Atlanta's high-bank money for Kyle Busch

Oct 21, 2008 5:02 PM
Finish Line by Micah Roberts | So far this season we have had five races run on similarly styled 1.5-mile high-banked ovals. This week it’s back to Atlanta, a place where Kyle Busch absolutely dominated the first time around.

Even though the younger Busch has eight victories, it’s been 11 races ago (Watkins Glen) since he has won. Using the method of sticking with similar tracks, there are a handful of candidates that could win this week. Despite Busch’s suffering of late, he again becomes one of the favorites because of what he’s done on these tracks.

In Busch’s case you can look all season and see nothing but good consistent racing on these 1.5-mile high tracks like Las Vegas, Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas. Busch finished fourth and third at Charlotte.

The driver that has the best rating in the last two 1.5-mile high banked tracks is Kasey Kahne, who won at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend and was second there two weeks ago. Kahne hasn’t been good on anything but these tracks. His team figured it out late, while others came firing out the gate early in the season.

The top go-getter early on was Carl Edwards, who posted two of his first three wins on these tracks. He then cooled considerably, despite having what still may have been the best car. In all practice sessions, Edwards looked unbeatable. That is likely to happen again this week, the good practices that is.

Who know how he finishes? However, after a great run unexpectedly at Martinsville last week, Edwards should be feeling pretty good.

Jeff Burton won a few weeks ago in Charlotte, and finished sixth there back in May. He is the only driver to log Top 10’s in all five 1.5-mile high banked races and he’s done it rather quietly. Burton has achieved some pretty good things and been consistently better than anyone on these tracks. Look for his trend to continue after stumbling last week.

Martinsville last week was Jimmie Johnson’s race to win. He knew he could run hard and have minimal damage to his car if he got in trouble and still finish okay. This week, a much different story.

If Jimmie runs hard for the win and slides into the wall or another car at 190 mph, it’s good night to coasting for championship, and hello to Greg Biffle breathing down his neck with three races to go. He’ll do the right thing, lay up like a smart golfer, take his Top 10 finish and go home.

A nice long shot choice is Kurt Busch. In his last two attempts on these types of tracks at Charlotte, he was very good. The Penske team has been plugging away all season long with the COT program on these types of tracks and they may be onto something finally.

In May, Kurt led two times for 64 laps and then finished third in Charlotte two weeks ago. Because of how inconsistent the team has been over the entire season, he may be able to found upwards in the 30-1 range. Definitely, he’s worth a look and probably the most live dog in the bunch.

Johnson’s lead grows

Two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson won his 13th career Chase race this past weekend at Martinsville. The Johnson-specific storylines:

• The list of superlatives grows: dominant, relentless, unstoppable. With his fifth career Martinsville win, Johnson extended his standings lead to 149 points. Johnson now heads to Atlanta, where he has three wins and a series-best Driver Rating of 113.4.

• All season long, Johnson’s quest was to match Cale Yarborough’s record of three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles. Yarborough did in from 1976-78, besting some of the all-time greats: Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. Johnson’s competition is likewise stout: fellow series champions Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth.

• What makes Johnson so good is his ability to handle playoff pressure. Thus far, the series has returned to five of the six Chase tracks (New Hampshire, Dover, Talladega, Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Martinsville). During the "regular season" races at those tracks, Johnson averaged 126.8 points. During the Chase at those tracks, he has averaged 167.6 points per race.

Biffle, Edwards optimistic

The task looks daunting. But it’s not impossible by any means. Greg Biffle trails Johnson by 149 points with four races remaining. The largest deficit overcome: 149 points in 1992 when eventual champion Alan Kulwicki trailed Bill Elliott by 149 points with four races left and passed him.

The schedule shakes out favorably for the Roush Fenway Racing duo of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. Three of the four remaining tracks are 1.5-miles in length, a Roush favorite.

Edwards has two Atlanta wins, while Biffle finished fourth there in March.

Cream rises in Atlanta

The Top 10 in Atlanta Driver Ratings are all Chase contenders, led by points leader Jimmie Johnson. Take a look:

Jimmie Johnson 113.4; Tony Stewart 104.4; Dale Earnhardt Jr. 103.6; Carl Edwards 102.8; Greg Biffle 102.3; Jeff Gordon 96.6; Matt Kenseth 94.1; Jeff Burton 92.8; Clint Bowyer 89.4; Kyle Busch 88.5;

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

Copyright 2008 GamingToday

ROBERTS’ TOP 5
at ATLANTA
1.
#9
Kasey Kahne
15-1
2.
#18
Kyle Busch
6-1
3.
#99
Carl Edwards
5-1
4.
#2
Kurt Busch
25-1
5.
#16
Greg Biffle
8-1

 

Copyright 2008 GamingToday

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