Saturday, October 3, 2009
Sprint Cup 2009, Race 29, "Gosh Toto, This doesn't look at all like Kansas!"
pictured above: The most famous tire change in Kansas history!
Kansas: Flat, fast, not much grip....
A year ago, Mark Martin leading The Chase and sitting on the pole for Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway would seem like a fantasy on par with the “Wizard of Oz.” If someone said the first three qualifiers for the race would all be from the Hendricks’s stable, there would be little surprise if one were thinking Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., but tomorrow, it’s Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. who’s suffered a year of agony, and part-timer going full time with Penske in 2010, Brad Kesolowski. Further, Roush outcast, Jamie McMurray starts the #26 Ford in 45h. Chasers Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne line up 5th and 6th, and then perhaps the biggest Oz fantasy of all, Joe Nemechek, a most likeable hard-luck fellow relegated to the shame of being a start and park driver starts his unsponsored car in 7th. Hometown favorite, Clint Bowyer starts 8th while Jeff Gordon and rookie, Scott Speed round out the top ten, but lurking just beneath the top 10 is Jimmie Johnson in 12th.
Other chase contestants line up as follows:
Brian Vickers – 12th
Juan Montoya – 14th
Carl Edwards – 17th
Denny Hamlin – 22nd
Ryan Newman – 30th
Greg Biffle – 31st
Kurt Busch – 39th
Also of note, former champ, Bill Elliot, in his part time ride in the #21 “legendary Wood Brothers” entry starts 16th. Somehow those good old Wood Brothers get awesome Bill in good starting positions while that’s been a year long struggle for most blue oval boys.
Kansas is one of the least publicized tracks on the circuit that fans know the least about. For some it looks like another generic 1 ½ mile tracks that have become the norm since the huge track expansion of the late 90’s and early 00’s, but given that aside from the back straightaway, the whole track is essentially one large oval makes it a more unique configuration requiring special attention.
With each passing race, Kansas being the 3rd of ten races in “The Chase,” the pressure cranks up for all contenders where failure to be in striking distance by the end of action could spell doom for the lowest finishers.
Was it not for the magic run for Mark Martin, a 4th consecutive title for Jimmie Johnson would seem almost inevitable standing 10 points off the lead. Juan Montoya has a good starting position with only 65 points behind the top well situated for success. Conversely, Kurt Busch is 75 points out of first, but with a miserable starting position, he challenge is tremendous at Kansas. Tony Stewart -106, Denny Hamlin -108, Ryan Newman -110, and Jeff Gordon -122 represent the middle of the pack and need to finish in the top five to enhance their chances at the championship. For the remaining four drivers, Greg Biffle -138, Brian Vickers -151, Carl Edwards -153, and even more so Kasey Kahne -189, only wins and miracles will put them back in contention. When 190 points is the maximum award for a race, the math does not add up for these contestants.
This will be a race worth watching. Have the remote set to switch back and forth between the Kansas derby and your favorite NFL gang and enjoy!!!