Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Phoenix Preview: 2013 Advcoare 500

Will Carl Edwards step up again on this type of track again?
Jimmie Johnson's dominating performance Sunday at Texas, where he led 255 of the 334 laps, was enough evidence for the LVH Super Book to make him the overwhelming 1-to-5 favorite (bet $5 to win $1) to win the his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title. Last week heading into Texas, Johnson was 5-to-7 and tied in points with Matt Kenseth. Now he's got a 7-point lead and heads to Phoenix this week, one of his best tracks, before closing the season out at Homestead.

Kenseth finished a solid fourth-place at Texas, but he needed to finish better than Johnson there to have a legitimate shot at beating him for the title. Kenseth had been better on just about every 1.5-mile track than Johnson this season, capturing four wins. Up until Sunday, Johnson had been winless on the 1.5-mile tracks, but with such a dominating win, Johnson not only showed his team made the needed changes to be fast on these types, but he also gained a huge psychological edge.

Barring any type of mechanical failure or being in a wreck, which is always a possibility, Johnson will be hard to pass no matter what Kenseth does. Johnson figures to lengthen his lead Sunday at Phoenix where he's averaged a 6.5 finish in his past 20 starts that include four wins.

On the other side, Kenseth has a 2002 win at Phoenix, but hasn't had a top-5 finish there since spring of 2007, a span of 12 starts. Even on Kenseth's best possible day at Phoenix, where he would be ecstatic with a fifth or sixth-place finish, he still should expect to have his deficit of 7-points lengthened past double-digits. He needed to be leading the Chase coming out of Texas in a bad way, just because of Johnson's skills at Phoenix.

The one thing Kenseth might have in his favor this week is how he's done at similar race tracks this season. I like to lump the 1-mile Phoenix layout into the same category with the 1-mile New Hampshire and ¾-mile Richmond tracks. Although all three are configured differently, the one common denominator for each is that they're all flat tracks with almost no banking. Because of the similarities, the set-ups required for all are almost the same, which means if a driver is good at one place, they'll usually be good at the other.

No comments: