Tag Archives: Kasey Kahne

NASCAR Needs a Qualifying Bump Hour

Watching NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying it dawned on me. NASCAR really needs a qualifying bump hour instead of knock out. For those of us old racing fans Indy Car had a Bump day in order to make the Indianapolis 500, why can’t we have a bump hour to make the Sprint Cup race?

While watching qualifying this week for the race at Michigan International Speedway it finally dawned on me that in each and every session those drivers who were on or near the bubble were making adjustments and rushing out to try another lap to make or keep their position in that round of qualifying. That is where the excitement of qualifying is. That is what Kasey Kahne did on his way to the Coors Light Pole.

What if we let drivers and teams have at it. Nothing is off the table except shocks, springs and camber. Track bar up or down, wedge, new tires, tire pressure, or tape on the grill; fire away and have at it. You have one and only one hour.

Sure it would cost some teams some $$$ but it would achieve the desired result of making qualifying interesting and exciting. There would be no gaming of qualifying by the teams. Keep going till you get the prize. That is what the idea is, isn’t it?

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

Feature Photo Credit: 309735 Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Will Hendrick Continue or Roush Return to Form at Michigan?

To say that Roush Fenway Racing has made the Michigan International Speedway their playground in NASCAR is an understatement. Since 2002, a Roush driver has won nine races, one race every year from 2002 to 2008 plus a race in 2012 and 2013. They have more race wins at Michigan than any other Sprint Cup team.

Greg Biffle is the most recent Roush driver to lead the charge. Biffle leads all active drivers with four wins there. His most recent win goes back to this race in 2013. His statistics for Michigan are like Jimmie Johnson’s are at many of the other speedways. He has a driver rating of 107.1, an average finish of 10.9. His average running position of 8.9 is incredible.

In 2014 the Roush Fenway Racing Drivers of Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr had their worst showing ever in this race. Greg Biffle led the team with a finish of 20th followed by Edwards 23rd and Stenhouse 27th. No laps lead and equally painful qualifying positions. In the August race those same drivers did a little better. Biffle scrambled for a 10th place finish, Stenhouse 15th and Edwards 23rd again. In Roush Fenway Racing standards their showing at Michigan last year was dismal.

Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports drivers of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon took full advantage of the opportunity to win the races at Michigan. In fact all four of the Hendrick cars were in the top ten in June and three of the four in August; Jimmie Johnson 1st and 9th, Jeff Gordon 6th and 1st, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 7th and 5th and Kasey Kahne 5th and 16th.

This season Jimmie Johnson has won at three of the five 1.5 speedways but those he didn’t win he had issues leading to damage. Johnson finished 9th at Fontana, Michigan’s 2 mile sister speedway. Stewart Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick has also dominated the 1.5 mile speedways including coming in 2nd at Fontana. They are also a Hendrick associated team.

This weekend all eyes will be on Roush Fenway Racing at their home track. Greg Biffle has shown some improvement this season but overall the Roush teams are still struggling. This weekend will tell the story whether or not there has been any improvement. In the mean time it looks like the Hendrick teams have an edge to continue where they left off last season.

If you cannot get to Michigan International Speedway Sunday, June 14th 2015 for the Quicken Loans 400 it will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 starting at 1:00 PM ET.

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

Feature Photo Credit: 304998 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Statistics for Michigan International Speedway

Rank Car No. Driver Name Average Finish Driver Rating
1 16 Greg Biffle 10.9 107.1
2 48 Jimmie Johnson 15.3 102.5
3 20 Matt Kenseth 11.7 101.3
4 99 Carl Edwards 9.7 100.5
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12.7 98
6 14 Tony Stewart 10.1 95.8
7 24 Jeff Gordon 15.4 93.6
8 22 Joey Logano 14.9 91.8
9 4 Kevin Harvick 11.5 90.2
10 41 Kurt Busch 21.3 89.9
11 2 Brad Keselowski 14.8 89
12 5 Kasey Kahne 17.1 89
13 18 Kyle Busch 18.9 88.3
14 11 Denny Hamlin 15.3 88.2
15 55 Brian Vickers 17 86.3
16 15 Clint Bowyer 14.6 82.5

 

Strategies to Make the Chase for the Sprint Cup

Last year NASCAR changed the rules for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The goal of those changes was simply to make the racing better. Without exception the racing in 2014 was better than it has been making these changes a big success. There was some initial controversy on how teams made the 16 car Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Win and Your In: This is the one part of the rules that caused the most consternation among fans. The thought was that a team might luck into a win then steal the championship without really earning it. In reality last year showed that will probably never happen.

Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger had lack luster regular seasons finishing 22nd and 23rd respectively. They each won a race to put them into the Chase field. Almirola won the July race at Daytona and Allmendinger wining at the Watkins Glen road course. The reality is that those teams did not improve during the regular season so their performance in the chase was only marginally better. Almirola finished the season 16th or last of the Chase drivers. Allmendinger did improve a little but finished 13th.

Kasey Kahne was also not having a good year. He finished the regular season 13th in points and would have missed the Chase had the rules not been changed. He made it with his win one week before the last regular season race at Atlanta. Just like Almirola and Allmendinger Kahne’s team did not improve and took that into the Chase finishing 15th.

Consistency: This is how Championships are won. Consistency, out pointing your competition has been the foundation for Championships in NASCAR forever. With the new rules it looked like Consistency as a Championship strategy was dead. 2014 proved that that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and Greg Biffle entered the Chase by being the top drivers in points who did not win a race. They finished the regular season 6th, 8th and 10th respectively. Of the three Matt Kenseth with his ten top five finishes looked like he would take Consistency into the Chase and possibly win a Championship. Note all three in spite of not winning would have made the Chase under the old rules.

The reality was that while Matt Kenseth maintained his consistency Ryan Newman’s team steeped it up in the Chase finished second in the race at Homestead behind Champion Kevin Harvick to end up second in the Championship. They showed that one could race old school out pointing the competition and win a championship without winning a race.

Missing a race or more:  Another controversial part of the rules to make the Chase is where a driver can miss a race due to health or other issues, then win a race and with NASCAR’s approval make the Chase. The only requirement is that the driver has to remain in the top 30 in points. Gone are the Iron Man days, where a driver would race hurt to get the points and stay in the Championship.

Denny Hamlin had to miss the fifth race of the season at Auto Club Speedway due to a piece of metal in his eye.  NASCAR approved that he missed a race due to this medical problem and Denny Hamlin finished the regular season 19th in points. More importantly Hamlin won the May race at Talladega Superspeedway putting himself in the Chase.

Hamlin’s team would have been 17th or perhaps as high as 14th in points had he not missed that race. They proved that this rule works enabling teams to salvage a season. More importantly they proved that an ever improving team that did not have early consistency can also win a Championship by peaking at the right time during the Chase. Denny Hamlin finished the season third in the Standings.

Wrap up: What was learned last year in the regular season is that racing for maximum points is still a winning strategy. The new rules for making the Chase only provides additional options. The option to salvage a season if you happen to miss a race. The option to make the Chase while vastly improving your team throughout the regular season. Make no mistake about it your team must be at the top of its game regardless of how it made the NASCAR Chase when the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.

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

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit 301215 Richmond International Raceway

 

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

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