|Can Chevy get back to winning on 1.5-mile tracks?|
It's crunch time!
Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway will be the fifth race of the Chase and it will also be the eighth race this season on a 1.5-mile layout and third of five in the Chase format. We should have a pretty good idea of who is going to run well this week, even though the 1.5s have been a tale of two seasons.
The first four 1.5s were dominated by Chevrolet with Jimmie Johnson winning three of them (Atlanta, Texas, Kansas) and Kevin Harvick winning the other one (Las Vegas) -- as well as finishing runner-up to Johnson three times. But then in one sweeping change, the Joe Gibbs Toyota's won the next four races on 1.5s (Charlotte, Kentucky, Chicago), which also includes the mid-May non-point All-Star race. Johnson and Harvick weren't factors at as all during that stretch as all four Gibbs' drivers got on a roll simultaneously.
But then on Sunday, we had another owner and manufacturer crash the 1.5 season party.Joey Logano took his Penske Ford out front at Charlotte and pretty much stayed there the entire race leading 227 laps. Only Denny Hamlin finished in the top-five among Gibbs cars, Harvick was back running second and another Chevy driven by Martin Truex Jr. came in with a strong third-place run. Truex Jr. led a race-high 95 laps in the May Kansas race before settling for ninth.
So what's it going to be this week? Are things cycling around? Is the cream rising to the top? Has Harvick found his groove back? And could Logano be ready to keep his roll going and show he's got a whole bunch more wins to grab?
Penske obviously found something to be so dominant Sunday. By virtue of winning last week, Logano gets an automatic ticket into the next round where the final eight drivers will be decided after next weeks race at Talladega. He can go all out with no fear and just win the race for the fun of it. Logano has a top-five finish in his past four Kansas start, including winning this race last season.
Matt Kenseth put himself in a rough spot last week with a 42nd-place finish. He's going to need lots of help and maybe even have to win one of the next two races to advance. Of his five wins this season, none of them came on a 1.5-mile track. But last week at Charlotte he was one of the few to lead laps other than Logano, 72 in all, before crashing. It's a good desperation angle to play with him as he tries to win his first Championship since 2003 -- the year before the first Chase format started.
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