NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fantasy Friday: Johnson has upper hand as Keselowski needs to break his Texas history

It’s Week 8 of the Chase and as the Sprint Cup series heads to Texas it is now without question a two-driver race for the title with three races remaining. It’s now between Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson with the latter holding a slim two-point lead. Next in line are Clint Bowyer at 26 points back and Kasey Kahne at 29 points back. The largest comeback in NASCAR history in the final three races came when Dale Earnhardt rallied from 49 points down under the old points system to beat Mark Martin for the title. If that was converted into today’s points system, Earnhardt would have been 12 points back. Last year, Tony Stewart was eight points behind Carl Edwards with three races to go before winning two of the final three races and taking the title on a tiebreaker. So, yes, it’s really a two-man race at this point.

Top 5 Picks

1. Jimmie Johnson. He has an average finish of seventh in the last five races and with a title on the line, it’s hard to imagine him not finishing in the top 5.

2. Brad Keselowski. It’s impossible not to pick him, even though the numbers are telling us something completely different. In his last five trips to Texas, Keselowski has an average finish of 30th and has not finished on the lead lap,. But he’s been breaking down personal barriers all season, so we’ll go against the numbers here.

3. Denny Hamlin. Yes, his title chances got short-circuited with last week’s electrical issues, but he’s still been very good at Texas, with two wins in the last five races with an average finish of 9.8.

4. Greg Biffle. Things haven’t gone well for him in the Chase, but he does have eight consecutive top-10 finishes at Texas, including a win earlier this year. Can’t ignore that.

5. Matt Kenseth. It’s pretty much been all or nothing for Kenseth in the Chase. He has an average finish of 6.4 in the last five races with a win and three other top five finishes. So, he could be in feast mode, which means he could have three wins in eight Chase races and still have no shot at the title. That would be hard to do.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda: Tony Stewart. His Chase has gone pretty much the opposite of last year when he won five of the 10 races, but Texas has been a good place for him, including winning this race last year and since he’s back in 10th in the standings, he’ll not be afraid to gamble to late and go for the win.

Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared in Week 7 of the Chase at Martinsville..

Denny Hamlin – 33rd. May have had the best car, but getting caught twice speeding on pit lane and eventually going to garage with electrical issues put him way back in pack.

Jimmie Johnson – 1st. He was at or near the front all day, and five-timer may become six-timer in a few weeks.

Jeff Gordon – 7th. Was near the front much of the day, but got caught in the dreaded outside lane on final restart and fell back a bit.

Brad Keselowski – 6th. Tried the old stay out and get track position trick late to go for the win, but he’ll take sixth considering his past history there.

Clint Bowyer – 5th. It looked like he might win, leading 154 laps, but stalled in pits and never got all the way back to the front again.

Season Stats
165 Predictions
16 wins
51 top 5s
77 top 10s

Grade for the week: A-. Finally, I got you the winner and four of the top seven. And Hamlin would’ve been a top-5 car if it hadn’t quit running on him.

One last thing: Johnson’s win broke an 11-race winless streak for Chevrolet. The
last time Chevrolet went 11 or more races without a win was 12 races in 1993.

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