Updated: October 29, 2012, 4:57 PM ET

Remaining Chase tracks favor Jimmie Johnson

Blount By Terry Blount
ESPN.com
Archive

Brad Keselowski survived Sunday at Jimmie Johnson's best track. Believe it or not, it gets more difficult from here.

Johnson never has lost a Cup championship when he had the points lead with three races to go.

Granted, it's a tiny lead at the moment, just two points over Keselowski after Johnson won at his best track Sunday. If you think Martinsville was the end of Johnson's big advantage (trackwise), though, think again.

Keselowski's statistical disadvantage is just starting. The three remaining races -- Texas, Phoenix and Homestead -- all favor Johnson in a big way.

It starts at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Johnson's average finish at Texas is 9.7, including a victory in 2007.

Keselowski's average finish on the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth is 25.7. He never has finished on the lead lap in eight TMS starts.

Let's move on the Phoenix, where there is a little good news for Keselowski. He finished fifth there in March. The bad news? Johnson was fourth on the 1-mile oval. Johnson's average finish at Phoenix is 5.3. Keselowski's is 22.2.

OK, what about the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead, Fla., to close out the season? It's Johnson's weakest track of the three with an average finish of 13.5.

Even so, Keselowski still fares worse at Homestead with an average finish of 20.2 in four starts. He hasn't posted a top-10 on the South Florida track.

And Johnson's stats probably aren't as good at Homestead as they could be. Most of his championship years, Johnson went to Homestead just needing to avoid trouble to win the title. Winning the race wasn't his top priority.

Obviously, one would expect a five-time champion in his 11th season with 59 career wins to have better statistics than a driver in his third full Cup season with nine career wins.

But Keselowski will have to beat the odds now, and the statistics, if he hopes to keep Johnson from winning a sixth title.

"I feel really confident going into Texas and Homestead," Keselowski said after his sixth-place finish at Martinsville. "I feel like those are two races that we can race the 48 car [Johnson] heads-up in speed and maybe even a little bit better than them.

"I'm not quite so sure about Phoenix, but you know the execution we have in this team right now is second to none. I'm feeling great."

And here is one thing that can help even the odds for Keselowski -- a fuel-mileage finish. The No. 2 Dodge team is one of the best at it despite falling short at Charlotte.

"Certainly, [fuel mileage] plays into the No. 2 car's hands," Johnson said Sunday. "With the final three tracks, two of them, if not all three of them, we can see that. We're working hard to play that game if need be. I think we're better at it than we were even at the start of the Chase.

"Anything can happen. We've done a very nice job over these seven races to put ourselves in the points lead. We're ready to race under any conditions."

David Newton: Keselowski not going away | Live! rewind | Recap | Results | Highlights

Nationwide Series: Texas on deck

The Nationwide Series had its final off weekend of the season before closing out the year with races at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead, as is the case for all NASCAR series.

Elliott Sadler has a six-point lead over Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has six victories this season, including Texas earlier this year. Sadler won at Phoenix in March.

Rookie Austin Dillon is a long shot for the championship now, 26 points behind Sadler.

Interesting side note: Sprint Cup regulars have 15 Nationwide wins this season, the same number as the non-Cup regulars.

If Nationwide regulars win two of the last three races, it will be the first time in 10 years the Nationwide drivers had more victories than the Cup guys racing in the feeder series.

Camping World Truck Series: Buescher makes his move

If James Buescher wins the Camping World Truck Series title, he can look back on the day his team made the best of a bad situation at Martinsville on Saturday.

If rookie Ty Dillon loses the Truck series title, he will remember the day it slipped away with a cut tire at Martinsville.

Denny Hamlin won it in his second Truck series start of the season, but the real story of Saturday's race was a 22-point swing at the top of the standings. Buescher moved from one point behind Dillon to 21 points ahead of him.

Midway through the race, it looked a lot different.

Buescher was a lap down in 28th with an ill-handling truck. But his team rallied and he worked his way up to sixth at the finish.

Dillon was sixth with 48 laps left when he cut a tire, leading to a 28th-place finish.

No matter how it ends up at Homestead, these are two talented young drivers with bigger and better things coming in the future.

Recap | Results

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?