|Jimmie Johnson is now 6/5 favorite to win Sprint Cup despite deficit|
Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch enter Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET ESPN, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio) with virtually identical finishing averages in the first three races of the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ - 3.0, 3.3 and 3.0.
Kenseth leads Johnson by eight points, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch by 12 markers.
So who blinks first?
Kenseth? Probably not this week. Kenseth’s won the past two races at the 1.5-mile track.
Johnson? Unlikely. Johnson also is a two-time Kansas winner, sports a superlative average finish of 7.6 and has led eight of the most recent 10 Kansas events.
That leaves Busch as the potential odd man out. Busch claims two top-10 finishes (most recently 10th in 2012) at Kansas Speedway and an average finish of 22.4. Worse, Busch has been felled by accident in each of his past two Kansas appearances.
By improving one position over last year’s second-place performance in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Radio), Austin Dillon can take the NASCAR Nationwide Series points lead from Sam Hornish Jr. The two drivers are separated by four points entering the season’s 29th of 33 events.
Matt Crafton’s 16-race run of top-10 finishes ended in Las Vegas but the Californian will enter the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ final five events with a 41-point lead over reigning champion James Buescher when competition resumes Oct. 19 at Talladega Superspeedway.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – HOLLYWOOD CASINO 400, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2 P.M. ET ON ESPN
Kenseth Chases Another ‘Triple’ At Kansas Speedway
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ leader Matt Kenseth failed in his bid to become the first to win the three opening postseason events. Kenseth goes for another triple this week hoping to fashion Kansas Speedway’s first run of three consecutive victories. The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion won last year’s Hollywood Casino 400 as a Roush Fenway driver and April’s STP 400 racing for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Dover Victory Pushes Johnson To Past Title Thresholds
Sunday’s record-setting eighth Dover International Speedway victory gives Jimmie Johnson five wins in 2013. In each of Johnson’s five championship seasons, the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won five or more times – including at least one Chase triumph. Johnson trails Kenseth by eight points. He has two Kansas Speedway victories, in 2008 and 2011.
Busch’s Title Hopes May Rest On Erasing Past Kansas Troubles
Kyle Busch logged his third consecutive top-five Chase finish at Dover – and dropped from second to third in the standings, 12 points behind JGR teammate Matt Kenseth. Busch’s championship hopes may hinge on overcoming past performances at Kansas Speedway. Sidelined by accidents in the past two races, Busch’s best Kansas finish is seventh – one of just two top-10 finishes in 12 starts.
Intermediate Tracks Results Favor Joe Gibbs Racing
Four of the Chase’s final seven races will be contested on intermediate-style tracks beginning with Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. Joe Gibbs Racing has mastered the layouts in 2013’s roll-out of the Gen-6 car. Matt Kenseth has won four times; Kyle Busch three times. Rival Hendrick Motorsports has yet to post an intermediate track victory this season.
Past Kansas Winners Gordon, Biffle Eye Deficit Reduction
Two former Kansas Speedway double winners – Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle – could reduce their points- deficit this weekend. Gordon is fifth in the standings, 39 points out of the lead while Biffle ranks sixth, 41 points arrears. Gordon and Biffle’s 2013 Chase stats are virtually identical: one top five and two top 10s and average finishes of 8.3 and 9.3, respectively.
Harvick, RCR Yet To Visit Kansas’ Victory Lane
Lurking probably describes Kevin Harvick’s current Chase positioning. Harvick ranks fourth having scored an identical number of points – 2,110 – as fifth-place Jeff Gordon, the tie broken by the Bakersfield, Calif. veteran’s two victories. Neither Harvick nor Richard Childress Racing has won at Kansas Speedway. Harvick’s best finish is third in 2010. RCR’s best is Clint Bowyer’s runner-up finish in 2007.
‘Spoilers’ Have Crashed Previous Kansas Chase Parties
Three previous fall Kansas Speedway races have been won by non-Chase qualifiers – Joe Nemechek (2004), Tony Stewart (2006) and Greg Biffle (2007). Among "spoilers" bidding to raise their stature this week include former Kansas winners Brad Keselowski and Mark Martin. Martin’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was the winning ride in 2009.