NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne Needs to Win at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Kasey Kahne Has to Excel at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Kasey Kahne will not make the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup unless he either wins a race or has some of the best runs of his career at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway the next two weeks.

When Kasey Kahne moved to Hendrick Motor Sports it was full of promise after bouncing around from some teams that were in a transition and struggling. That was indeed the case as Kahne won two races each of the last two years. He also made the Chase both years finishing fourth in 2012 and twelfth in 2013. This year is a different story.

To date Kahne has only two top five finishes and nine top ten finishes. The two prior years he had seven and eight top five finishes at this point in the season. Looking at top ten finishes his statistics don’t look as bad. He currently has nine compared to eleven and thirteen at this point the two prior seasons. Unfortunately top ten finishes don’t win Championships in the Sprint Cup Series, it takes top five finishes and wins.

Kahne’s other teammates Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. are having one of the best seasons of their careers. Jimmie Johnson isn’t having a great season but not a bad one either.

What do they need to fix? Well that is not apparent at all. In some races they run great but either get caught up in something or have something break to ruin it. In other races Kahne looks like he is driving for a different team than Hendrick Motor Sports.

The current points leader and favorite to win the Sprint Cup, Jeff Gordon’s team and cars are prepared in the same shop as Kahne’s by the same people. This leads to further head scratching. What happened to the adage “A rising tide lifts all boats”?

Kasey Kahne, Kenny Francis his crew chief and his whole team must perform flawlessly the next two races or they will not make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Although a couple of top five finishes might get them in by points that will only happen if more than one of the drivers ahead in points has a disastrous race. He must win to get in the Chase.

We’re in a tough spot still because we need maximum points every week and we also need a win to secure our spot in the Chase, but we’ve had pretty fast cars and the team has been doing a much better job,” Kahne said. “I think all of us communicating and working together, it’s been better for the last month, month-and-a-half than what it was earlier in the season. We just have to do the same thing, but we need to max our points each weekend and go for wins. Hopefully between one of those we can work our way in.

Kahne’s driver’s rating of 86 at Atlanta Motor Speedway isn’t the best but he does have two wins there.

As Kasey Kahne said they are in a tough spot. In reality based on past performance they have not been able to put two great races together this year. No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS team has a big hill to climb but it isn’t out of the question.

The second to last race to the Chase will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, August 31st. If you cannot get to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Oral-B USA 500 it will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 7:30 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 289672 Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Chase Bubble Watch with Two Races to Go

Chase Bubble Watch with Two Races to Go

There are two races left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.

Twelve drivers have locked themselves into the Chase field by winning a race. There will be two spots for the Chase that will go to the two drivers highest in points who have not won a race. There are two other spots left for a driver who wins one of the next two races that has not won a race yet. If no new driver wins a race then those two spots go to the next two drivers highest in points.

The race to the Chase and the scenarios on who can or will make the Chase can appear confusing or complicated. In an attempt to simplify it, here are some general ways to watch the next two races in order to be able to stay in the game without a calculator.

First off, Matt Kenseth leads all drivers in points by 41. That is just about one complete race. He will get one of those guaranteed spots that will make the Chase via points, unless there is complete disaster and major carnage plus a mediocre race.

The second group of drivers to watch, in order of points, is Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle. These drivers are quite simply racing each other for the second guaranteed spot in the Chase via points. They are also racing one another in case no new driver wins a race. They may have to race to win or race for points. This group of drivers is about 30 points from the third group of drivers. One mediocre race puts them down in their group.

The third group of drivers is, in order of points, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, and Austin Dillon. These drivers cannot make the Chase unless they win a race or they race well and one of the second group of drivers falters, in which case they could get in by points.

The fourth and final group of drivers simply has only one chance to make the Chase. They absolutely must win a race. These drivers are 20th to 30th in points. See the chart below.

There you have it. You don’t need a score card; just follow the groups of drivers. If any of them win a race, they are in. The next two races will be nail biters.

The second to last race to the Chase will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, August 31st. If you cannot get to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Oral-B USA 500 it will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 7:30 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 289764 Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR

Credit NASCAR Media
Credit NASCAR Media
Tony Stewart Has a Big Hill to Climb

Tony Stewart Has a Big Hill to Climb

It has been the talk of the media and social media since late last Saturday Night August 9th. Tony Stewart was in an accident that caused the death of fellow Sprint Car racer Kevin Ward Jr. Read about the incident here from Dustin Long at MRN: Driver Killed In Incident With Stewart. I have been reluctant to write about it because it is so tragic. My prayers go out to Kevin Ward Jr. and his family. They also go out to Tony Stewart. Watching this get reported and talked about in all media has been very painful for me.

First and foremost I am not a journalist; I am a NASCAR and racing fan who has gone on to write about it. What has gone on in the mainstream media scares me. It has been totally irresponsible. No matter what you think about Tony Stewart, in America you are innocent until proven guilty. As of this writing, there are no charges against Stewart and none pending. The local investigators stated it will take two weeks until they are done with their investigation.

Innocent until proven guilty! Here are some article titles: “Tony Stewart struck, killed driver in sprint car.” Fox Sports. “Tony Stewart Hits, Kills Out-Of-Car Racer” CBS. Though these titles are technically accurate, they lead the reader somewhere that may or not be true. They read like he purposely did this. There are many more even more salacious and wrong titles out there.

Here is an attempt to be more accurate: “NASCAR’s Tony Stewart allegedly hits, kills driver at dirt-track race in New York” CNN. Well he didn’t allegedly hit him, I saw it on TV. I liked Dustin Long’s title; it was the most accurate of them all.

I don’t want to be the one calling this out. I know some of these media people, but I live in the internet. That is what I do. These titles live on for eternity. One has to get the reader, via the search engines in 70 characters or less. Google Tony Stewart Murder, it’s awful even though he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

I know a truck driver who witnessed a kid who lost control of his bike and was run over by another truck. It is just as tragic as what happened at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. When that story was reported, the title wasn’t “Enter Name Here Struck, Killed Kid on Bike”; only for the title to live on the internet in perpetuity for the poor truck driver regardless of what the investigation proves or does not. Why is Tony Stewart different?

I have purposely refrained from reporting on and commentating on the accident between Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. I wasn’t there. I only saw a video on ESPN. Every time I tried to write about the subject it was impossible for me to not get sucked into the abyss of speculation and conjecture. Jerry Bonkowski laid it out better than I ever could in his article “Don’t be too quick to judge Tony Stewart, let the experts do their jobs.

Unfortunately even if the investigation comes out that it was simply an accident that may have been preventable, the damage to Tony Stewart and his career is done. Hopefully something good can come out of this but right now it doesn’t look that way. To me as a super race fan it is truly horrible. We just might lose one of the best drivers of all time over this.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 297144 Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images

 

Juan Pablo Montoya Will Win the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis

Juan Pablo Montoya Returns to the Brickyard

This week NASCAR and Juan Pablo Montoya return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 21st running of the Brickyard 400. Montoya will be driving the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Ford for Penske Racing.

The historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.5 mile relatively flat rectangular track. There are 9 degrees of banking in each of the four turns and 0 degrees in the straights. Sometimes it is referred to as an oval track, but it is really more like a rectangle since there is a small amount of straight away between turns 1 & 2 and turns 3 & 4.  The race is 160 laps, or 400 miles.

Indianapolis, more than any other speedway, races like it is a road course. Passing is difficult and usually comes from a driver setting up the pass via hitting his marks in the corner. The crew chief also has a part in running the race backwards, pitting for tires and fuel at the last time before the end of the race. The team that performs perfectly during the race, has great track position, and makes that last pit stop at the right time will win this race.

The driver ratings for Indianapolis feature the usual suspects. No surprise here. Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with a great rating of 109.8 followed by Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon at 104.1 and102.0, respectively. Next on the list is Juan Pablo Montoya at 96.7.

All four of these drivers would be a good pick for your Fantasy NASCAR racing but Juan Pablo Montoya is racing in an additional Penske Racing car. He is not racing for points this year. He is simply racing for a win.

Juan Pablo Montoya leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Indianapolis with a 6.429. This is very important at Indianapolis where track position is king.

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are both going for their fifth Brickyard 400 win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In 2009 Montoya was leading the race when he was caught speeding on pit road during the last pit stop. He essentially gave away a sure win. In 2010 he lost the lead on pit road due to pit strategy, over drove the car to get it back and crashed with 15 laps to go in a car that was sure to win.

I don’t know if Indianapolis owes me a win, but I probably deserve to have one by this point. I’ve run really well there in my Cup career, but I just wasn’t able to close the deal.” Montoya added, “Maybe I was just waiting to win for Roger Penske. If I could be the driver to win for him it would just be another ‘thank you’ to him for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to race for him. The Team Penske Fords have been very fast this year. It’s been awesome to watch Brad and Joey this year.

With the way the Penske cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have been running, Montoya will have one of the better cars he has had in a long time. With his road racing ability at a speedway that races like one, Montoya has the confidence going here unlike at any other racetrack.

Montoya said, “Absolutely. First off, I’m always confident that I can win. But it’s obvious that the Team Penske cars are the class of the field right now. I have one race under my belt with crew chief Greg Erwin and the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental team, so we are a little familiar with each other. We had good speed in that first race at Michigan and I think we should be even better after taking what we learned there and applying it to the car we are bringing this weekend. It’s exciting to be back in the Cup Series for another weekend. Hopefully we can cap it off with a win.

If you cannot get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard, it will be shown on ESPN at 1 PM ET Sunday July 27th. 2014.

John Wayne Walding served in the United States Army for 12 years. He was involved in a fire fight during a mission in Afghanistan. As a decorated veteran and NASCAR fan he is being honored by Crown Royal during this race.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 288548 Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Indianapolis
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 109.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 104.1
Jeff Gordon………………………… 102.0
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 96.7
Kyle Busch…………………………… 96.5
Kasey Kahne………………………… 96.4
Matt Kenseth………………………… 95.8
Greg Biffle……………………………. 94.6
Kevin Harvick………………………… 90.2
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 88.3
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott Wins the Nationwide Series Race at Chicagoland

Chase Elliott and the NAPA Team Get Their Jobs Done at Chicagoland

The NASCAR Nationwide Series and Chicagoland Speedway had the spotlight this week since the Sprint Cup and Truck Series were off. The series regulars did not disappoint. Chase Elliott had never raced at Chicagoland Speedway but he sure did learn quickly.

Brian Scott won the Coors Light Pole Award and led the field to the green flag in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300. He proceeded to lead the first 20 laps until he and his team started being too aggressive in their changes to the car.

Chase Elliott started the race third and drove to the front leading the race from lap 21 to 50. He gave up the lead to pit. The rest of the race Elliott was only outside the top three during pit stops. The team was the second best team on pit road and pitted only three times.

Just a really solid effort you know, we talked about it as a team this afternoon. We all need to just do our job.  We all have a job on a race team and I feel like if we all completed our task to the best of our ability. I feel like we can have a good night.” Elliott added, “Fortunately everyone did that. So very proud of our effort this evening and I hopefully we can do this again in the future.

Part of everyone doing their job was Elliott’s Crew Chief Greg Ives setting about a plan prior to the race and sticking to it.

Greg Ives said, “It’s one of those things where you break down the race into using your fuel, your fuel window. It kind of breaks down on the first green flag run you’ll be 10 to 15 laps into your window already. Tires are a big deal so you kind of just break it down. It gets a green flag feel to it and we decided that we have not been getting the best fuel millage lately. I decided that we would go after fast pit stops and put tires on and make enough time up that way. That’s more or less the strategy to try to be the aggressor this week.   There’s times when you’re going to have to stretch it a little bit but this week to win the race and do what we wanted to do I felt like that was our best strategy.

Chase Elliott, Greg Ives and the whole NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team did their jobs just like they planned and won the race. They led on four occasions for 85 of 200 laps, the most of any team.

Chase Elliott now leads the Nationwide Series standings by seven points over Regan Smith. Elliott was also the highest finishing rookie.

Brian Scott finished sixth and as the highest finishing Nationwide Series Regular won $100,000.00 Dash4Cash. The drivers in addition to Brian Scott eligible for next week’s Dash4Cash at Indianapolis are Chase Elliott, Trevor Bayne, and Ty Dillon.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 300022 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

%d bloggers like this: