Chase watch Texas: Who will win and get in?
April 03, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
Johnson, Kenseth, Biffle represent manufacturers' best hopes of notching another playoff berth
For the first time in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup era, a season has started with six winners in six races. The last time there were seven different winners in the first seven races was 2003.
Based on driver rating at Texas Motor Speedway, each of the favorites heading into the Duck Commander 500 is winless this year, potentially equaling that mark from 11 years ago and moving NASCAR closer to an all-time mark. The record for different winners to start the season is 10, in 2000.
Over the last five years and 10 races at the Great American Speedway, only last spring's winner (Kyle Busch) and the fall 2009 winner (Kurt Busch) have wins this year. So recent history is on the side of a seventh consecutive different winner to start 2014.
Here is a look at winless drivers through six races of the this season who have done well at Texas in previous years.
Tied with Carl Edwards for the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at the track with three, Johnson, the top Chevrolet driver at the track, has won two of the last three Texas races. Among all drivers at Texas, he is second only to Matt Kenseth in average finish (8.7) and driver rating (106.4). He has a series-best 488 fastest laps run and 66.4 percent of quality passes, or passing a car running in the top 15 under a green flag.
The two-time Texas winner leads all drivers at the track with 19 lead-lap finishes, 775 laps led, 13 top-five finishes and is tied with Johnson for most top 10s with 16. Although both wins came in Fords, Kenseth leads the way for Toyota this weekend. He has the top driver rating of 107.2 with a series-best 4,827 laps in the top 15 or 80.1 percent of all laps run there over the last 18 races. Among all Cup drivers at Texas, he has the best average finish (8.3) and finished fourth in last fall's Chase race at the track.
Third on the driver rating list at 101.8, Biffle has two Texas wins, and another will extend Jack Roush's win total to 10, doubling nearest competitor Rick Hendrick's five wins at the track. Biffle also will attempt to add onto Ford's track-leading 11 wins. On the way to his April 2012 triumph, he set the Cup record for the fastest race at the track with an average speed of 160.577 mph, completing the 500 miles in 3 hours, 7 minutes and 12 seconds. He finished fourth in this race last season.
Only the second driver to sweep both races in a season with his 2010 feat matching the mark Edwards set in 2008, Hamlin is fourth on the all-time list with a 10.7 average finish. After Brian Vickers finished eighth in the No. 11, sitting in for the car's primary driver in this race last year, Hamlin finished seventh in the fall race at Texas. Joe Gibbs Racing put all three of its cars in the top 13 in both of last year’s races at the track with, Kyle Busch winning last spring's event.
Fifth on the Texas driver rating list at 99.1, Stewart has led a series-best 12.5 percent of the laps led over the last 17 races at the track. Stewart is third on the all-time laps led list at Texas with 727, behind Kenseth (775) and Biffle (727). Stewart missed the fall race last year with an injury, but won in 2011 for his second Cup victory at the track. After back-to-back top-five finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway, he finished 17th at Martinsville Speedway but should bounce back at the track where he has an annual "Smoke Show" for fans at the facility.
Go deeper: Check out NASCAR's Texas Statistical Analysis for more stats and notes for Monday's Duck Commander 500.
Heading into the seventh race of NASCAR's regular season, here is how the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings look:
|1.||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Winner: Daytona|
||Winner: Las Vegas
||2nd in points|
||4th in points|
||5th in points|
||8th in points|
||9th in points|
||10th in points|
||11th in points|
||12th in points|
||13th in points|
|16.||Marcos Ambrose||14th in points|