Who has the edge: Kenseth or Jimmie?

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
6:13
PM ET

Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR/Getty ImagesThrough four Chase races, Matt Kenseth leads Jimmie Johnson by three points.
After Saturday’s race at Charlotte, the 2013 Chase will be half over, and the story through the first four races has been Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson separating from the pack.

Those two are separated by three points, with Kenseth holding the edge entering the weekend, with Kevin Harvick 25 points back in third place.

But who has the edge the rest of the way?

The Case for Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has a three-point lead over the five-time champion through four races, and historically, that pencils him in as the favorite.

Over the previous five seasons, the leader at this point went on to win four of the five championships. The exception was Kenseth’s former teammate Carl Edwards, who lost the 2011 title on a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart.

Also in Kenseth’s favor are the tracks remaining on the schedule. Three of the final six races will be held on 1.5-mile tracks (Charlotte, Texas, Homestead). This season, six of the eight races on 1.5-mile tracks have been won by drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing, including four by Kenseth.

The other two were won by Richard Childress Racing’s Kevin Harvick, meaning Johnson and the rest of the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports organization have been shut out in such races this season.

The Case for Jimmie Johnson
This is the fifth race of the 2013 Chase, and races 5-7 of the Chase have been Jimmie’s time to shine.

In the nine previous Chases, Johnson has 10 wins in 27 starts in races 5-7 of the Chase, with a 5.6 average finish. To compare, Kenseth has won two of those races with a career average finish of 14.5.

And despite Kenseth holding the points lead, Johnson has an edge over Kenseth in average finish, laps led and fastest laps run during the 2013 Chase. In fact, Johnson leads all drivers in those three areas during the 2013 Chase, with Kenseth ranking second in all three.

The Case Against Jimmie Johnson
Looking at the overall numbers, Johnson seems like a favorite for Saturday night’s race at Charlotte. His six wins at the track are the most among active drivers, and tied with Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for the most all-time. His 11.9 average finish is the best in track history among drivers with more than 10 starts.

But five of those six wins came in a six-race span from 2003-05, and he has just a single win in the last 15 Charlotte races, and an average finish close to 20th in the seven races there over the past four seasons.

Dating back to 2007, Johnson’s average finish at Charlotte is 17th, his third-worst mark at any of the 23 tracks on the current schedule in that time.
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.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.