Time for Gordon to
nail first in Desert

Apr 17, 2007 6:01 AM

This week’s run in the Nextel Cup Series takes us to the Sonoran desert under the lights outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

The Saturday special will be televised live on FOX and gives us a shot at seeing how the new Car of Today (COT) runs on a larger track. So far, the new car has run at Bristol and Martinsville. Phoenix isn’t that much larger, but it is twice the size with a distance of one full mile.

Tracks generally similar to Phoenix with chassis set-up are Richmond and New Hampshire. We’ve seen several correlations over the years where drivers take the same chassis they ran well with at one of the three and take it to the next venue with similar success.

Because of the new cars running, we can just about throw every piece of past Phoenix trends out the window. Drivers who run well at Phoenix over the years will be able to use their success as a confidence builder, but it ultimately comes down to the new car. If going by the two races run a few weeks ago with the new car, it’s likely we won’t see a Ford, Dodge, or Toyota in the top 10 this week.

The top performers in the two short track races with the new car were Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Burton. All three have averaged less than a top 5 average finish in the two races. The next tier of top drivers in the new car happen to be in Chevys. It’s obscenely obvious that guys in bow-ties have an edge.

The top Ford performer may come as a surprise since he’s been terrible in the old car ever since taking over a Championship team. Jamie McMurray finally gets to start from scratch with his Fenway-Roush team. The new car has really created a positive vibe with the No. 26 team and they have responded well with two ninth place finishes in the two races.

The Dodge camp really struggled with the new car having, producing only one top 10 finish among the 10 regular drivers. Scott Riggs came in a surprising eighth at Martinsville. Kurt Busch, known for being a great short track driver, couldn’t muster better than a 20.5 average finish in the two races. Busch is one of those drivers who have done equally well at Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond.

Toyota probably wishes the Car of Today could be used every race. The auto company has qualified more cars than in a standard vehicle and also has a nice 15th place finish from Brian Vickers at Bristol. Despite the many positives for Toyota with the COT, Michael Waltrip still can’t qualify whether it’s the car of tomorrow, today, or yesterday.

Another strategy that could help bettors toward getting a nice price in odds to win, or spotting a driver mismatch in match-ups, is reviewing the Richmond testing sessions from early April. A few names stood out from glancing over the numbers and not knowing which teams were attempting to simulate long runs, qualifying, or using old tires.

The drivers doing well at Bristol, Martinsville and Phoenix almost to a man showed up on the top of the Richmond practice speed charts. They included Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, and Jeff Burton.

Kyle Busch won at Phoenix in the fall of 2005. Busch also tested well, just behind those four drivers. Kyle has an edge in this race because of how well the new car has performed. He took Bristol then finished fourth the following week at Martinsville.

Kevin Harvick won the last two Phoenix races. He had a rough time at Martinsville at 41, but was fourth at Bristol and ran well enough to win.

Gordon has never won at Phoenix, but that could change based on the way he looked at Bristol and Martinsville. Gordon may have the best COT of the bunch so we’re going to roll with him this week to win.