Gordon has work to do at Phoenix

November 06, 2007 7:39 AM
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ROBERTS Top 5
AT PHOENIX
1. #24 Jeff Gordon

5/1

2. #20 Tony Stewart 7/1 
3. #07 Clint Bowyer 15/1
4. #48 Jimmie Johnson 5/1
5. #5 Kyle Busch 9/1

Only two races remain on the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup tour-season and Jimmie Johnson has taken a nice 30 point lead over teammate Jeff Gordon following Johnson’s win at Texas last week.

The win was Johnson’s third in a row and ninth overall on the season. Gordon finished a respectable seventh, but gained 39 less points than Johnson.

This week the two Hendrick drivers will battle it out in Phoenix, a place where Gordon won for the first time ever in April. In that race, Johnson finished fourth. Should the same scenario unfold as it did in April the two teammates would find themselves tied going into the final race at Miami. That would turn out to be some battle.

The possibility of Gordon winning again is pretty strong just because they will driving the "Car of Tomorrow" again where no one has been more consistent than Gordon, including the accomplishments of Johnson. To get a better feel for what we’ll see this week in Phoenix we can look at the past results from three different tracks that use the same set-ups. Phoenix, Richmond, and New Hampshire are all tracks that run similar to each other.

If a team runs well on one of the tracks they are more inclined to do well at the other two. Even before the COT, drivers like Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt Jr have all done equally well during a stretch at each of the three tracks. Last season Kevin Harvick took it up a notch by sweeping Phoenix and also winning at New Hampshire and Richmond.

The April Phoenix race was a long time ago. It was a time when teams were still getting used to the COT, at least everyone other than Hendrick Motorsports. The best gauge for this weeks race may be to take the last Richmond and New Hampshires races. Richmond was the last race of the regular season and New Hampshire was the first race of the chase. Jimmie Johnson won at Richmond with Gordon finishing fourth. At Loudon, Clint Bowyer won his first career Cup race with Gordon second and Johnson sixth.

In each of those two races, it was apparent that Ford’s are a long ways away from being close with their COT program. Six of the top 7 finishers at Richmond were Chevy’s and the top 6 Loudon finishers were Chevy’s. Tony Stewart joined Johnson and Gordon as the only drivers to make the top 6 in each race.

We’ll stay with the Chevy theme this week and go with Gordon to win and tighten the Chase up and setting the stage for one final week of hoopla to close the season out.

2nd Vegas race possibility

New Hampshire Speedway was purchased last week by Speedway Motorsports Inc., the parent company which owns Las Vegas Motor Speedway which could possibly set up a second Cup race in Las Vegas for the 2009 season.

By buying the Loudon, New Hampshire track, SMI can now control their existing dates. Las Vegas recently spent millions of dollars turning the track into the nicest fan friendly track in the world. It would seem logical of SMI to want to capitalize and get a return on investment.

The 2008 schedule is already announced so 2009 would be the first possible season where it could happen. The deal appears to be a slam dunk, but it’s going to take support from the Las Vegas community, most notably the businesses such as the Casinos.

In order to get the additional race in Las Vegas, a sponsorship deal is going to have to be secured and that hasn’t always been easy. UAW & Daimler-Chrysler have sponsored the spring Cup race for the last eight seasons. Local support has been, to say the least, weak.

The Boyd Group and Coast Casinos have always supported the track and sponsor the Busch Series race. Many of the casinos buy blocks of tickets for their best players and support in that manner, but that may not be good enough to secure the second Cup date. Someone has got to step up and say we want the race and we’ll secure sponsorship.

Why wouldn’t the casinos want the race? It brings in lots of people with money in their pockets who like to drink and gamble. The economic impact of the race this season was $198 million to Las Vegas business in gaming and non-gaming revenues.

Because the possible race could be set for November 2009, the perfect match for sponsorship would be the MGM CityCenter which is expected to be done at the same time. Why not get the name out there with condo sells and utilize the marketing machine that is NASCAR. I could see it now, The MGM CityCenter 400 under the lights in Las Vegas to close out the 2009 season. What a show that would be.

The Chase Is On

The Top 12 Following 4 Chase Races (34 of 36 races overall)

          Weeks  Rank Season 
          In Last Driver
    Driver

Points

Wins Top 12 Week Rating 
1.    Jimmie Johnson 6,382  9  32  2  109.8
2.    Jeff Gordon 6,352  6  34  1  108.6
3.    Clint Bowyer  6,201  1  32  3 87.6
4.    Kyle Busch 6,043 1  32  6 98.7
5.    Carl Edwards 6,025 3 31  4  92.4
6.    Tony Stewart 6,009 3  31  5 101.2
7.    Jeff Burton  5,951  1  34