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Qualifying the Chasers: Kansas

October 20, 2012, Nick Margiasso,

Keselowski's no qualifier; Chasers hover in and around top 10 for repaved race

Brad Keselowski (Qualified 25th): Let's face it, only a throwback performance by Five-Time or a miraculous stretch run by Mr. Prediction is going to rip this thing out of Bad-Fast Brad's cold-filtered, Miller-holding hands. Last weekend's Charlotts race marked the first time he's finished outside the top seven since August, and he now heads to a Kansas track recently dominated by the current top three in the Chase. He kicked off the winning stretch with a June 2011 win. Still, wow, is he a poor qualifier.

Jimmie Johnson (Qualified 7th): And then there is the middle Kansas winner of the stretch of top-three Chasers showing up in Victory Lane there. But Johnson's good reputation at Kansas doesn't end with his Chase win there last season. He also is the last person to win a race there for the pole (2008), and also holds these records at Kansas: Most wins (2, tied), most poles (3), most top-10s (10) and most laps led (503). So, yeah, that's how he's looking for this race.

Sprint Cup Series

Chase Standings
2.J. Johnson-7
3.D. Hamlin-15
4.C. Bowyer-28
5.K. Kahne-35

Denny Hamlin (Qualified 9th): And, last but not least, the most recent of the top-three Chasers to have conquered Kansas -- doing the deed this April. Denny has alternated finishes inside and then outside the top 10 at Kansas going back to 2008, so his 2012 win already might not translate to another good finish until next campaign. Stay tuned.

Clint Bowyer (Qualified 3rd): Well, he finally did it. Clint clinched the win he'd been seemingly building to since the start of the Chase. Still, it only got him so close. Bowyer moves up one into fourth place past once-promising Kahne in the Chase, but that is still 13 points out of the top three, and 28 back of leader Keselowski. He's going to have to reign his slightly ugly performances in at his "hometown" track if he's going to start at Kansas. He has as many finishes inside the top 10 as he does outside the top 30 there since 2008, so ... yeah.

Kasey Kahne (Qualified 1st): Kahne is still posting nice finishes, decent enough to hang in the top five in the Chase, but he'll need to start winning now. Right now. He got back in the top 10 last weekend, and needs his success at 1.5-milers to keep coming as he heads to Kansas. He has two wins there, and has finished outside the top 10 just once since 2007. Sounds like a good time to get back in the thick of it.

Greg Biffle (Qualified 11th): The Biff loves him some Kansas, and he rolls in with a nice head of steam after last weekend's fourth-place gave him his best back-to-back race finishes since he went sixth at The Glen and won the next week at Michigan. Biffle's worst finish here is a DNF in his rookie season of 2002. Since that he's gone 11 races with two wins and never finished lower than 12th. He also holds the best average finish in Kansas Chase races of any driver (4.1), and is just edged out by JJ as the second best driver on overall average (8.0). This could be the one that puts Biffle back in with a bang.

Martin Truex Jr. (Qualified 16th): He's hung around, and is certainly a piece of arguably the best story in racing at Michael Waltrip Racing, but it seems to be looking grim for Truex. After posting his first back-to-back finishes of 10th or higher since August (not an ideal time for them, truly), Truex heads to a Kansas track where he has been awful. That is, besides this season. His second-place finish there in April was his first finish inside the top 20 since 2009, and he has an average career finish there of 23.2. So, which will it be, Martin?

Tony Stewart (Qualified 33rd): I coulda sworn someone in a car that looked just like this one drove his way to an inspired 2011 title. But it definitely wasn't this guy ...

Jeff Gordon (Qualified 19th): I hope he's taking sea sickness pills with all the ebbs and flows of this guy's 2012 season. Heck, just in the Chase it's been heavy seas. First week crash -- boom, he's done. Three straight top-threes -- boom, he's back in. An 18th at CMS just as he was sniffing the top five -- boom, he's done again. I can hardly take it, what do you think Jeff is thinking? He's thinking that he's tied for most wins at Kansas (2) and has the most ever top-five finishes at the track (8), so why not make another run?

Kevin Harvick (Qualified 10th): Here's an interesting statistic ... Harvick has only one top-10 his first time back on a track that had been repaved since his last start there. That does not bode well for this new, sleek and unpredictable track. Well, at least he's got that lovely baby boy to go home to if things don't change. Speaking of changing, Keelan's probably due right about now, daddy ...

Matt Kenseth (Qualified 12th): Well, wasn't it nice there to pretend that Matty K. was back? He literally parted the sea there ahead of a monster wreck for a Talladega win. Think that was a fluke? Here are his Chase finishes that surrounded that win: 14th, 35th, 14th, 18th. Yup, apparently Kenseth was owed one by somebody.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Qualified N/A): One more week, we hope, Junior fans. One more week.

Story includes statistics from © Racing Resources and Services, Statistics by © Racing Recall®

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.