Look Out Dover The Jimmie Johnson Genie Has Been Let Out of The Bottle

NASCAR spent the last two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson and his Lowe’s team was finally able to end their winless streak. It took a run at a speedway that Jimmie Johnson excels at to get it done. Now that the Genie is out of the bottle, this week NASCAR and Jimmie Johnson return to Dover International Speedway; a track Johnson simply dominates.

The Dover International Speedway is a one mile high banked speedway. There is 24 degrees of banking in the corners and nine degrees on the front and backstretch. The race is 400 laps and miles. This track is a short track but because of the high banking is more like a superspeedway. The width of the track and high banking can lead to crashes that involve multiple cars. That is what the drivers will be trying to avoid.

To say that Jimmie Johnson dominates Dover is and understatement. Johnson has won eight races here double that of the next contender Jeff Gordon. His average finish of 8.7 is also unmatched. Last but not least his driver rating is in domination land at 121.1.

The next closest drivers are Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch with driver ratings of 107.9 and 106.0. They each have two wins at this track. Watch out for Carl Edwards who got a reputation for doing well on concrete tracks like Dover. His rating of 101.3 like his teammate Greg Biffle‘s 101.0 isn’t bad but his average finish of 10.0 is something to watch.

This week it will be all about Jimmie Johnson though. He loves racing here and has great success. Now that he has his win and is locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup he can just concentrate on winning races.

Johnson said, “I absolutely love Dover. It is one of my favorite tracks by far. We have run so well there in the past and it’s a great track for the No. 48 team and coming off of a win in Charlotte we will have some momentum. It was great to finally get the win behind us, lock ourselves in the Chase and move ahead in the points. I’m really proud of our team and look forward to running well this weekend in Dover.

If you cannot get to Dover International Speedway for the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks it will be broad cast by FOX on Sunday June 1st starting at 12:30 PM ET. This will be the last NASCAR race for FOX in 2014. TNT will be picking up coverage of the series starting the next week at Pocono.

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

Feature Photo Credit: 286601 Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Dover
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 121.1
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 107.9
Kyle Busch…………………………. 106.0
Carl Edwards………………………. 101.3
Greg Biffle………………………….. 101.0
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 93.7
Kurt Busch……………………………. 92.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 91.6
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 89.4
Ryan Newman……………………….. 89.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Dover Motor Speedway.

Kurt Busch the New Ambassador for Racing

Kurt Busch wore out his welcome with several NASCAR teams. He wore out his welcome with the media. He wore out his welcome with fans. He realized this and took the steps necessary to change. Now he is an Ambassador for Racing—yes you read that right—an Ambassador.

The last two seasons Kurt Busch worked his way back to a high quality NASCAR team. Along the way he learned a lot. We do not need to talk about what got Busch here anymore. His actions the last couple of years have taken care of that. What happened before, happened before, there is a new driver in town. He earned our respect back.

Kurt Busch caught the eye of Gene Haas at the end of last year. Haas put his money on Busch and started another NASCAR Sprint Cup team from scratch just for him. This team hasn’t done well, as most new teams do, but Busch did win a race and presumably is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is currently 28th in points. He needs to stay within the top 30 in points in order to use the power of that win and stay in the Chase. That isn’t the story though.

Kurt Busch set out to do what no NASCAR driver has done before. He looked for and got a great Indy Car team to provide him with a ride in the Indianapolis 500. Sure other NASCAR drivers have done “The Double” as it is called, racing in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 all on the same day; 1100 miles of racing. John Andretti, Robby Gordon, and Tony Stewart were all Indy Car drivers before becoming NASCAR drivers. That isn’t the story though.

There is no doubt that Busch put himself and his reputation on the line racing in his first race: the Indianapolis 500. As for his racing, well after a vicious crash in his Indy Car in practice, one might expect him to be too hesitant. Certain failure would come to mind. He didn’t. He raced smart and brought home a sixth place finish. The only blemish on his day is that his engine blew in the Coca-Cola 600 relegating him to a 40th place finish, one that he did not need as noted above.

To put his Indy Car race into perspective, Busch was the fastest qualifying rookie and highest finishing rookie of the race. He won the prestigious Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. He joins his other teammates, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, who have also won the award.

The demands on a high profile driver like Busch, especially one doing a great feat, are unfathomable. Through it all Kurt Busch was the most relaxed he has ever looked. He was the most gracious to his teams, on camera and in print, than he has ever been.

Today is a memory I’ll have forever. It was a challenge I put forth for myself. I enjoyed it. I soaked it all in up North. I loved racing up in Indy in front of all the Indiana natives and the Hoosiers. They love their speedway up there. That speedway loves them. That’s what I really saw out of that track today.” Busch added, “There was a grand stage to stand on and represent NASCAR. We brought her home in sixth place. I didn’t think I had anything for those top five guys. They were racing hard. And those were the top five in that series. They’re strong. They’re tough.

Make no mistake about it; Kurt Busch engaged NASCAR fans with Indy Car Racing. He also engaged Indy Car fans with NASCAR Racing. That is just what Ambassadors do. In this case Kurt Busch represented both forms of racing in the best way possible. It would be great to see him do it again.

Busch said, “I’d love to do it again. And at the same time, you’ve got to do it with quality teams. The teams really can make the big difference in all of this. And I have to thank Andretti and I have to thank Stewart-Haas.

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

Feature Photo Credit: 298576 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kasey Kahne has the Formula for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

Kasey Kahne was on track fighting for the million dollars in the NASCAR All-Star race only to see it slip away on some speedy dry. This week NASCAR and Kasey Kahne get back to business at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the faster of the 1.5 mile speedways. The speed comes from the 24 degrees of banking in the corners. This race is one of the most prestigious of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule. It is also the longest race of the season at 600 miles or 400 laps. If the length of the race isn’t enough the race also is a test of crew chief because it starts during the day and finishes at night. The driver and team who can keep up with the changes in the track while still staying at the front will win this race.

The driver ratings for this track shouldn’t be a surprise to any NASCAR fan. Jimmie Johnson has a commanding rating of 111.1 and has won six times. This of course used to be the house of Johnson but he hasn’t won here since 2009 and his record streak ended in 2005.

Kyle Busch is next in the driver ratings at 107.5. Great stats but Busch hasn’t been able to make those stats work for him for a whole race and win at Charlotte.

The next driver by driver ratings is Kasey Kahne at 102.6. His rating, though not as high as Johnson’s, are still pretty good. He has four wins, the most recent coming in this race in 2012.

Kasey Kahne and his crew chief Kenny Francis have not been getting it done this season. This hasn’t been lost on them. They have been working diligently at fixing it. They think they figured out something during the Kansas race.

Well we had to really sit down and talk about things together and get back on the same page.  There were a lot of things we were thinking differently on the first six to seven weeks of the year.” Kahne added, “We have spent a lot more time the last month and a half together and figuring this out than what we had early in the year when we were maybe thinking different directions and things with the car, adjustments and set-up’s for each track.  I feel like our relationship is still really good and because we have that we have been able to figure it out and do enough testing and things to get back on track.

It is apparent that something is working. A third place finish at Kansas plus wining two of the four segments in the All-Star race they have definitely improved. They are going to need better communication for this race more than any other.

Kahne said, “Patience. I think you have to have patience. Last year, I enjoyed leading when it was sunny out and leading at night so just being able to find that balance, work with it, work with your car, communicate well and work with the team throughout the whole race is key. And then you need the team to step up, too.  We need to have great pit stops, and we need a great car when we start the race. If we have all that, we’ll have a shot to win our fourth 600.

Here are some other stories in the race to watch. Kurt Busch will be running in the Indianapolis 500 before the Coca-Cola 600. He is the first driver to race in all 1100 miles of racing, the double as it’s called since John Andretti in 2007.

Look for special car paint schemes in honor of our veterans for Memorial Day.

Kasey Kahne is currently 16th in points but just out of the Chase. He wants to become the 10th new winner and race his way into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is off to a great start by qualifying for the third spot.

If you cannot get to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 it will be broadcast live on FOX on Sunday May 25th starting at 5:30 PM.

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

Feature Photo Credit HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Charlotte
Jimmie Johnson                                111.1
Kyle Busch                          107.5
Kasey Kahne                      102.6
Matt Kenseth                    96.0
Denny Hamlin                    93.4
Greg Biffle                          91.4
Carl Edwards                      89.8
Jeff Gordon                        88.8
Joey Logano                       87.3
Kurt Busch                          84.7
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

2014 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Bubble Watch

It’s the NASCARAll-Star break, a perfect time to size up the standings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As I wrote back in March at the rate we’re going we just might have 16 race winners or more. So where do we stand right now?
Current Chase for the Sprint Cup Seeding
Driver Points Wins
Joey Logano

346

2

Kevin Harvick

302

2

Jeff Gordon

394

1

Kyle Busch

373

1

Carl Edwards

367

1

Brad Keselowski

326

1

Denny Hamlin

318

1

Kurt Busch

211

1

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

368

1

Matt Kenseth

379

0

Jimmie Johnson

340

0

Ryan Newman

332

0

Greg Biffle

328

0

Brian Vickers

327

0

Kyle Larson

318

0

Austin Dillon

306

0

There are seven drivers who are in the Chase right now based on points, but every new driver that wins a race takes one of those positions away and bumps the driver on the bubble out. That is unless one who is already in on points wins. In this case Austin Dillon is on the bubble.

There are 15 races left. If we have eight or more new winners then there will be no drivers left on the bubble. So the question is which drivers, who have not won yet, will most certainly win?

Jimmie Johnson – It is impossible to imagine Jimmie Johnson not winning a race in the next 15. His longest streak without winning a race is 21 (’11) so it isn’t out of the question that he will win.  In 2011 his streak outside of the Chase was 15 races, since his win came in the Chase. Semantics aside, Jimmie Johnson will win at least one race before the Chase.

Matt Kenseth – He has been on a roll if not on a mission since moving from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing, winning a Matt Kenseth record of seven races last year. Considering his teammates have each won a race this year and he has eight top ten races in 2011, Matt Kenseth has got this. He will also win a race before the Chase.

Tony Stewart – Tony Stewart has not been getting it done since he got back into the car from injury. Then again, Stewart doesn’t normally get it done until the weather gets warm and the tracks get hot and slippery. He will win a race during the heat of the summer and add his name to the Chase.

Those are the three drivers I think you can count on to win at least one race and put themselves solidly in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Who is left that certainly has the capability to pull off a win? In order of Driver points these are the drivers that are plenty capable of winning a race in the next 15. We can expect this to happen.

Greg Biffle – The Biff, as he is called, has been hot and cold this year. When he has been hot he has been there contending for the win. That is exactly the type of driving this format for the Chase was designed to promote. Kurt Busch, who is currently 28th in points, resembles that remark. Greg Biffle will do the same.

Kyle Larson – NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson is racing his heart out. He is a rookie but racing like a veteran. He has nothing to prove and nothing to hold him back. Just like Biffle above he is going to connect on one of these and win a race.

Kasey Kahne – Kahne has been expected to improve after being getting paired up with Kenny Francis; his crew chief when he was having his best years. It hasn’t happened. Four top ten finishes and only one top five isn’t going to get it done. There is hope; he had two eleventh place finishes and his teammates seem to be getting it done. Expect Kahne to pull one off to get in the Chase.

Marcos Ambrose – NASCAR hasn’t visited the road courses yet. All of Ambrose’s Sprint Cup Series wins has come on road courses. With two fifth place finishes at short tracks, Marcos Ambrose can get it done. He has two chances to win at a road course to put his name in the Chase. NASCAR also goes back to Bristol where he finished fifth this season.

Here are some drivers who, for whatever reason, are not getting it done but are capable of improving and/or pulling off a single win this season to take themselves into the Chase. In order of current point standings, we have:

Ryan Newman – Like most drivers who moved to a totally new team, Ryan Newman is struggling. He maybe eighth in the points currently but with only four top ten finishes he is hardly lighting the series on fire. But like all new drivers this veteran will eventually improve. He just might get a win before the Chase begins.

Brian Vickers – Statistically Vickers is tenth in points and behind Newman, but with two top five finishes he just might have a better chance than Newman to pull off a single win.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer has two DNF’s this season but he has as many top ten finishes as Newman including a top five. If he can keep it together he will pull off a win and make it into the Chase.

There are currently seven spaces open for a new winner. The list above consists of ten drivers who are plenty capable of winning. There are 15 races left to get those seven new winners. The odds look pretty good that we will have sixteen different winners and we will quite possibly be bumping drivers out of the Chase during the last race at Richmond International Raceway.

NASCAR hit a home run with this new Chase for the Sprint Cup Format. The next 15 races are going to be exciting as ever watching drivers race hard for the win and bumping other drivers who have not won out of the Chase.

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

Feature Photo Credit: David Banks/ NASCAR via Getty Images

 

Which NASCAR All-Star Has That “Win at All Cost” Attitude?

Well it is that time again, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. This is NASCAR’s version of the All-Star Break. This year like every year some things remain the same but most everything gets changed. In fact the only thing that has remained the same is that the race is at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The format for the race has changed. It will no longer be voted by the fans. The format is as follows:

Segments 1, 2 and 3/20 laps each:  All laps will be counted. … Optional pit stop during break, teams that pit will not retain their position on track.

Segment 4/20 laps: All laps will be counted. … Running order at the completion of the fourth segment be repositioned based on the average finish of the first four segments. … Running order ties will be broken by the finish of the fourth segment. … Pit road will be open for a mandatory four-tire pit stop. … Order of cars returning to the track will determine starting order of the fifth and final segment.

Segment 5/10 laps:  Only green flag laps will be counted.

Each and every week we look at the driver ratings to see who is good in the race in order to dial into a driver who we expect to win. This week, like every week, the statistics are telling.  Looking at the ratings Kyle Busch has this locked up but the funny thing is in spite of eight appearances in this race, including three starts from the pole, he has never won; and then there is this guy called Six- Time.

Jimmie Johnson’s driver rating for the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway isn’t quite as good as it is during points races there. In fact if there is a race he might be vulnerable in, it just might be this one. Mr. Six Time is only Mr. Four Time when it comes to the All-Star Race but he did win the last two. He has won more All-Star races than any other driver.

All sarcasm aside, it is tough not to pick Jimmie Johnson to win a record three All-Star races in a row but the way Johnson and the whole No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team has been running lately he just might not be the favorite. Ok so I didn’t put the sarcasm aside because a not so good Johnson is still a pretty formidable NASCAR team.

Look out for Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. The new Chase for the Sprint Cup format has favored a go for the win attitude. These drivers and their teams have picked up on that and lead the standings with two wins each. They just might be able to keep it up to win an event that is strictly just that. They might keep Jimmie Johnson from setting the record and wining the million dollars.

If you cannot get to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race it will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 starting at 7 PM ET. See below for the entry list and past winners.

Feature Photo Credit: 286143 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

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

Top 10 All-Star Driver Ratings
Kyle Busch…………………………. 110.3
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 106.3
Matt Kenseth………………………… 88.3
Joey Logano………………………… 87.3
Kurt Busch……………………………. 86.4
Carl Edwards………………………… 82.8
Joe Nemechek………………………. 82.4
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 81.6
Kasey Kahne………………………… 79.7
Brian Vickers………………………… 79.6
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 NASCAR Sprint All-Star races (nine total).

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Wins List
Year    Driver                      Year        Driver
1985    Darrell Waltrip       2000        Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1986    Bill Elliott                2001        Jeff Gordon
1987    Dale Earnhardt      2002        Ryan Newman
1988    Terry Labonte        2003        Jimmie Johnson
1989    Rusty Wallace        2004        Matt Kenseth
1990    Dale Earnhardt      2005        Mark Martin
1991    Davey Allison        2006        Jimmie Johnson
1992    Davey Allison        2007        Kevin Harvick
1993    Dale Earnhardt      2008        Kasey Kahne
1994    Geoff Bodine         2009        Tony Stewart
1995    Jeff Gordon           2010        Kurt Busch
1996    Michael Waltrip     2011        Carl Edwards
1997    Jeff Gordon           2012        Jimmie Johnson
1998    Mark Martin            2013        Jimmie Johnson
1999    Terry Labonte

2014 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Entry List
Greg Biffle
Kurt Busch
Kyle Busch
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Carl Edwards
Jeff Gordon
Denny Hamlin
Kevin Harvick
Jimmie Johnson
Kasey Kahne
Matt Kenseth
Brad Keselowski
Joey Logano
Jamie McMurray
Ryan Newman
David Ragan
Tony Stewart
Martin Truex Jr.
Brian Vickers
Fan Vote Winner
Winner Sprint Showdown
Second Place Sprint Showdown