Gibbs' slump likely to continue at Kansas Speedway
May 09, 2017 3:05 AM
by Micah Roberts
Okay, I think I’m finally able to catch my breath after being on the edge of my seat watching Sunday’s thriller at Talladega Superspeedway where Ricky Stenhouse Jr. grabbed the first win of his Cup career.
The Westgate SuperBook paid out a chunky 50-to-1 on Stenhouse. He’s the eighth different driver to win between the first 10 races of the season, which shows there’s some parity, but I’m so sure there is.
The craziest part of this season so far to me is Joe Gibbs Racing not winning a race yet, and it’s not likely to happen Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, either. These types of 1.5-mile tracks used to be JGR’s bread and butter, but they don’t have any speed.
They’re nowhere near being close to where Team Penske or Kyle Larson is. Kyle Busch, who won this race last season, only has four top-10 finishes this season. Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth also have only four top-10s. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano each have a series-leading six top-five finishes.
I’m told the JGR lack of speed is likely to continue through the regular season and the Toyota guys will have something ready for the playoffs, which if started right now Kenseth wouldn’t be eligible to participate.
This is the fourth of 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season. Keselowski won at Atlanta, Martin Truex Jr. won at Las Vegas and Jimmie Johnson won at Texas. All three of those tracks are banked steeper than Kansas and run much faster.
Larson finished second in all three of those races. Logano and Keselowski were each sixth or better in all three and Chase Elliott was fifth, fourth and ninth. Between the four JGR drivers, they combined for just one top-five: Matt Kenseth’s third-place at Atlanta.
I think we’re going to see much of the same patterns from the first three races on similar tracks, and we can also throw Fontana in as a great reference tool. It is a race where the same dominant guys did well with Larson winning and Keselowski, Truex and Logano all in the top-five.
Looking at those four races should help you find the winner this weekend, but let’s glance over some past Kansas history just to get a feel for who has shown they like how the track runs.
Kenseth has two wins and a track record 774 laps led in 22 starts, but he’s a hard look this week with no speed. Kyle Busch has finished in the top-five in his last four Kansas starts, but he’s a hard sell as well.
Kevin Harvick is an interesting candidate this week just because of his history, which has seen him finish first or second at Kansas in five of his last seven starts. He’s got two wins and has led 549 laps. The thing that makes him stand out most as a good bet this week is leading a race-high 292 laps at Atlanta and 77 laps at Texas.
We’re not going to see any long shots hit this week like Stenhouse, but Ryan Blaney looks to be worthy as the top candidate at 20-to-1 or higher. He finished fifth in this race last year, but his Texas performance last month, where he won the first two stages and led a race-high 148 laps, was an eye-opener for me. They’ve got something special cooking with the No. 21, which uses Penske equipment.
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