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Driver Reports: Previewing the Sprint All-Star Race

May 15, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



NASCAR PRESS RELEASE

Editor's note: The following drivers are ranked according to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. Driver Reports includes the top 16 in the points standings and drivers currently in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field.

1. Jeff Gordon (No. 24)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet 

Standing: Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 394 points.
Past five races: 1st at Kansas, 39th at Talladega, 2nd at Richmond, 7th at Darlington, 2nd at Texas.
Season stats: 1 win, 5 top-fives, 8 top-10s.
Event history: Gordon's average finish is 12.4 and his average running position is 8.8 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has three wins, six top-fives and nine top-10s in the event.
Quick hit: While Gordon hasn't logged a top-10 in the Sprint All-Star Race since 2006, he ought to be considered among the favorites this year. The series points leader for five consecutive weeks, Gordon is coming off a win at a 1.5-mile track and has a runner-up showing at another mile-and-a-half (Texas) already this year.

2. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Kenseth is second in the standings with 379 points.
Past five races: 10th at Kansas, 37th at Talladega, 5th at Richmond, 4th at Darlington, 7th at Texas.
Season stats: 3 top-fives, 8 top-10s, 1 pole.
Event history: Kenseth's average finish is 6.7 and his average running position is 8.7 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has one win, five top-fives, 10 top-10s and two poles in the event.
Quick hit: Kenseth's All-Star Race consistency is among the best in the sport. He's one of just three drivers with both an average running position and average finish of less than 10.0, and he has seven consecutive top-10s. This could be the race to jumpstart a No. 20 team that has been consistent, but not spectacular.

3. Kyle Busch (No. 18)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Busch is third in the standings with 373 points.
Past five races: 15th at Kansas, 12th at Talladega, 3rd at Richmond, 6th at Darlington, 3rd at Texas.
Season stats: 1 win, 3 top-fives, 5 top-10s, 1 pole.
Event history: Busch's average finish is 11.3 and his average running position is 6.5 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has three top-fives, four top-10s and three poles in the event.
Quick hit: Busch seems due for his first All-Star win. He's finished second, fourth and third over the past three years. Last year's third-place run came after a dominant showing that enabled him to start first in the final segment. With an average running position that ranks first in the series in the loop data era, expect another race of Busch running up front.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Standing: Earnhardt Jr. is fourth in the standings with 368 points.
Past five races: 5th at Kansas, 26th at Talladega, 7th at Richmond, 2nd at Darlington, 43rd at Texas.
Season stats: 1 win, 6 top-fives, 7 top-10s.
Event history: Earnhardt Jr.'s average finish is 9.3 and his average running position is 11.0 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has one win, four top-fives and 11 top-10s in the event.
Quick hit: The hometown driver is a crowd favorite every time he comes to Charlotte Motor Speedway, and nothing would delight the North Carolina crowd more than seeing Junior win the event 14 years after conquering it as a rookie. Junior's recent success means the driver doesn't have to compete in the Sprint Showdown for the second consecutive year, and he's perhaps in a better position to challenge for a win than any time in the past five-plus years.

5. Carl Edwards (No. 99)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Standing: Edwards is fifth in the standings with 367 points.
Past five races: 6th at Kansas, 30th at Talladega, 9th at Richmond, 13th at Darlington, 14th at Texas.
Season stats: 1 win, 2 top-fives, 6 top-10s.
Event history: Edwards' average finish is 11.1 and his average running position is 10.4 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has one win, three top-fives, five top-10s and one pole in the event.
Quick hit: Edwards' performance in the All-Star Race mimics his season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The driver won the 2011 All-Star Race and nearly won the Cup title that year -- and his disappointing 2012 follow-up season came with a 23rd-place finish in the non-points event. So wherever Edwards finishes, it could tell the story of how the rest of his season plays out.

6. Joey Logano (No. 22)

Team Penske, Ford 

Standing: Logano is sixth in the standings with 346 points.
Past five races: 4th at Kansas, 32nd at Talladega, 1st at Richmond, 35th at Darlington, 1st at Texas.
Season stats: 2 wins, 6 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 1 pole.
Event history: Logano's average finish is 4.3 and his average running position is 8.4 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has two top-fives and three top-10s in the event.
Quick hit: Want another favorite? Consider that Logano and Team Penske are hands-down the most dominant team on 1.5-mile tracks so far this year. Then add that in three All-Star Race appearances, Logano has finished eighth, third and second. He's among the drivers who rises to the occasion under the lights and may be the biggest threat to Jimmie Johnson's three-peat.

7. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Standing: Johnson is seventh in the standings with 340 points.
Past five races: 9th at Kansas, 23rd at Talladega, 32nd at Richmond, 3rd at Darlington, 25th at Texas.
Season stats: 3 top-fives, 6 top-10s.
Event history: Johnson's average finish is 5.7 and his average running position is 6.9 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has four wins, eight top-fives and eight top-10s and one pole in the event.
Quick hit: No one has ever won three consecutive All-Star Races, but Jimmie Johnson, who won this race in 2012 and 2013, has done things in NASCAR no one else has. With history at hand Saturday night, expect the No. 48 team to perform as it always does under pressure -- with purpose.

8. Ryan Newman (No. 31)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Standing: Newman is eighth in the standings with 332 points.
Past five races: 11th at Kansas, 18th at Talladega, 8th at Richmond, 10th at Darlington, 16th at Texas.
Season stats: 4 top-10s.
Event history: Newman's average finish is 10.3 and his average running position is 9.5 over the past nine years. He has one win, three top-fives, seven top-10s and one pole in the event.
Quick hit: Newman has driven in 12 consecutive All-Star Races, a testament to his longevity. He is one of 10 former All-Star Race winners in the field, but it's not likely Newman will be the seventh driver to win at least two All-Star Races -- he hasn't finished better than 10th since 2008.

9. Greg Biffle (No. 16)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford

Standing: Biffle is ninth in the standings with 328 points.
Past five races: 16th at Kansas, 2nd at Talladega, 15th at Richmond, 5th at Darlington, 6th at Texas.
Season stats: 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s.
Event history: Biffle's average finish is 12.9 and his average running position is 10.5 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has two top-fives and three top-10s in the event.
Quick hit:
Biffle has finished outside the top 10 in two consecutive events -- 22nd in 2012 and 15th last year. If he pulls the upset and wins Saturday night, he would give team owner Jack Roush his fifth win in the event and become the fourth different driver to win the All-Star Race for Roush Fenway Racing.

10. Brian Vickers (No. 55)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Vickers is 10th in the standings with 327 points.
Past five races: 14th at Kansas, 4th at Talladega, 12th at Richmond, 26th at Darlington, 4th at Texas.
Season stats: 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s.
Event history: Vickers' average finish is 8.0 and his average running position is 11.1 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has one top-five and one top-10 in the event.
Quick hit: Vickers has three All-Star Race starts to his credit. He qualified for this year's event based on his win last year as a part-time driver for Michael Waltrip Racing, a victory that he's parlayed into a full-time opportunity and a strong start to this season.

11. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)

Team Penske, Ford 

Standing: Keselowski is 11th in the standings with 326 points.
Past five races: 13th at Kansas, 38th at Talladega, 4th at Richmond, 17th at Darlington, 15th at Texas.
Season stats: 1 win, 4 top-fives, 4 top-10s, 1 pole.
Event history: Keselowski's average finish is 13.2 and his average running position is 15.3 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has one top-five and two top-10s in the event.
Quick hit: Keselowski logged just two laps last year before exiting the race with a busted transmission. That last-place finish bloats his averages a bit -- he was runner-up in the event in 2012, and his average finish not counting last year's debacle is 11.0. Given his strength on 1.5-mile tracks, count the 2012 series champion as a dark horse to win.

12. Denny Hamlin (No. 11)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Hamlin is 12th in the standings with 318 points.
Past five races: 18th at Kansas, 1st at Talladega, 22nd at Richmond, 19th at Darlington, 13th at Texas.
Season stats: 1 win, 2 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 1 pole.
Event history: Hamlin's average finish is 11.6 and his average running position is 10.2 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has two top-fives and four top-10s in the event.
Quick hit: Hamlin finished sixth last season while in the midst of a slump, and he has four top-10s in the past five All-Star Races. The Joe Gibbs Racing program's perplexing struggles on intermediate tracks, though, seems to indicate Hamlin won't be near the front when the white flag falls.

13. Kyle Larson (No. 42)

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Chevrolet  

Standing: Larson is 13th in the standings with 318 points.
Past five races: 12th at Kansas, 9th at Talladega, 16th at Richmond, 8th at Darlington, 5th at Texas.
Season stats: 2 top-fives, 5 top-10s.
Event history: Larson has zero All-Star Races appearances.
Quick hit: Kyle Larson has two ways of making the big show Saturday night -- win the Sprint Fan Vote, or finish in the top two of the Sprint Showdown -- and it feels like he'll be racing Saturday one way or the other. Given his success this year, he may be the favorite in Friday night's primary.

14. Austin Dillon (No. 3)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet  

Standing: Dillon is 14th in the standings with 306 points.
Past five races: 19th at Kansas, 15th at Talladega, 27th at Richmond, 11th at Darlington, 21st at Texas.
Season stats: 1 top-10, 1 pole.
Event history: Dillon has zero All-Star Races appearances.
Quick hit: Would it really be shocking to have two Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders make the Sprint All-Star Race? Don't be surprised if that happens, with Dillon joining fellow freshman Kyle Larson as a favorite in Friday night's Sprint Showdown.

15. Kevin Harvick (No. 4)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet 

Standing: Harvick is 15th in the standings with 302 points.
Past five races: 2nd at Kansas, 7th at Talladega, 11th at Richmond, 1st at Darlington, 42nd at Texas.
Season stats: 2 wins, 3 top-fives, 5 top-10s, 2 poles.
Event history: Harvick's average finish is 8.8 and his average running position is 11.2 over the past nine Sprint All-Star Races. He has one win, two top-fives and seven top-10s in the event.
Quick hit: With two wins this season and one of the top crew chiefs in the garage, Harvick could very well get his second career All-Star victory -- and oversized winner's check. Should that happen, it'd be the first All-Star win for Tony Stewart as a team owner, as well.

16. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Standing: Kahne is 16th in the standings with 294 points.
Past five races: 3rd at Kansas, 8th at Talladega, 14th at Richmond, 37th at Darlington, 11th at Texas.
Season stats: 1 top-five, 4 top-10s.
Event history: Kahne's average finish is 12.0 and his average running position is 10.9 over the past nine All-Star Races. He has one win, two top-fives, four top-10s and a pole in the event.
Quick hit: Kahne's coming off his best finish of the year just in time for his best track. While his success at Charlotte hasn't transferred into overwhelming All-Star success, Kahne does have a win in the event and two consecutive top-10s.

28. Kurt Busch (No. 41)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet

Standing: Busch is 28th in the standings with 211 points.
Past five races: 29th at Kansas, 33rd at Talladega, 23rd at Richmond, 31st at Darlington, 39th at Texas.
Season stats: 1 win, 2 top-fives, 2 top-10s.
Event history: Busch's average finish is 10.9 and his average running position is 8.7 over the past nine years. He has one win, five top-fives, seven top-10s and a pole in the event.
Quick hit:
Busch nearly stole the show in last year's race while driving for the one-car Furniture Row Racing team. You'd think he'd be in contention to top last year's fifth-place showing with a more competitive car, but it's been a tough year for 'The Outlaw.' He hasn't logged a top-20 in nine of 11 races this season, and has five finishes of 30 or worse -- something which suggests a systemic problem more than just a slump.


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