News and Tribune

November 9, 2012

IN THE FAST LANE: Johnson on usual Chase streak, while Keselowski stays confident

By KEVIN HARRIS
kevin.harris@newsandtribune.com

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I am going to keep it short and sweet this week because there is only a few things you need to know about the world of NASCAR.

Jimmie Johnson is on his usual Chase for the Sprint Cup hot streak as he has won two races in a row. Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski continues to walk around the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage like he is the biggest stud in racing even though his opportunity to intimidate Johnson last week backfired.

Oh, surprise, surprise — Juan Montoya wrecked again last week.

The big news on Friday was Kevin Harvick is reportedly going to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 to form a four-car team that includes Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick.

Patrick should feel threatened by Harvick because he will be taking away a lot of her whining time within the SHR shop.

Here are this week’s Phoenix picks:



SUNDAY’S ADVOCARE 500

at Phoenix International Raceway

TOP-FIVE CONTENDERS


1. JOHNSON: His career average finish at Phoenix is an amazing 5.3, which includes four victories and nine top-10 finishes in the last 10 PIR races. Look for Five-Time’s hot streak to continue.

2. DENNY HAMLIN: He won at Phoenix in March and has been the man to beat on flat tracks the last several years.

3. JEFF GORDON: His career average finish at Phoenix is 10.8, which includes a victory at the mile track last year. Gordon is usually a pretty safe guarantee to place in the top 10 at Phoenix.

4. KESELOWSKI: Sure, he does not have the best track record at Phoenix. But like I said last week, he has improved his performance at the tracks he has struggled at in the past throughout the 2012 season. Look for that trend to continue this weekend at PIR, where he placed fifth in March.

5. KYLE BUSCH: He has been running well lately with four top-five finishes in the last five races. Plus short, flat ovals like Phoenix have always suited his driving style.



SUNDAY’S DARK HORSE

• MARK MARTIN: The 53-year-old veteran still knows his way around Phoenix. In the last 10 PIR starts, he has seven top-10 finishes. His career average finish at the track is 9.0, which includes two victories. Plus the No. 55 car he is driving has been fast all season.



DRIVER MOST LIKELY TO STRUGGLE

• MONTOYA: It was a tough choice to select this week’s struggling driver. So when in doubt, choose the racer you like to pick on as of late. Montoya has two top-10 finishes in the last 11 Phoenix races. Also, I am sure he will make contact with the wall or somebody during the course of the race. It’s not like Montoya to break from tradition.

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