Drivers Look For Breakthrough In Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – As NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers keep winning and virtually assuring themselves spots in the revamped Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, a number of other drivers remain winless.
And outside-looking-in is not where you want to be in 2014 and beyond.
Heading into Saturday night’s 5-hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway, we are faced with the strangest of polar-opposite statistics; the five drivers sharing the all-time lead in Kansas victories all are winless thus far this season. Stretching the strangeness: this is a most elite, power-laden lineup.
The collective 0-for-10 hitters include Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.
The first four have combined for 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. Biffle hasn’t won NASCAR’s biggest title but he’s been close, finishing as the series’ runner-up in 2005. Biffle also has won NASCAR’s two other national series championships, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2000 and the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2002.
This story gets better, thanks to the insight provided by Loop Data statistics. The five drivers listed above have the top five Driver Ratings over the course of Kansas Speedway’s brief (since 2001, 16 races total) but impactful history in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Here’s that rundown: Jimmie Johnson 118.9; Matt Kenseth 109.6; Greg Biffle 106.9; Jeff Gordon 99.6; Tony Stewart 97.5.
As for which one of the five could indeed break through Saturday night, Biffle could be the smart pick. His team, Roush Fenway Racing, has won four times at Kansas Speedway, accounting for all of Ford’s victories at the 1.5-mile speedway, with wins by former RFR drivers Kenseth and Mark Martin joining Biffle’s two. Also, Biffle comes off an impressive second-place effort at the largest and most precarious track in the series, Talladega Superspeedway.
Biffle was asked about becoming the first three-time Kansas winner, post-race at ’Dega.
“I didn’t know that stat; I’d be super-excited to win there to start with, but to be the first guy to win three there would be pretty neat. I love that race track,” he said. “It sure would have been nice [at Talladega] to get a win [working] toward the Chase, but we’ve got some great race tracks coming up, as well. It would have been nice.”
So yes, Biffle, like four other guys who know a lot about winning, looks forward to Kansas Speedway. Optimism is evident when ones talks to the six-time champion Johnson, the proverbial elephant in this winless room. Historically, Johnson excels on 1.5-mile tracks.
“I feel pretty good [about the season],” he said last week. “We’ve had strong runs. I think at Texas, we didn’t get to go very far (because of an early-race incident) but through practice and qualifying we had a lot of people concerned. We led a lot at California. Vegas went well. I feel very good about our 1.5-mile stuff. We still want to be better … but we’ve been in there fighting for wins.”
The fight continues.