Burton takes momentum to Kansas

Sep 26, 2006 7:40 AM

Race No. 29 at Kansas Speedway this week marks the third of the 10 in the Chase for Cup Championship.

Jeff Burton is the new points leader after getting his first win since Phoenix in 2001. This is the first time that Burton has led in points since May of 1999. Last week’s Dover win was also the third straight race that team owner Richard Childress has won.

It’s amusing that just as Childress has put this team back into place that allegations came swirling through the Charlotte garages. A former employee of Richard Childress Racing said that Childress cheated the NASCAR inspections with some creative ways in getting more air and fuel through the carburetor during restrictor plate races. We have been raising speculation for years at GamingToday with all the Chevy teams dominating plate races, but this is the first time that we have actually had any proof, or at least had someone spill the beans for whatever motivation he has.

While Burton basks in the glow of being No. 1, he’d better not let the foot off the gas anytime soon because the car six points behind him in the rear view mirror is four time Cup Champion Jeff Gordon. What gets worse for Burton’s fate is that Gordon has Kansas Speedway’s best record with two wins and an average finish of sixth in all five races held there.

Gordon has climbed from ninth to second in the point standings in the last two races. His second place position is the highest in 2006 and most since he ranked second after Darlington in May 2005. If he shaves the 6 from Burton this week, it will be the first time since last year’s Daytona 500 that Gordon has been in the lead.

Gordon comes in looking great this week too. He is the only driver to finish in the top 5 in both races of the Chase thus far. It’s oddly strange, but only four drivers in the Chase have finished in the top 10 of both races. Gordon, Burton, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin have each done it. To not see the names of Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick with that group is strange. They have had great consistent runs all season, which illustrates how the Chase pressure may affect some.

Hamlin has been awesome! Rookie? Not anymore. No rookie drives like him. He has posted 15 top 10 finishes this season and ranks fourth in the points. He is second in points earned over the past 10 races earning 1,482 — just three less than Harvick over that span.

Mark Martin won this race last year and comes into this week with a couple of dubious streaks. He has been running at the finish in the last 35 races since Kansas one year ago — the longest current streak. Currently in sixth place, Martin is the only driver among the top 10 yet to score a victory in 2006. While winning this race last season, Martin set track records for laps led and average speed.

The driver we’ll look to this week is Johnson. We think he’s far enough out of it in points now that he can relax, stay out of harms way, and drive fast. The banking and configuration of the Kansas Speedway is very similar to the old Las Vegas track where Johnson snuck up on Kenseth for the win.

I believe we’ll see Kyle Busch running well again, along Gordon. We also should have a Kasey Kahne sighting in the top 5. If it does finish that way, we would have the exact same top 5 finishers that we had in the Vegas race.

Roush was once the elite of the Cookie Cutters, but these five drivers have done it all season long. That is why Chevy has won 17 races this season and has seven drivers racing for the Championship. Ford struggles with only five wins on the year. Last season at this juncture Ford had 11. For whatever it’s worth, Chevy clinched the Manufacturers Championship last week at New Hampshire. It is the fourth year in a row the boys in bow-ties have won the award.