It's chase Kyle

Jun 24, 2008 7:08 PM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts | The NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Loudon, New Hampshire this weekend has already been played out somewhat because of what we have seen at two separate tracks this season.

The future can be seen as well as any combination of tracks on the circuit by observing what happens on the three similar tracks of New Hampshire, Richmond, and Phoenix.

All three are varied in shape and size, but the one common denominator is that they are relatively flat. The successful crew chiefs always bring the same chassis that did well on one of those particular tracks to the next on the mid-flat track circuit.

The history at Loudon shows that if you are good on one of the three tracks, you’ll likely be good on all three no matter what era or model of car. Last season, the first year of the COT proved to be just as predictable as the old models, with Jimmie Johnson winning 3-of-6 combined spring and fall races at each track.

In 2006 Kevin Harvick put on a show dominating in 4-of-6. In fact, of all the years of having two races at New Hampshire, only 2001 stands out as a year where there was no multiple winners by one driver.

Kurt Busch held the title belt for a while, passed on from Dale Earnhardt Jr, Johnson again, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Burton again, and Dale Jarrett. Prior to those drivers, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace, and Davey Allison were paving the way for modern day teams as they tied together the similarities between Phoenix and Richmond, the blueprint of which still exists today.

Having exhausted myself with all that fanatical ranting, the driver to look at this week is one that hasn’t even won yet at Phoenix or Richmond. Johnson and Clint Bowyer visited the winner’s circle in those races, but the car that perhaps may have been the most dominant combined in both races was Denny Hamlin’s.

Hamlin finished third in the fuel-gambled win by Johnson at Phoenix and then led 381 laps at Richmond until his tire went flat. When Hamlin was taken out of the mix, Kyle Busch battled Junior for the win and almost wrecked each other. When they wobbled and slowed, Bowyer swooped in with the cherry pickin’ win.

So if you look at the actual races and see who dominated them, or at least did well in both, you should have a good head start at possibly snagging a good price. Junior falls into that category because he ran very well at both without the final results saying so. Also, he’s got several combined wins at Phoenix and Richmond during his career.

Another driver that fits the criteria is Mark Martin, who was leading at Phoenix before having to pit at the end of the race. He finished fifth and then came back with a third at Richmond.

The issue this week is that this is one of the races Martin steps aside for rookie Aric Almirola. The car will be good and Almirola presents a decent longshot chance of winning. No one will give him a shot because he’s Aric Almirola so his odds will likely be pretty high. He’ll also fare well in matchups against lesser opponents that drive below average cars.

The other good car at D.E.I. is Martin Truex Jr, who has taken his car to Top 10 finishes in the two races run – one of only five drivers to pull off that feat.

Kyle Busch, last week’s winner on the road course at Sonoma, will likely be Hamlin’s toughest competition. In six Loudon starts, Busch has three Top 5 finishes that include one victory.

If it comes down to the two at the end of the race, I’d look for Kyle to take a back seat if Hamlin is up front late. Hamlin won’t buy that because he knows Kyle will bump anyone if it gets him the win. So, Hamlin will have to drive like it’s the plague chasing him.

Micah Roberts is a race and sports director with Station Casinos, who has contributed to GamingToday for the last 11 years.

Denny Hamlin
Kyle Busch
Dale Earnhardt Jr 
Martin Truex Jr
Clint Bowyer


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