News and Tribune

November 3, 2012

IN THE FAST LANE: Chase for Cup is now a two-driver race

By KEVIN HARRIS
kevin.harris@newsandtribune.com

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Because of the plethora of high school postseason events I have had to cover the past few weeks, I have had to put “In the Fast Lane” on the backburner.

But things have toned down a little bit on the prep scene, so I decided it was time to put my prediction hat back on and do some racing picks along with giving a few opinions.

With three races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it’s a pretty safe bet that it is a two-horse race for the title between five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and young gun Brad Keselowski.

Johnson leads the standings by two points over Keselowski, and both drivers are competing at a high level right now. Third-place Clint Bowyer (26 points behind Johnson) and fourth-place Kasey Kahne (29 behind) still have a shot at the championship. But they will need to go on a winning streak and have both Johnson and Keselowski stumble for that Cup title to come to fruition.



SUNDAY’S AAA TEXAS 500

at Texas Motor Speedway

TOP-FIVE CONTENDERS

1. MATT KENSETH: Even though his title hopes are shot, Kenseth has to be the top contender to win at Texas. His career average finish at TMS is an impressive 8.6, which includes finishing in the top five in six of the last seven races. Kenseth has a great chance to have the most victories in the 2012 Chase this weekend.

2. GREG BIFFLE: Kenseth’s teammate showed in his victory during the Texas spring race that Roush continues to have a stranglehold on the mile-and-a-half track. Expect Biffle to keep on persevering at Texas this weekend as he finished in the top 10 in each of the last seven Texas races.

3. JOHNSON: This is the time of year where Johnson is extremely fast, no matter where he races at. Look for another top-five run on Sunday, as he inches closer to Cup title No. 6.

4. BOWYER: His victory at Charlotte last month proved he is becoming a force on intermediate tracks. Look for him to have another good mile-and-a-half effort at Texas on Sunday, as he posted a runner-up finish there in the 2011 spring race.

5. MARTIN TRUEX JR.: He has been competitive on mile-and-a-half ovals all season. In fact, Truex has had a few opportunities to win on intermediate tracks in 2012, but just cannot find a way to finish. He should have another good chance to take the checkered flag on Sunday.



SUNDAY’S DARK HORSE

• KESELOWSKI: His track record at Texas is horrible. In eight starts at the track, Keselowski has an average finish of 25.2 and his best placing was 14th. But all season when Keselowski comes to a speedway where he has struggled at in the past, he overcomes his rough history and gives a stellar performance. Plus it does not hurt to have a crew chief like Paul Wolfe who has a knack for creating some innovative fuel strategy. Expect to Keselowski to run well on Sunday and stay on Johnson’s rear bumper in the Chase.



DRIVER MOST LIKELY TO STRUGGLE

• JOEY LOGANO: Despite qualifying sixth for Sunday’s race, Logano has had a tough time getting around Texas. He has only one top-10 finish — a fourth-place run in the 2010 fall race — in eight career starts at TMS. Don’t expect him to be all that strong this weekend, especially since he has only three races left with Joe Gibbs Racing.



PARTING SHOT

• Just when you think the IndyCar Series is making progress, it makes another stupid move in its quest to make open-wheel racing in the United States relevant again.

Last Sunday, Hulman & Co., which owns the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, either fired or forced the resignation (this depends on which news articles you want to believe) of innovative IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.

All Bernard did during his tenure as the IndyCar chief was oversee the development of the new IndyCars, bring in multiple engine manufacturers and try to spice up the schedule.

But Bernard’s intriguing ideas must have scared the old IndyCar hierarchy so much that it decided he was a threat to its control of open-wheel racing and got rid of him. I guess the IndyCar bosses want to go back to their old ways, where they can bicker at each other all the time and watch the series crumble.

Congratulations to the Hulman family and IndyCar higher-ups — you have created another pathetic environment for open-wheel racing because you oust a guy who was just trying to help.

Contact Kevin Harris at kevin.harris@newsandtribune.com.