Thursday, April 19, 2012

Some lasts in the Land of Oz ... and picks

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Kansas this week and the visit there doesn't come without some lasts in mind.
Kansas was the last place that Hendrick Motorsports won a race. The elite team is also looking for its 200th Sprint Cup victory, so hey, maybe it's a match made in the Land of Oz.
Another last is that this will be the final race their before the track is repaved. It's one of a number of tracks that has been on the repaving list in the last year. So, when they return for the Chase for the Championship in the fall, the cars might react the same way, or they might not. Crew chiefs won't be able to depending only on past history for the Chase.
But they can this week, and that's the basis for this week's picks.
Greg Biffle. The points leader is coming off a win at Texas, has been excellent all year and he has two wins at the track. So, hard not to pick him here.
Jeff Gordon. He's been fast all year, but also extremely unlucky. They finally had a bit of good fortune, to go along with a fast car, to finish fourth at Texas last week. Gordon is 17th in the points coming in, and he'll look to make a big jump in the standings.
Jimmie Johnson. He's also got two wins at Kansas and has been knocking on the victory door for the last few races. So a breakthrough here would be no surprise and give Hendrick that landmark victory.
Tony Stewart. He's also got two wins here and we're guessing that last week's poor showing at Texas was anamoly, and won't be a regular occurrence.
Mark Martin. He's showing he can still drive with the best of them, even at age 53. Martin is driving the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing and has been solid this season. He's also got a win at Kansas.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda: Kansas is also Clint Bowyer's home track and it would be a great story for him to get his first win at that track. He's been OK there with a top five and three top-10 finishes. That's not enough to make him one of the top five here.

Here's a look at how last week's picks fared at Texas.
Matt Kenseth - 5th. He was competitive throughout the night and led 15 laps, even though he didn't have a chance to win at the end, still a nice run.
Greg Biffle - 1st. Well, finally I got another winner here. Biffle went from having a good season, to being a serious contender to the title by proving he can win on one of the Chase tracks.
Tony Stewart - 24th. It was a no-brainer to pick Stewart as one of the contenders at Texas. But the team missed completely on the set up and was never in the running to even get a top 15 finish.
Denny Hamlin - 12th. He had an OK day, but was never a threat to win the race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 10th. See comment for Hamlin. Winless streak now at 136 for those of you snoring at home.

Here's a look at my results after seven races and 35 picks
2 win
8 top fives
7 top 10s

Grade for the week: B. Biffle's win is big and Kenseth came through, too. Stewart's non-competitive car of no help.

One Last Thing: Here's a look at what Jimmie Johnson has done this season, thanks to help from NASCAR's Loop Statistics. The five-time champion has the most fastest laps run at 249, the fastest average green flag speed, led the most laps at 359, led the most miles at 403.89 and the fastest average speed in traffic. There's one thing he hasn't done yet this year - win. That may very well change Sunday.
Until next time

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