06; will be using 15th-place Charlotte chassis from October.
 9. Brad Keselowski 30/1          25th           10th             5th         24th
Career best of 13th last season, had a great practice Saturday; will be using new chassis.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 40/1       1st             23rd            11th        7th
Has never finished better than 13th in 11 starts; strong practice suggests it could be career day.

* Results from the November 6, 2011 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the last race run on a high-banked 1.5-mile track. Although the track configuration of Texas and Homestead are not similar, the set-up requirements for the cars are.
     
Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former race and sports Director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to VegasInsider.com or follow MicahRoberts7 on Twitter.

Edwards Fastest in Final Homestead Practice

The last NSCS practice session for the season is complete, and at top of the Ford 400 speed charts was Carl Edwards with a lap speed of 171.124 mph. And, battling him for the championship, Tony Stewart, was 28th with a lap speed of 167.926 mph.

Edwards took only three laps in the session and must have felt pretty good with the car, opting to leave it alone until qualifying. With Stewart, his sessions rarely tell the story of how his car will perform on race day, but in this instance, you'd have to believe he wasn't happy with his final session.

Second fastest and with a lap speed of 170.913 mph, was Edward’s fellow Roush Fenway Racing teammate, David Ragan, and they were followed by Cole Whitt (170.063 mph), AJ Allmendinger (169.705) and Landon Cassill (169.609) was the fifth fastest.

Rounding out the top-ten fastest during “Happy Hour” were Martin Truex Jr. (169.465 mph, Clint Bowyer (169.306), Paul Menard (169.141), Dave Blaney (168.982) and Brad Keselowski (168.966) posting the tenth fastest lap speed.

Qualifying is up next for the teams later this afternoon at 2:40 PM (ET) and then they will return on Sunday for the 3:20 PM (ET) approximate start of the Ford 400 (with ESPN beginning their pre-race television coverage at 2:00 PM ET).

Practice Speeds

Earnhardt Jr Fastest in First Homestead Practice

Dale Earnhardt Jr., with a lap speed of 173.193 mph, was the quickest during the first NSCS Ford 400 practice session at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The current series points leader, Carl Edwards, was second quickest with a lap speed of 172.678 mph, while second in the points, Tony Stewart, was 15th quickest with a lap speed of 171.249 mph.

Rounding out the top-ten quickest during practice were Matt Kenseth (172.298), Ryan Newman (172.068), Jimmie Johnson (172.013), Kasey Kahne (171.920), Landon Cassill (171.887), Jeff Gordon (171.674, Kevin Harvick (171.652) and Juan Pablo Montoya (171.581) posting the tenth quickest lap speed.

Following shortly after this session, the teams “Happy Hour” (final) practice session (the last series practice session of 2011) is scheduled to run from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM (ET) with qualifying set to get underway at 2:40 PM (ET).

Practice Speeds

Friday, November 18, 2011

Homestead Practices Postponed Due to Rain

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Persistent rain that affected virtually every aspect of Friday’s schedule at Homestead-Miami Speedway finally postponed the event’s only Sprint Cup practices until Saturday morning.

The two 80-minute Cup practices originally scheduled at 3 p.m. and 6:05 p.m. ET now will be held from 9:30-11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Saturday’s weather forecast lists a 30 percent chance of rain. In addition to Sprint Cup practice, Nationwide Series qualifying for the Ford 300 is scheduled at 1:05 p.m. ET; Sprint Cup qualifying for Sunday’s Ford 400 is at 2:40 p.m. ET and the Nationwide race is at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Edwards Using Runner-up Texas Chassis This Week at Homestead

Edwards has a track best 5.7 average finish in 7 Homestead starts (Getty) 
Carl Edwards
Team: No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion
Crew Chief: Bob Osborne
Chassis: RK-739 This car last raced at Texas this month & finished second

QUOTES

Carl Edwards on racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway: “I’m just excited to get in the race car this weekend. It’s a fun race track and we run very well there. The last few weeks we’ve run really well. To be a part of this championship battle is truly an honor. The team and I are all having fun with it, and we’re going to go to Homestead and give it everything we’ve got, and hopefully we can end up in victory lane again. That would be a heck of a way to end the season and win the championship.”


Crew chief Bob Osborne on racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway: “Going into Homestead we’re going to really stick to what got us in this position in the first place and that’s try to have the best race car possible and go run the best race we possibly can, and finish as high in the points as we can and try to beat that 14 team. Definitely last year’s race setup is going to apply directly to this year for us. We plan on starting right where we left off setup-wise and trying to improve that setup for this race at Homestead.”

FAST FACTS

* THE CHASE IS ON… Carl Edwards enters the final race of the season at Homestead leading the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings by three points over Tony Stewart. He has earned one win, 18 top-five, 25 top-10 finishes and two poles this season.

* Carl Edwards will make his eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Homestead-Miami Speedway in this weekend’s Ford 400. In his previous seven starts, Edwards has accumulated two wins, four top-five, six top-10 finishes and one pole.

* FOR THE RECORD…Edwards’ average start at Homestead is 13.4, his average finish is 5.7 which is the best of all active drivers. He has also led a total of 441 laps there, the most among active drivers. He has only finished outside the top 10 once in seven starts.

* IN THE LOOP… According to NASCAR’s Loop Statistics compiled over the last seven races at Homestead, Edwards has turned 173 of the track’s fastest laps, spent 1,379 laps in the top 15, and has a driver rating of 117.5, which leads all active drivers in these categories.

* ON THE TRACK…The Aflac team will be unloading chassis RK-739. This car last raced at Texas two weeks ago where Edwards led 14 laps and finished second.

* REWIND: HOMESTEAD 2010… Carl Edwards dominated the NASCAR Sprint Cup race and took home his second win of the season. Edwards started from the outside of the front row en route to leading 190 of the 267 laps and taking the checkered flag in the Ford 400.

- Roush Fenway Racing, Press Release

Harvick Looking Forward to One of his Favorite Tracks

Harvick has been one of the better drivers at Homestead
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Budweiser Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami Speedway … Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 373 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) stable. The No. 29 team has raced this car twice this season. Harvick finished 22nd in the car at Michigan International Speedway in August and scored a sixth-place finish in it at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.

Meet Harvick … Following Harvick’s media teleconference on Tuesday he will participate in a fan question and answer session at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., at approximately 4:30 p.m. NASCAR Hall of Fame guests are invited to participate in the event. Visit www.nascarhall.com for more details on how to attend.

At the Carwash … Prior to traveling to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Harvick will fly to Bristol, Conn., to participate in the ESPN Carwash. While there he’s scheduled to appear on a number of shows, including Mike and Mike in the Morning, SportsCenter and NASCAR Now.

Harvick at Homestead … In 10 starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Harvick has scored five top-fives and eight top-10 finishes. His average starting position at the 1.5-mile track is 13.2 and he holds a 7.9 average finish. Harvick’s best result at Homestead is second place, a finish he’s recorded twice (2003 and 2008). He’s led 116 laps at the track and completed 100 percent (2,674 of 2,674) of the laps run at Homestead in NSCS competition since 2001.

Last Time Around … Last November, Harvick started 28th and raced his way to a third-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He’s scored top-five finishes in the last three races at the track and has only finished outside the top 10 twice.

In the Loop … Harvick holds several impressive Loop Data statistics at Homestead, including: second in closers; second in drivers fastest early in a run; second in laps run in the top 15 (1,264); third in average running position (9.8); third in fastest on restarts; fourth in driver rating (102.8); fifth in green-flag speed; sixth in quality passes (243); sixth in speed in traffic; seventh in drivers fastest late in a run; eighth in laps led (58); and ninth in fastest laps run (62).

2011 at a Glance … With one race left in the 2011 season, Harvick has earned an impressive four wins, nine top-fives and 18 top-10 finishes. His average starting position is 18.8 and he holds an 11.6 average finish. Harvick currently sits third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings and is 51 markers back from first place.

Trucking it to the Finish … Harvick will close out the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season aboard the No. 2 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Harvick Inc. in Friday night’s Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The No. 2 Chevrolet team locked up the 2011 NCWTS owners championship with Harvick’s fourth Truck Series win of the season in the last race at Texas Motor Speedway and he is looking for win number five this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. SPEED will provide the live television coverage of Friday’s race starting at 8 p.m. ET. MRN Radio affiliates and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio will provide the radio broadcast.


KEVIN HARVICK QUOTES:

Why is Homestead-Miami Speedway one of your favorite tracks? “Homestead is one of those race tracks that you don’t know when it is going to stop aging. It seems like every time we return to the track it loses a little grip, which is a good thing. Since they repaved the track a few years back it has become one of my favorites. You can move all around trying to find a groove that works for you. There are a lot of different places where you can make your car work. For me it has been a lot of fun to race on.”

How does Homestead fit your driving style? “It’s just unique. You can charge turn one a little bit more than you can at most places, because as you get through the corner, the banking seems to get steeper all the way through, and you have options. You can run the top, you can run the bottom, you can run the middle, or you can split the middle-top or middle-bottom and make your car turn. It’s just a unique race track, and it seems to fit the guys that like to move around and make their cars work in different spots.”

- Richard Childress Racing, Press Release

Homsestead is One of Two Tracks Jeff Gordon's Never Conquered

Trying to scratch Homestead off the list this week (Getty)
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 15, 2011) – Entering the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale, only two remain.

Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.

In 12 starts at Homestead, Jeff Gordon has five top-fives and nine top-10’s – but he has yet to win at the 1.5-mile track in NASCAR’s top division (Gordon won a Nationwide event – then called the Busch Series – here in 2000). The 85-time race winner now has victories at a series-high 21 of the 23 tracks currently on the schedule, with the newly added Kentucky Speedway event being the only other facility where Gordon has yet to visit Victory Lane.

“I like the South Florida area and the track,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. “The variable banking allows us to really search around for a line or a groove that will work, and I think good side-by-side racing comes along with that.

“We’ve had some good runs here, we just haven’t been able to win. Yet.”

The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship is down to two drivers – Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart – and that battle will be on Gordon’s mind during the 400-mile event. But the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will also be thinking about how to secure that elusive victory.

“You have to kind of take that [championship battle] into account,” said Gordon, who is 11th in the standings. “You don’t want to be the individual that costs somebody the championship because you did something dumb racing way back in the pack.

“But, for me, I don’t care who it is if I’m racing for the win. I’m going to race them hard – just like any other race – if a victory is on the line.”

A top-10 finish in the standings – and building momentum for 2012 – is also on the line for Gordon and the No. 24 team.

“We tried some things in Texas that seemed to have us moving in the right direction,” said Gordon. “We’ll see if we can improve on that this weekend.

“A solid run can give us confidence and momentum as we go into the off-season and 2012.”

- Performance PR Plus, Press Release

Johnson gets to race for Win at Homestead-Miami Instead of Points

Johnson hasn't had to race hard at Miami too much (Getty)
JIMMIE JOHNSON
RACE NOTES
Homestead-Miami Speedway

• Johnson has made 10 Sprint Cup Series starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he has four top-five and seven top-10 finishes.
• Homestead is one of only five tracks on which the Sprint Cup Series competes that Johnson hasn’t collected a win. The others are Chicago, Kentucky, Watkins Glen and Michigan.
• Johnson has completed 94.7% (2532 of 2675) of competition laps at the 1.5-mile track and has led 72.
• He has an average start and finish of 18 and 11.6.

Chassis
• Johnson last drove primary chassis No. 659 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.
• Johnson has driven backup chassis No. 669 four times, most recently at Dover International Speedway in October.


JIMMIE JOHNSON QUOTES

YOU HAVE BEEN MATHEMATICALLY ELIMINATED FROM THE DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISHED THIS YEAR? “Yeah, I’m definitely disappointed that we won’t be able to go to Homestead and race for our sixth (consecutive driver’s championship) but that’s motorsports. It’s a very tough business. What we did over the last five years was absolutely spectacular and I’ve just got to thank Lowe’s. I’ve got to thank Hendrick Motorsports, Chad Knaus (crew chief), and this whole race team for giving me everything they’ve had these 10 years. Even though we’re not in position to win the championship now, we’re going to go to Homestead and try to have our best race down there that we can and finish as high as we can in the points.”

SPRINT CUP SERIES CAREER NOTES

Career Wins
• Johnson has 55 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, his most recent coming at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 9, 2011.
• The El Cajon, Calif.-native is currently tied with Rusty Wallace for eighth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.
• He is second in total wins among active drivers, behind Jeff Gordon (85).
• Johnson needed only 296 starts to hit the 50 mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories quicker – Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
• Johnson has won at least three Cup races a season since he posted his first victory in 2002. He is the only driver in the modern era to win at least three races in each of his first eight full-time seasons.
• Johnson has won Sprint Cup Series races at all but five (Michigan, Chicago, Watkins Glen, Homestead, Kentucky) of the 23 tracks on which the series competes.
• Johnson’s 10 wins in 2007 was the highest number recorded in a single season since Jeff Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Homestead-Miami Ford 400 Preview: Everything Points to Edwards

By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Edwards last won in Vegas and is -155 favorite to win title at sports books
The dream race match-up is set!

Carl Edwards vs. Tony Stewart in Miami for all the marbles, trophies and accolades that come with winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Edwards maintained his 3-point lead over Stewart with a runner-up finish last week at Phoenix while Stewart led the most laps and finished third.

This is the closest any two drivers have been heading into the final race of the season since the Chase format was implemented in 2004.

Tony Stewart has won two Championships while Edwards is searching for his first. Stewart has won four of the last nine races coming in while Edwards hasn’t won since Las Vegas in March.

While Stewart is emulating the wild card fever we’ve seen with recent champions in football like the Packers, and in baseball like Cardinals, Edwards has been the steadiest of all drivers with 18 top-five finishes to Stewart’s eight.

If we’re looking for who has the hot hand right now, it’s got to be Stewart. But if we look at who has the historical edge since the Homestead-Miami track has been reconfigured, it’s Edwards all day long.

No one in the history of Cup racing at Homestead-Miami has come close to what Edwards has done on the track, which is average a finish of 5.7 in seven starts. He’s won two of the last three races there and is the favorite not only to win the Championship, but the clinching race itself, which would be a rare feat.

The Las Vegas Hilton Super Book posted Edwards as the -155 favorite to win the title over Stewart (+135). The Hilton had the two drivers pick ‘em last week and with Stewart not gaining at Phoenix and Edwards history on the track, a 3-point edge in this race is huge.

Roush drivers have won six of the last seven at Homestead
Stewart has had success on this track winning the first two races ever held on it, but that was under the old flat layout. In 2003, the track made the banking much steeper with speeds similar to what we see at Las Vegas. Since then a Roush driver has won six of the last seven Homestead races, including both of Edwards‘.

While the Roush drivers have been winning all of these races, Stewart has kind of been an also-ran with no top-five finishes in his last six starts there. Of course this is a complete different scenario for Stewart. No one is hotter than him right now and we also have to consider that Stewart didn’t have race hard in the 2005 race because he was winning the championship.

Last season we saw the mental game play a part and get to Denny Hamlin and in the last few weeks we’ve seen Tony Stewart be very vocal about telling Edwards how hard he's coming.

"We're going to make him sweat it out," Stewart said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead heat going in there. I'm pumped. I wish I was going to Homestead tomorrow."

Stewart has been playing Jedi mind tricks through reporters
It remains to be seen if Edwards can be rattled mentally, but just based on his past success on the track it seems doubtful. If anything, the pressure of the moment could be what gets him like it would any athlete in any sport going for their first big championship. But he's taking it all in stride and not giving Stewart any bulletin board material.

"This is going to be a battle. I truly believe it's going to be a good race," Edwards said. "That place is magical for us. I really enjoy going there.

"I hope it comes down to the fastest guy winning the race."

Look for Edwards to race for the win and not chance anything by simply following Stewart around. He’ll have a good enough car to do it and if he can stay out of the way of jalopies and hobo's like Brian Vickers, he should have a car to get him there. His closest competitor in the race will likely be Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.

Like Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson hasn’t had to really compete at a high level in the last five Homestead races just because he was cautiously racing for a clinching finish to seal the deal on his championships. It would be nice to see the five-time champ reverse rolls with Edwards like last year when they both did celebratory burn-outs at the end of the race, kind of like a passing of the torch.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #99 Carl Edwards (6/1)
2) #17 Matt Kenseth (7/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (8/1)
4) #29 Kevin Harvick (12/1)
5) #14 Tony Stewart (10/1)

Homestead-Miami Odds & Ends: Ford 400

At Homestead-Miami Speedway:
History
·            Groundbreaking for Homestead-Miami Dade Motorsports Complex – as the track was originally named – began Aug. 24, 1993. The first race was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Nov. 5, 1995.
·            The original configuration was a four-turn, rectangular oval based on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's layout.
·            The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Homestead was held on Nov. 14, 1999.
·            2002 was the first season of the Championship Weekend at Homestead, with all three of NASCAR’s national series holding their season finale at the same track.
 
Notebook
·            Since the inception of the position-based points system in 1975, only three drivers have made up a points deficit in the season finale: Richard Petty in 1979 (made up two points on Darrell Waltrip), Alan Kulwicki in 1992 (made up 30 points on Davey Allison) and Jimmie Johnson in 2010 (made up 15 points on Denny Hamlin).
·            There have been 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Homestead, one per season since 1999.
·            Five drivers have competed in all 12 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Elliott Sadler and Tony Stewart.
·            David Green won the first pole, in 1999.
·            Tony Stewart won the inaugural race, in 1999.
·            There have been nine different pole winners. Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson lead all drivers, with two.
·            There have been eight different race winners, led by Greg Biffle, with three.
·            Jack Roush has won seven races, most among owners.
·            The race has been won from the pole twice: Bill Elliott (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002).
·            The race has been won from a top-10 starting position in nine of 12 races.
·            Denny Hamlin won in 2009 from the 38th starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.
·            Three active drivers have averaged a top-10 finish: Carl Edwards (5.7), Kevin Harvick (7.9) and A.J. Allmendinger (8.7).
 
Homestead-Miami Speedway Data
Race: 36 of 36 (11-20-11)
Track Size: 1.5 miles
Race Length: 267 laps/400.5 miles
·     Banking/Corners: 18 - 20 degrees
·     Banking/Straights: 4 degrees
·     Frontstretch: 1,760 feet
·     Backstretch: 1,760 feet

 
Driver Rating at Homestead
Carl Edwards 117.5
Martin Truex Jr. 107.4
Matt Kenseth 105.7
Kevin Harvick 102.8
Greg Biffle 97.4
Jimmie Johnson 97.4
Denny Hamlin 92.5
Kasey Kahne 89.6
Mark Martin 89.6
Jeff Gordon 88.7
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-11 races (six total) at Homestead-Miami.
 
Qualifying/Race Data
2010 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (176.904 mph, 30.525 seconds)
2010 race winner: Carl Edwards (126.585 mph, 11-21-10)
Track qualifying record: Jamie McMurray (181.111 mph, 29.816 seconds, 11-16-03)
Track race record: Tony Stewart (140.335 mph, 11-14-99)
 
NASCAR in Florida
·         There have been 167 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Florida.
·         165 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series have their home state recorded as Florida.
·         There have been 10 race winners from Florida in NASCAR’s three national series:
Driver
 NSCS
 NNS
 NCWTS
Bobby Allison
84
2
0
Fireball Roberts
33
0
0
LeeRoy Yarbrough
14
0
0
Marshall Teague
7
0
0
Joe Nemechek
4
16
0
David Reutimann
2
1
1
Bobby Johns
2
0
0
Shorty Rollins
1
0
0
Rick Wilson
0
2
0
Aric Almirola
0
1
2

Homestead-Miami Storylines: Only 3 Points Separates The Leaders

Edwards is a -155 favorite in Vegas to win title
3, 2, 1.

Three points. After 35 races, more than 10,000 laps and 13,000 miles run, only three points separate first and second going into the final race of the season, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Under the previous points system, that roughly translates to 13 points, making it the third-closest margin going into the final race since the inception of the position-based points system in 1975.

Two superstars still in contention. One – the points leader Carl Edwards – eyes his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Tony Stewart’s the other. A 2011 championship would give Stewart three NASCAR Sprint Cup titles, and put him on a rarified level of NASCAR greats.

One championship. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship has had one home in each of the last five years – that of Jimmie Johnson. There will be a new champion in 2011, one that will likely remain TBD until the final lap of Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

And here’s a fascinating thought: The “Walk Off Win” factor. If Edwards wins Sunday, he’s the champion. If Stewart wins Sunday, he’s the champion.

The scenarios are many, depending on where Edwards and Stewart eventually finish. But a win would guarantee a title for both. Also, if Edwards finishes ahead of Stewart, he’ll win a championship. The bright side for Stewart: he owns the tie-breaker (most wins), so he needs only to tie Edwards to win his third championship.

For the first time since 2008, all three of NASCAR’s national series’ championships will be decided at the season finale at Homestead.

In the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. looks primed to win his first series championship. But it’s not over yet. Elliott Sadler is still mathematically eligible for the title, though he needs a stellar finish and lots of help in the form of a poor finish by Stenhouse in Saturday’s Ford 300.

In the NASCAR Camping World Series, three drivers remain in the mix: Austin Dillon, Johnny Sauter and James Buescher. Dillon, the front-runner, needs to finish 16th or better in Friday’s Ford 200 to become the youngest champion in series history.


NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

Edwards Vs. Stewart: An Epic Matchup
Stewart has 4 wins in 9 Chase races (Getty)
Sunday it all comes down to Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart. All other drivers have been officially eliminated from championship consideration. A deeper look at the two combatants…

Carl Edwards: A picture of consistency, Edwards owns series-best numbers in top fives (18) and top 10s (25). But the reason he owns the points lead: his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this season. Both Edwards and Stewart have scored the exact same amount of points over the first nine Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races (356), but Edwards holds his scant three-point edge thanks to the three Chase bonus points he earned for his win at Las Vegas.

If Edwards holds on to his lead, he’ll join Bobby Labonte as the only two drivers to win both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.

History is on his side. There have been only three season-finale comebacks since 1975. In 1979, Richard Petty overcame a two-point deficit to overtake Darrell Waltrip; in 1992, Alan Kulwicki erased Davey Allison’s 30-point lead in the finale; and last season, Jimmie Johnson trailed Denny Hamlin by 15 points, but came back to win his fifth consecutive championship.

Another reason for optimism: His success rate at Homestead is practically unmatched. He has two wins, four top fives and six top 10s in seven Homestead starts. He owns the top average finish (5.7) and the top Driver Rating (117.5). He hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since his first visit to the track, a 14th-place run in 2004.

Tony Stewart: Here are the names of those drivers with three series championship: David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Lee Petty and Darrell Waltrip. All are either in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, or will be inducted in January. Stewart can join that list be wiping away a three-point deficit on Sunday.

Stewart already boasts this unique statistic: He’s the only driver to win a series championship under the Chase (2005) and pre-Chase (2002) formats. Now he looks to add another unique accolade, that of driver-owner champion. The last driver-owner to win a series championship was Alan Kulwicki in 1992.

At Homestead, Stewart has two wins, three top fives and six top 10s in 12 starts. His two wins came in the first two race at Homestead, in 1999 and 2000.

One shared characteristic: Grace under pressure. Edwards’ last two finishes: second and second. Stewart’s last two finishes: first and third. Both have an average finish of 2.0 in the last two races. They have performed their best when the season was on the line.

Shot Callers: Osborne, Grubb Vital To Championship Hopes
Though Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart will share much of the spotlight throughout Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead, crew chiefs Bob Osborne (Edwards) and Darian Grubb (Stewart) just might prove as vital to the championship hopes.

Neither have won a series championship in their career, but success has followed the two technical wizards throughout their NASCAR career. Grubb won the Daytona 500 with driver Jimmie Johnson in 2006, subbing for suspended Chad Knaus. Osborne has 18 wins in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, with a best championship finish of second in 2008.

Both championship contending crew chiefs will be guests on NASCAR’s national teleconference on Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET.

End Of An Era: Johnson Unprecedented Reign Ends
We'll never see 5 in a row again (Getty)
With a career-high fifth finish outside the top 10 in the Chase, Jimmie Johnson has officially been eliminated from 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship contention.

But what an unbelievable run it was.

Johnson’s five consecutive title-winning seasons has never been accomplished before. And likely will never happen again. During that span, from 2006-2010, Johnson captured 35 of his 55 career victories. He won in all manners, with his last also his most impressive – erasing a 15-point deficit in the last race to overtake Denny Hamlin at Homestead.

So now what? Pride, in the form of a top-five championship finish, is on the line. Since Johnson joined the series fulltime in 2002, he has finished in the top five each season. That streak is teetering. He currently sits fifth in points, but is only two points ahead of sixth-place Matt Kenseth going into Homestead.

Magic Number: 19
When Kasey Kahne crossed the finish line as the checkered waved at Phoenix, it marked the 18th different winner of 2011.

The record for most different winners in a season is 19, most recently in 2001.

There’s one race left, and a number of drivers could help match the record. Most notable of the group is Greg Biffle, who has a series-high three wins at Homestead but remains winless in 2011.

Other winners from 2010 who remain winless in 2011: Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and David Reutimann.

Major Milestones On Deck
Some rather notable milestones on tap for Homestead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:
- Mark Martin will makes his 830th, which will give him sole possession of fifth on the all-time series starts list.
- Kurt Busch will make his 400th series start, the 48th driver to do so.
- Hendrick Motorsports continues its quest for 200 series victories.
- Ryan Newman continues his attempt to become the ninth driver to 50 career poles.

- NASCAR Media Services 

Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Odds to Win Homestead-Miami Ford 400

Might there be only one burnout Sunday at Homestead? Edwards is 9/2
FORD 400
HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2011

CARL EDWARDS 9-2
JIMMIE JOHNSON 8
KYLE BUSCH 12
JEFF GORDON 10
MATT KENSETH 6
KEVIN HARVICK 6
DENNY HAMLIN 20
KURT BUSCH 25
TONY STEWART 4
DALE EARNHARDT JR 40
GREG BIFFLE 15
KASEY KAHNE 15
CLINT BOWYER 30
RYAN NEWMAN 40
BRAD KESELOWSKI 30
JOEY LOGANO 60
MARTIN TRUEX JR 50
DAVID RAGAN 30
JUAN MONTOYA 60
MARK MARTIN 50
JEFF BURTON 50
JAMIE McMURRAY 75
BRIAN VICKERS 75
DAVID REUTIMANN 75
PAUL MENARD 60
AJ ALLMENDINGER 30
MARCOS AMBROSE 60
REGAN SMITH 200
TREVOR BAYNE 200
FIELD 300

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Final Phoenix Driver Ratings Following All Practice and Q Sessions

Micah Roberts Top 10 Driver Ratings
Kobalt Tools 500
Phoenix International Raceway (PIR)
Sunday, November 13, 2011 - 12:16 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds      Practice 1   Practice 2   Qualified   Phoenix*

 1. Carl Edwards 6/1              34th             2nd             9th          28th
2010 winner with average finish of 13th in 14 starts; using eighth-place Loudon chassis.
 2. Tony Stewart 5/1               11th            36th            8th           7th
1999 winner, his first PIR Cup start, no wins since; using winning Loudon car from September.
 3. Kevin Harvick 12/1            23rd            10th           27th          4th
Swept 2006 season, has 13.8 average finish in 17 starts; using winning Charlotte chassis.
 4. Jeff Gordon 7/1                 38th            13th           23rd          1st
Two-time winner with an average finish of 10th in 25 starts that includes 10 top-5 finishes.
 5. Jimmie Johnson 8/1          33rd            12th           16th          3rd
Four-time winner, has finished fifth or better in 10 straight PIR races; using Loudon chassis.
 6. Kyle Busch 8/1                  40th              5th            34th         2nd
2005 winner with an average finish of 12.9 in 13 starts; only one top-5 since his win.
 7. Matt Kenseth 12/1              2nd             38th            1st         12th
2002 winner, looked to have one of the best cars in Friday’s practice; using Loudon chassis.
 8. Ryan Newman 20/1            5th             30th           30th          5th
2010 winner which started a current run of three straight top-5s; great Friday practice sessions.
 9. Kasey Kahne 15/1              8th             31st           10th          6th
Career best of fifth in his first PIR Cup start in 2004; best 10 consecutive lap average in practice.
10. Paul Menard 60/1              4th              1st            11th         17th
Had an excellent Friday practice making him a solid contender; using Las Vegas chassis.

* Results from the first Phoenix race of the season held on February 27, 2011.
     
Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former race and sports Director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to VegasInsider.com or follow MicahRoberts7 on Twitter.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Phoenix Preview

By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Edwards won the final two races of 2010, including Phoenix
With only two races left in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, this is shaping up to be the greatest Chase ever. Tony Stewart won his fourth race in the eight Chase races to pull within three points of point leader Carl Edwards. For the first 26 races of the season, Stewart didn’t have a single win. It’s on one of the more amazing ’flick-of-the-switch’ turnarounds in NASCAR history.

Meanwhile, Edwards holds steady. Even though Stewart has been talking confidently with the media and trying to rattle Edwards mentally, Edwards has met the challenge. Although he only has one win on the season (Las Vegas), Edwards has 17 top-five finishes on the season, including Sunday’s runner-up finish at Texas.

Stewart gained five points on him Sunday, but still remains 3-points back which makes this weeks race at Phoenix and next week at Homestead one of the more anticipated races ever in the sport.

We’ve seen great finishes down the stretch like last season when Jimmie Johnson overtook Denny Hamlin to win his unprecedented fifth straight title, but that’s just it. Johnson isn’t involved and there is a bit more excitement with having two new faces finally racing for the title. Nothing against Johnson, he’s one of the best ever, but NASCAR fans for some reason don’t like continued excellence.

Tony Stewart is a driver that almost everyone universally likes. He’s a two-time NASCAR Champion and is also the last driver other than Johnson to win a championship back in 2005.
He is the sentimental choice to win and is now also the co-favorite to win according to odds posted at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

Just three weeks ago following Talladega, Stewart was listed at 9-to-2. Following his Martinsville win two weeks ago, he was EVEN money. With two races left, he is now 10-to-11, the same odds posted on Edwards even though Edwards has a slight lead.

At this juncture last season, Edwards took control and gave us a preview of what was in store for the No. 99 team in 2011. He won at Phoenix and then Homestead to close the season out.

In their first go around at Phoenix this season in February, Edwards had the best car on the track throughout practice and sat on the pole, but he got was the victim of a loose Kyle Busch car early forcing the team to make an early visit to the garage and eventually settled for a 28th-place finish. Stewart finished seventh in the race.

Stewart won at Phoenix in his first Cup start there in 1999. The win didn’t come as much of a shock because of his past experience there in USAC and Indy cars. What has been shocking is that he hasn’t won at Phoenix since then, a span of 18 races. He’s been runner-up on three occasions, the last coming in 2009, which is also his last top-five finish on the track.

A great tool to better prepare for who might win this week is to look back at the past races held at Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire this season. The February Phoenix race was so long ago that it may not be a great indicator to what will happen Sunday, but Richmond last ran September 10 and New Hampshire September 25 making it very relevant.

Each of three tracks are different in size and configuration, but the flat banking and similar distances make them so similar to the point that most crew chiefs use the same chassis for each of the races.

At Richmond, Edwards finished second with Stewart coming in eighth. At New Hampshire, Stewart won with Edwards finishing eighth.

The driver that perhaps stood out the most in those two races from a consistency basis was Jeff Gordon, who happened to win the Phoenix race in February making him one of the favorites to win this week.
Jimmie Johnson has been a terror at Phoenix over his last 10 races there finishing no worse than fifth in each start. He has won four times over that span, the last coming in the fall of 2009.

Like his teammate Stewart, Ryan Newman had plenty of USAC experience at Phoenix, but never cashed in on it until last spring when he finally won after 15 starts on the track. Since then, Newman has finished second and was fifth in February.

Kevin Harvick is sitting third in points, 33-point behind Edwards, and is 30-to-1 at the Hilton for those thinking that something crazy is in store for us the next two weeks. He is a two-time winner at Phoenix and has finished sixth and fourth, respectively, in his last two starts there.

The track did a repaving job which may wipe away much of the past trends, or at least make the drivers drive much differently according to Edwards.

“Phoenix is really a big unknown," Edwards said earlier this week. "I would say this first trip will be more of a crew chief/engineer race. You’re going to have to pay attention to tire wear. The setup is going to be very important. The track is very smooth and easy to drive. I don’t know that you’ll be able to go there and manhandle the car and hustle it around there like you could at the old Phoenix, at least not this first time.”

Kyle Busch comes off his one race suspension and rolls into a familiar place where the Busch brothers have had some past controversy. In 2005, Kurt Busch won at Phoenix in the spring. In the fall race that year, he was arrested on DUI suspicion in the outside of the Phoenix track. Because he had just signed a deal to move from Roush racing to Penske, an angry Jack Roush suspended him for the Phoenix race. Kyle Busch in a bit of a brotherly love moment, went on to win the race and dedicated it to his suspended brother.

Kyle Busch hasn’t won at Phoenix since then, but did finish runner-up to Gordon this year. Following that race, Gordon was more excited about passing Busch then actually winning the race. Look for a refocused Kyle Busch to come back string Sunday and win.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)
2) #99 Carl Edwards (7/1)
3) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
4) #39 Ryan Newman (25/1)
5) #29 Kevin Harvick (12/1)

Driver Chassis Selections For Phoenix

Note: Not all teams list their chassis info in PR releases

#1-Jamie McMurray: Crew Chief Kevin "Bono" Manion and the #1 McDonald's team will be bringing chassis #1008 to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. This chassis was previously used at Richmond in April and Phoenix in February.

#2-Brad Keselowski: and the #2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-801 during Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix. This is a new chassis to the

#5-Mark Martin: crew chief Lance McGrew has chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-695 for this Sunday's race at PIR. This is the same chassis Martin drove at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September.

#6-David Ragan: is driving primary chassis RK-759 which last ran New Hampshire finished seventh. The backup chassis is RK-755 which last ran Richmond finished fourth. Through the end of the season, UPS My Choice will be featured as the primary design on David Ragan's #6 UPS Ford.

#9-Marcos Ambrose: The #9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 653 for the 312-mile race at Phoenix. This Dewalt Ford Fusion has been previously run this season in Darlington and Bristol. It was also tested at Phoenix International Raceway on Oct. 4-5. The Australian Word of the Week: Exy = Expensive.

#14-Tony Stewart: Chassis No. 14-637 made its debut in April at Martinsville, where it experienced some teething problems, qualifying 28th and finishing 34th with a broken rear-end gear. Prior to Martinsville, Chassis No. 14-637 was tested March 14 at the half-mile Little Rock Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. The July race at New Hampshire marked the car's second career start, where it qualified second and led twice for 48 laps before finishing .773 of a second behind its sister car, piloted by Newman. It saw track time again during a Goodyear Tire Test at Phoenix Aug. 29-30 before returning to New Hampshire in September for its third career start and first of the Chase. The car carried Stewart to his second straight Chase win, leading only the final two laps after previous leader Clint Bowyer ran out of fuel just before taking the white flag in the 300-lap race. Chassis No. 14-637 returns to action and another flat, 1-mile oval with this weekend's race at Phoenix.

#16-Greg Biffle: is racing primary chassis 734 which last raced at Dover and finished 27th.

#17-Matt Kenseth: will run primary chassis RK-751 which last run at New Hampshire. This weekend at Phoenix, Kenseth will pilot the #17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion.

#22-Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led #22 Penske Racing "Double-Deuce" team will be racing the "PRS-748" chassis this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. The action in the desert this weekend will mark the first time out for the car in the "Double-Deuce" Shell-Pennzoil colors. However, Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski drove this car dressed in the #2 Miller Lite scheme during the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (finished 18th), in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis (started fifth & finished ninth) and the September Dover race (started 15th & finished 20th). The "PRS-749" chassis, which Busch raced in both Richmond races this season, will serve as the backup Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend.

#27-Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 328 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This #27 Peak/Menards Chevy was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and was last seen on track at Darlington Raceway in May, where Menard started 18th and finished 22nd. This racer also saw competition at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March) where he started 18th and finished 12th and was utilized in the October test session at PIR.

#29-Kevin Harvick: will race chassis No. 353 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The #29 Budweiser Bowtie Chevy team has utilized this car three times so far in the 2011 season earning one win (Charlotte Motor Speedway 5/29) and finishes of seventh and 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Dover International Raceway (10/2), respectively.

#31-Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 329 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's312-lap affair. Built new for 2010, this Cat Mining Chevy saw action for the first time this season at Bristol Motor Speedway in August where the 19-year veteran finished 15th after starting 21st. Burton also drove this black and yellow machine during the fall race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway earning a 13th-place result.

#33-Clint Bowyer: will pilot chassis No. 365 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevy, built new for 2011, has seen action twice this season. The first time was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July when Bowyer brought home a 17th-place finish after starting 12th and most recently he ran this chassis at Richmond International Raceway in September, finishing 22nd after starting fifth.

#35-Dave Blaney: will pilot the No. 910 chassis this weekend. TBR last ran this chassis at Dover in September. Blaney also drove the chassis at Auto Club Speedway, Texas, Darlington, Pocono and Dover. He wheeled the chassis to a chassis-high 24th-place finish at Darlington in May.

#36-Geoff Bodine will pilot the No. 27 chassis this weekend at Talladega. He most recently piloted the chassis at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400, as well as the Daytona 500. Most notably, he drove the chassis at Talladega Superspeedway in April where he led 21 laps before a late-race spin spoiled a solid run.

#42-Juan Pablo Montoya: crew chief Jim Pohlman and the #42 Target team are bringing chassis # 1109 to Phoenix this weekend. This chassis was previously run at Richmond (April and September) and Phoenix in February.

#43-A.J. Allmendinger: The #43 Richard Petty Motorsports team has prepared chassis No. 736 for this weekend's event at Phoenix International Raceway. This WIX Filters Ford has been run previously this season at Richmond, Kansas and Loudon. It was also tested at Phoenix International Raceway on Oct. 4-5.

#48-Jimmie Johnson: last drove primary chassis No. 689 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. Johnson has driven backup chassis No. 590 six times, most recently at Richmond International Raceway in September.

#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Crew chief Steve Letarte and the #88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-694. The team tested this chassis during the open session at the newly repaved Phoenix in October. Prior to that, Earnhardt raced this car to a 17th-place finish at New Hampshire in September.

#99-Carl Edwards the #99 Subway team will unload RK-782 at Phoenix. This car was new at New Hampshire where Edwards finished eighth with it.

- compiled by Jayski.com

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Phoenix is Now the Great Unknown for Jeff Gordon Due to Repaving

Gordon winning at Phoenix (Getty)
AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 8, 2011) – Phoenix International Raceway may have held races for more than 45 years and hosted 30 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but Jeff Gordon believes this trip out west is into an unknown frontier.

Gordon was first to the checkered flag here in the spring, and afterward he was first to dig up a section of the front straightaway to begin reconstruction on the one-mile layout. The new design includes a new surface, and changes to the first two turns and back straightaway.

“It’s an unknown for all of us,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “It’s a new surface and we’re using a new tire. It’s basically a whole new race track.

“(Turns) 1 and 2 have changed quite a bit. Turns 3 and 4 really did not change a whole lot, other than the surface. And the back straightaway is completely different – there is no comparison of that part of the track to anything we race on anywhere else. “It’s going to be tricky – there’s no doubt about that.”

In 25 starts at the Arizona track, Gordon has two wins (2007 and 2011), three poles, 10 top-fives and 18 top-10’s. But a new era on the track starts with this Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500.

“I hope we are able to get a second groove worked in,” said Gordon. “I think that is going to be very important because you walk a fine line between having great track position and maintaining speed, and making it hard for other guys to pass. If you get a foot outside of the preferred groove, you might be in the wall or you could lose a lap. It takes that long to get back in the groove, clean the tires off and get back up to speed.

“That is what can make this race very interesting and very challenging.”

Gordon enters the penultimate race of the 2011 season eighth in the point standings. But the new-look track could alter the look of the standings.

“To me, Phoenix is the unknown with the new pavement,” said Gordon. “I think we’re all going to be anxious to see not only how the race goes, but how this championship unfolds. If you get a foot outside the groove, it could ruin your entire day – and those aren’t variables a championship contender would like to factor in.

“These conditions could shake things up in a big way.”

- Performance PR Plus for DuPont Motorsports, Press Release