|Old photo...don't think they like each other much, but they're fast|
Of course there are so many other factors that go into rating each driver before a race, and a lot of it comes from what they have done lately on similar tracks, how they are running overall, and past history in general.
In Kyle Busch’s case, he’s got a big negative placed upon on him because of a 34th-place finish at Kansas last week. His problems started in practice where he wrecked, and they continued on race day while using a back-up car. This is the fork in the Chase crossroads for Busch. Kansas was his first race in the Chase that he didn’t finish in the top-5.
Now here comes to another 1.5-mile track at Charlotte, a place that drives much faster with higher banking than Kansas, and a place he’s won at 12 times over his career. However, all those wins came between the Nationwide and Truck series. He’s finished third or better six times in the Cup series at Charlotte, and maybe best of all added to his resume, is that he won on the Charlotte sister tracks this season at Texas and Atlanta, two tracks that resemble Charlotte the most.
Then when looking at what he did Friday during the final practices, it elevated him right to the top of the chart as the driver to beat. He’s got the wins on the season, and a shot at the title still (15/1 odds), and also has a very fast car for Saturday’s race. In addition to the top single lap of the early session, Kyle Busch also had the second best 10-consecutive lap average behind Jimmie Johnson.
With Kurt Busch, we’ve come to grips with the fact that he’s finally going to win a race sooner or later, and this week looks just as good as any for the 2010 Charlotte winner. If we look back at the last five 1.5-mile tracks run at, he has finished sixth or better in all of them, a streak that started with a third-place finish in the May Charlotte race. He also finished third on the wide open 2-mile layout at Michigan. His top speed is nothing new in practice, because he’s been doing it on almost all of the tracks he’s done well at, but elevating him higher this week is more about other top teams dropping a notch which increases his chances, or more specifically Matt Kenseth not looking so great.
Kenseth has won on four of the eight 1.5-mile tracks season, but none came on the high baked tracks at Charlotte, Atlanta or Texas. He was eighth in Saturday’s early practice, but followed it up with a 23rd during happy hour. Last week at Kansas, his type of track, he was sluggish and finished 11th which allowed Johnson to close the gap on the leader by just 3-points in the standings.
Johnson hasn’t won on any of the 1.5-mile tracks this season, but does have six Charlotte wins, not including his All-Star race non-points win in May. The good news for Johnson’s team is that they’re getting better on the these tracks, having finished fifth at Chicago and sixth at Kansas last week. They only have three top-5 finishes on these types all season. Johnson also practiced very well Friday using the same car he won with at Dover’s 1-mile high banked layout.
The driver the Busch brothers should fear the most this week as their biggest challenger looks to be Kevin Harvick who won the May Charlotte race. He finished the final practice session with the second fastest lap behind Kurt Busch, and in a rare move for back-to-back races, is using the same car he won with at Kansas last week.