Matt Kenseth (left), Jimmie Johnson (middle) and Kyle Busch (right) are the early Chase favorites.Stop number four in the Chase is Sunday at Kansas (2 ET/ESPN), and already three drivers have emerged as early Chase favorites: points leader Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson (-8 from Kenseth) and Kyle Busch (-12 from Kenseth).
But it could be just Kenseth and Johnson emerging as the prime title contenders after Kansas. The two are first and second in average finish at Kansas since 2010, and both have not finished outside the top 10 in that span.
Best Avg Finish at Kansas
Cup Races Since 2010
Busch, meanwhile, has struggled, averaging just a 20.5 finish in that same span.
The trio of drivers have consistently been near the front of the pack in each of the first three Chase events, and considerably more so than anyone else.
Kenseth and Busch have each run 98.6 percent of Chase laps in the Top 15, while Johnson is just behind at 95.6 percent. By comparison, no other driver has run more than 86.2 percent in the Top 15 during the Chase.
A closer look at each top contender:
Kenseth has dominated on 1.5-mile tracks this season, a trend that could certainly continue at Kansas, where he won earlier this year as well as last season in the Chase.
Of the seven trips to 1.5-mile venues this season, Kenseth has won four times while fellow Joe Gibbs driver Busch has won twice.
As the calendar turns to October, Busch, Kenseth and the rest of the field would be wise to keep an eye on five-time champion Johnson.
Most Cup Wins in October
During Chase Era
The Chase has always seen Johnson dominate, but October has been the month when Johnson has really rolled.
His 12 wins in the Chase era during October are twice as many as anyone else, and also account for over half of his career Chase victories.
Busch has often been a title contender entering the Chase, but has traditionally struggled when the postseason got underway.
But in his past seven Chase starts dating back to last season, he hasn’t finished outside the top five in any of them, and is averaging a third-place finish. No other driver has more than five top fives during that run.