Some recent numbers to go by at Kansas

October, 6, 2011

What does the 2011 season have that past seasons haven't?

A second race at Kansas!

OK, that may not have been the most delightful riddle. Try this one on for size instead.

Why did I try the fish? Just for the halibut.

That's terrible … I love it! Now back to NASCAR.

What I was actually getting to was that we have a little more of a baseline to reflect back on to predict what will happen this Sunday.

When you take a look at just the last Kansas race versus the six races at the track since NASCAR began tracking loop data information, you get two totally different pictures.

If you look at the six-year approach, two drivers have distanced themselves from the field in most categories, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle.

Biffle is the series leader in that time in overall driver rating and average running position. Johnson has run the fastest lap more often than any other driver and has the fastest average speed both early and late in runs.

However, just looking at the Kansas race from earlier this season, we get some other names to focus on. If you remember, Brad Keselowski got the win, his first of the season, but he did it by stretching fuel mileage, not by having one of the dominant cars in the race.

No, the dominant car seemed to belong to his teammate and last week's winner, Kurt Busch. Busch led about 57 percent of the race, and led basically every loop data category there is to lead. Plus he has the big-time momentum on his side after winning at Dover.

Who else to like? Well, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were in the top three along with Busch in nearly every category in the race, but with one exception.

Stewart had the second-fastest car early in runs, but dropped to eighth late in runs. Watch to see if they can make improvements based on the lengthy green-flag runs we've seen this year.

So what wins out at Kansas, recent history or a more thorough look back? Just settle down, wait, and we'll figure it out together.

The Eliminator: Kansas Edition

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head. I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1. Every fall Kansas winner had a previous top-six finish at the track (27 drivers eliminated, 19 remaining).
2. The past seven Kansas winners finished 19th or worse in the last Charlotte race (11 eliminated, eight remaining).
3. The last five fall Kansas winners finished in the top 10 in the last Texas race (seven eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Jimmie Johnson

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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