Some claim NASCAR’s playoffs, the Chase for the Sprint Cup, are already a three-man race, but seven events remain to be run and at least one, Talladega, is often a crapshoot.
Although faulty engine parts or high-speed mishaps that result in crashes could still be a factor for top leaders, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch bring solid positions to Kansas Speedway.
When 43 competitors, not just three, race on the 1.5-mile oval track with 17 to 20-degree variable banking in Kansas City on Oct. 6, the recently repaved track will likely provide for some intense action.
Kyle Busch is among the top three contenders and takes a solid 2013 record into Kansas, but when asked about the playoff scenario he was quick to share his strategy.
“I haven't looked at the points,” Busch said. “I don't care to know. As far as I'm concerned, it's going to be a race to execute the way the 18 team needs to execute, and we need to handle our own Chase as we can and not worry about anybody else.”
Jeff Gordon got into the Chase playoffs after NASCAR deliberation, but he and his team have performed well and moved up to fifth position. Gordon shared his thoughts on Kansas Speedway.
"Even though it's been a couple races since it's been repaved, I still think of Kansas as a 'new' repave,” Gordon said. “There's more grip with the soft-side of the new tire and I hope it provides more forgiveness on the smooth track.”
Gordon and Kevin Harvick are still within striking distance of Kenseth, Johnson and Busch, and Gordon knows his situation.
"If Matt and Jimmie continue to post wins and good finishes, it's going to be difficult to catch them," said Gordon. "But I like how our team has stepped up during the Chase and we need to be ready to take advantage if they have a bad race.”
It certainly wasn’t planned math, but 13 drivers are contenders in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2013 and only 13 different NSCS drivers have been to victory lane during 29 races
Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. did not achieve a win in 2013, but they made the Chase.
David Ragan, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr. and Brian Vickers roared to a win in 2013, but they did not make the Chase.
Kenseth, Johnson and Busch have a combined total of 16 wins in 2013, more than half of the 29 total races completed. That bodes well for them in remaining events, but it’s no guarantee of victory lane visits.
Seven different drivers of many could win in the next seven races, but it’s still prudent to watch Kenseth and Johnson. Their comments seemed to echo their outlook.
“You always look forward to going back where you’ve had some good fortune and success,” Kenseth said. “Hopefully we’ll have speed and balance with this new tire. If we don’t, hopefully we can get that dialed in and have a good day again.”
Johnson’s words took a similar course.
“I enjoy going to the track,” Johnson said. “It’s been resurfaced recently. There are challenges with the newer surface and new tire we will have. We will just have to get out there and see.”
Harvick, like Gordon, is close to the top three drivers but needs for them to falter if he is to advance to the top. Like other top contenders, he is focused on the racing task he faces.
“The asphalt they use to pave these race tracks now is made to last a long time on roads,” Harvick said. “It’s not the right asphalt to use for a racing surface. Tracks seem to age a little slower than they did in the past and it’s not really what we’re used to.”
If more good results happen for Kenseth, Johnson and Busch, their positions will get more lofty and exclusive, but Kansas could be a hurdle for one or all three.
A Kansas checkered flag will sort that future in a few days.
Fans in the Kansas City area can experience the action from one of the 76,635 seats. Fans at home or at a distance can view the speed on ESPN at 2 p.m. ET.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.