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Chase Watch: Who will win, get in at Kansas?

May 08, 2014, Staff report,

Sprint Cup champions high on list for next Chase-clinching victory

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series goes under the lights for the first time at Kansas Speedway for the 5-hour Energy 400 benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX), and the Chase Grid is ready to welcome a ninth first-time winner in 2014.

Denny Hamlin claimed the eighth of 16 spots with a win at Talladega Superspeedway last Sunday. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth should be one of the favorites to make it back-to-back victories for the organization this week.

Kenseth is one of five drivers with a series-best two wins at the track. All five have at least one national series title, and not one of those drivers has a win in 2014. Crossing the start/finish line first will make the victor the first driver with three wins at the track and likely lock him into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Will nighttime be the right time for one of these former champions?


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Jimmie Johnson

In addition to his two wins, Johnson leads all drivers with three Coors Light poles, 13 top-10 finishes and is tied for most lead-lap finishes with 13. Johnson leads all drivers in driver rating (118.9), average start (10.8), average finish (7.5) and greatest percentage of laps in the top 15 (89.2 percent). The six-time series champion has recorded 10 consecutive top-10 finishes at the track, a streak that began in the fall of 2007 before he claimed his second of five straight titles.

Matt Kenseth

The two-time Kansas winner has the second-best driver rating (109.6), second-fastest average green flag speed (165.946 mph) and third-best average running position (9.6). Kenseth is the defending race winner, his second consecutive victory at Kansas came after winning in the fall of 2012. Switching from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing in the offseason between those races, Kenseth joined Tony Stewart as the only drivers to win races for more than one team at Kansas.

Tony Stewart

Missing last fall's race at the track after breaking his leg in August, Stewart has nine top-10 finishes and six top-five finishes in 15 starts to go along with his two wins. One win and four of his top-10s have come since he helped form Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, but he only has one top-10 in his last four races and hasn't led a lap since the spring race in 2011.

Jeff Gordon
The leader in top-five finishes (9) and tied for the lead in wins (2) and lead-lap finishes (13), Gordon won the first two Sprint Cup races at the track in 2001 and 2002. He finished third there last fall, snapping a string of four consecutive races with a 10th-place or worse finish. He has the second-most laps in the top 15 (84.7 percent) and the second-most quality passes (474), or green-flag passes of drivers running in the top 15.

Greg Biffle

Wins in 2007 and 2010 have helped Biffle earn the second-best average finish among active drivers with more than one start at the track (10.3). He also has the second-best average running position (9.1) and the second-most top-five finishes among active drivers (7). Biffle's Roush Fenway Racing is tied with Hendrick Motorsports for most wins at the track (4) ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing (3) and Team Penske (2), the only organizations with multiple wins at the facility.

Go deeper: Check out NASCAR's Kansas Statistical Analysis for more stats and notes.

Here are the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after 10 races:

Pos. Driver Chase berth
1. Joey Logano
Winner: Texas, Richmond
2. Kevin Harvick
Winner: Phoenix, Darlington
3. Kyle Busch
Winner: Fontana
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Winner: Daytona
5. Carl Edwards
Winner: Bristol
6. Brad Keselowski
Winner: Las Vegas
7. Denny Hamlin
Winner: Talladega
8. Kurt Busch
Winner: Martinsville
9. Jeff Gordon
Points leader
10. Matt Kenseth
2nd in points
11. Jimmie Johnson
7th in points
12. Greg Biffle
8th in points
13. Ryan Newman
9th in points
14. Brian Vickers
10th in points
15. Kyle Larson
13th in points
16. Austin Dillon
14th in points


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