NASCAR is gearing up for a duel in the desert with the penultimate event of the longest season in sports just a few days away. With 3rd place Kevin Harvick facing a 40 point deficit, this title bout has become a showdown between two proven champions and worthy adversaries. Jimmie Johnson is seeking a 6th title which would only further solidify his place among racing’s immortals while Matt Kenseth hopes to secure a second championship ten years after his first. The two went into Texas deadlocked and despite the now seven point advantage Jimmie Johnson holds, it’s nearly impossible to ascertain who will emerge victorious when the checkered flag falls in Miami.
Phoenix International Raceway
Jimmie Johnson vs. Matt Kenseth
20 starts vs. 22 starts
6.4 av. finish vs. 17.3 av. finish
4 wins vs. 1 win
13 T5’s vs. 5 T5’s
16 T10s vs. 9 T10’s
932 laps led vs. 212 laps led
Homestead Miami Speedway
Jimmie Johnson vs. Matt Kenseth
12 starts vs. 13 starts
15.3 av. finish vs. 17.6 av. finish
0 wins vs. 1 win
4 T5’s vs. 3 T5’s
7 T10’s vs.5 T10’s
99 laps led vs. 305 laps led
The stats say that Jimmie will most likely augment his points lead at Phoenix and that it could go either way at Homestead. As Matt Kenseth has proven on more than one occasion this year though, the stats mean very little in the whole scheme of things now that he’s with JGR. We went to Martinsville and most were ready to just hand 5-time the grandfather clock before the race even commenced but at the end of the day, Kenseth had shocked us all by retaking the points lead after out-performing Johnson in what has become his playground. At Texas, the pendulum swung back in the 48’s favor and the gap between these future HOF’ers grew to seven points.
To put it in perspective, Jimmie Johnson didn’t even have one championship to his credit the last time Kenseth won a title nor did the chase even exist so I guess you could say that JGR’s newest edition is starving for another Cup. The way this chase has gone, it seems that every time one of these titans of NASCAR outdoes one, the other steps up to the plate the following weekend evening the score. If that pattern persists, we may see a deadlock at the top of the standings going into the finale; a track the two seem evenly matched at based on previous races.
I see one of two scenario’s unfolding in the penultimate event at PIR; either Jimmie Johnson extends his points lead by a few markers or Kenseth digs deep and washes away the small, but crucial separation between the two at the moment. Seven points may not seem like a lot (and it isn’t), but check out this stat regarding the 2013 chase…
Chase Race #1: Matt Kenseth gains 8pts on Jimmie Johnson
Chase Race #2: Matt Kenseth gains 7pts on Jimmie Johnson
Chase Race #3: Jimmie Johnson gains 10pts on Matt Kenseth
Chase Race #4: Jimmie Johnson gains 5pts on Matt Kenseth
Chase Race #5: Matt Kenseth gains 1pt on Jimmie Johnson
Chase Race #6: Jimmie Johnson gains 8pts on Matt Kenseth
Chase Race #7: Matt Kenseth gains 4pts on Jimmie Johnson
Chase Race #8: Jimmie Johnson gains 7pts on Matt Kenseth
The largest points swing in this entire chase between Kenseth and Johnson was when Jimmie gained 10 points on Matt at Dover. In my honest opinion, if Matt loses anymore ground at Phoenix, he won’t be able to win the championship without Johnson being plagued by problems with the kind of results these guys have been laying down on a weekly basis. I mean they are making 6th place finishes look like bad days! It is imperative that Kenseth chips at least a couple points off of Jimmie’s lead heading into Homestead where fate will probably have the two stuck together the whole day so if he’s trailing by too much, a win may not even be enough to secure him the crown if his title rival is close by.
This clash of the titans is sure to come down to the wire and I believe it will be just as epic and riveting as the duel between Stewart and Edwards back in 2011. These two have been performing at a level that everyone, including their own teammates can only dream of and I don’t see either one of these rock solid racers fumbling in the final two events. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth are interchangeable with their demeanor, their driving style and their raw talent behind the wheel of a race car. They can’t be rattled by mind games, they can’t force the other into a mistake, neither has an obvious weakness or Achilles Heel if you will. They are near infallible. I obviously can’t foretell a mechanical failure or blown tire but I don’t see this one coming down to a foolish mistake by one or the other but rather an on-track battle that ends with one prevailing by the slightest of margins in an enthralling dogfight for the coveted Sprint Cup championship.
The stats say that Jimmie will most likely augment his points lead at Phoenix and that it could go either way at Homestead. The odds are certainly in Jimmie’s favor too as Bwin.com see him as their favorite for Sunday’s race. As Matt Kenseth has proven on more than one occasion this year though, the stats mean very little in the whole scheme of things now that he’s with JGR. We went to Martinsville and most were ready to just hand 5-time the grandfather clock before the race even commenced but at the end of the day, Kenseth had shocked us all by retaking the points lead after out-performing Johnson in what has become his playground. At Texas, the pendulum swung back in the 48′s favor and the gap between these future HOF’ers grew to seven points.