Despite lots of changes,
Harvick remains red hot

Sep 19, 2006 7:09 AM

There were lots of changes in the Chase for the Championship after only one race.

Hendrick teammates Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson went spiraling downward in the standings, while Kevin Harvick took over as the leader in points. Race 2 of the Chase goes to the high banked one mile concrete oval of Dover Downs.

There have been five different race winners in the last five races at Dover. Qualifying well at Dover is very important. Six of the last seven events have been won from a top 10 starting position. Only seven of the 73 race winners began from a starting position outside the top 15. Twenty-four of the 73 race winners started from the front row (33 percent).

Matt Kenseth won the first race there this season back in June. There have been quite a few sweeps in Dover history. Ryan Newman (2003), Jimmie Johnson (2002) and Tony Stewart (2000) are the most recent. Overall, there have been nine at Dover since twice-a-year racing began there in 1971. Only two occurred between 1971 and 1987. The remaining seven sweeps all occurred since 1988.

The active leaders in wins at Dover are Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin with four each. Kyle Busch has raced at Dover three times in his Cup career, coming away with two second place finishes and a fifth.

Kevin Harvick is the hottest driver on the planet right now. He’s going through a stretch right now like Tony Stewart did last year. Harvick won the last two races and three of the last six. He has out-scored all other drivers in the past 10 races, scoring 1,585 points. That’s 118 more than Denny Hamlin, his nearest competitor. Anything at 6-1 or higher on this guy should be considered strong value.

The best long shot value in some time happens this week in Dover with Jamie McMurray at 50-1. The last time he visited Dover, McMurray had the best car on the track and dominated in the same fashion we thought we’d see from that team since letting Kurt Busch go. That race was one of only three top 5 finishes for McMurray on the season.

LVMS roaring for trucks

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway host the Craftsman Truck series this Saturday night in what shapes up to be one of the most anticipated races in the track’s history.

The Speedway is currently in the middle of a major construction project that is going to turn LVMS into something kind of like Disneyland meets Daytona USA. It’s going to be a fan friendly environment, an experience that will be unmatched at any facility in the racing world.

Speedway officials not only wanted to make the fans pre and post-race experiences better, but give them better racing on the tracks itself. The Vegas races have traditionally been tame and uneventful with not a lot of side by side racing. To spice things up, the banking will now be 20 degrees. That should makes the cars go faster than any track on tour besides Daytona and Talladega.

Because the banking is nearly continuous around the whole track and doesn’t level off like others, the cars will be able to use the force that keep them stuck to the track. The cars will now go faster than ever. The infield area isn’t complete yet, but will be by next March for the Cup race.

The track surface itself is finished and is ready to go. The only issue right now is that there hasn’t been much testing on the track. Goodyear did some initial testing with a few drivers and the Richard Petty Experience is still in operation, but that remains the only rubber that has been laid on the track. Because of the tire concerns, the trucks will have seven hours this Friday to practice and get familiar with the track before they race Saturday night.

Todd Bodine won this race last year and was apprehensive about the change.

"I’ve always loved Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and I was disappointed to see the old racing surface go," Bodine said, "But after doing the tire test, I’m pretty confident we can find the winner’s circle again. The track is really good. It’s fast and smooth and the banking they’ve built into the track should be great for Truck Series racing."

Coming into the race, we have a chase for the Truck Championship. Bodine and Johnny Benson are separated by only 124 points with seven races remaining. Benson is the co-favorite to win the race at 6-1. Bodine started the season out on fire, but hasn’t won since Texas on June 9. Since that point Benson has won four times, including last week at New Hampshire.

The other co-favorite to win the race is Jeremy Mayfield, who will be driving the Billy Ballew No. 15 Chevrolet. This is the same truck Kyle Busch drives on a regular basis. Busch won at Charlotte with earlier this year. This is also the truck that Shane Hmiel took to victory lane in Las Vegas two years ago.

Mayfield is one of 11 current of former Cup Series drivers expected to compete in Saturday’s race. It will be just the second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start of Mayfield’s career. In his last run he placed sixth at Charlotte in 2003. Mayfield’s best Vegas finish in a Cup car was second in 2002.

Top 5 Finish Vegas Trucks:

1) #23 Johnny Benson (6/1)

2) #5 Mike Skinner (12/1)

3) #15 Jeremy Mayfield (6/1)

4) #30 Todd Bodine (8/1)

5) #77 Brendan Gaughan (20/1)

 

TOP 5 Finish at Dover:

1) #48 Jimmie Johnson (10/1)

2) #17 Matt Kenseth (8/1)

3) #5 Kyle Busch (8/1)

4) #29 Kevin Harvick (7/1)

5) #26 Jamie McMurray (50/1)

 

NASCAR POINTS CHART

Rank

+/-

Driver

Points

Behind

Starts

Poles

Wins

Top 5

Top 10

Winnings

1

+2

Kevin Harvick

5230

Leader

27

1

4

12

15

$4,833,280

2

+3

Denny Hamlin*

5195

-35

27

3

2

5

14

$3,410,920

3

-2

Matt Kenseth

5189

-41

27

0

4

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