Kansas Speedway's affect on the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup
The Chase for the Nextel Cup makes its final stop at Homestead-Miami Speedway with five drivers having a shot at walking away a champion in what has become one of the closest championship point races. As the drivers compete for the coveted trophy, we look back at how the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway shaped the championship chase.
There are Chase defining moments at Kansas that jump started some drivers resurgence to the front while others were left to pick up the pieces due to bad finishes and mistakes. Here's a recap, by lap, at the moments in the Banquet 400 that may come into play when a champion is determined this weekend.
Matt Kenseth spins coming out of turn four to bring out the caution. The spin was the least of Kenseth's problems on the day as the 2003 series champion battled handling problems throughout the race as he finished a lap down in the 23rd position. If Kenseth falls short of the championship the race at Kansas Speedway would be a race he'd like to have back as it was his worst finish of the Chase to this point.
Jeff Gordon's chances of winning the Cup took a big blow when his car shut off after a problem with the fuel pump. The four-time series champion entered the race second in points and was running ninth. His 39th-place finish knocked him down to sixth in the point standings, 120 points back of the leader. His poor performance would eventually begin the streak of three races finishing no better than 24th. With Gordon not being able to win his fifth championship in 2006, he would surely want to rewind the season to Kansas and begin again.
Many of the front runners, including Kasey Kahne, looked to stretch their fuel window with only six laps remaining. Kahne, low on fuel, entered pit road. Unfortunately, the fuel mileage gamble did not pay off as the Evernham Motorsports driver spun out while entering pit road and eventually ran out of fuel.. Despite sitting on the pole and leading 11 laps the Enumclaw, Wash., native took a big shot in the points. Kahne finished 33rd, three laps down. The move knocked him to 10th place in the point standings and 273 points behind chase leader Jeff Burton.
Jimmie Johnson looked like he was going to rebound after two sub par performances in the previous two Chase races. Gambling with fuel mileage the Hendrick Motorsports team had to dive into pit road and give up the lead.
With only two laps to go Johnson is hit with a pass through penalty for speeding during his pit stop. Despite leading 105 of the 267 laps Johnson served his penalty. Ultimately, the penalty prevented Johnson from finishing in the top 10, but he managed a 14th-place finish on the lead lap. The gamble may have been a product of Johnson's position at the time but as he now currently sits atop the point standings this gamble may determine the championship.
Heading into turn one race leader Tony Stewart runs out of fuel. With a lead of more than 13 seconds the defending champion coasted to the checkers holding off a slow charging Casey Mears who also ran out of fuel. The Banquet 400 win at Kansas Speedway was the third victory for Stewart and was the start of a streak that included three victories and four top-five finishes. Runner-up Mears tied a career best second place finish.
Kansas Speedway may not be the sight of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup finale, but it has definitely figured into the championship.
If you want to see what impact Kansas Speedway has on the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, RPM and P.A.S.S tickets go on sale Dec. 2. Fans may purchase tickets by calling 866-460-RACE. Parking is always free at Kansas Speedway and in 2007, fans may bring coolers (6x6x12-inch) with their favorite snacks and
beverages into the track.