Statistically Speaking: Biffle, Johnson look to continue duel in Kansas

by | Special to

WHEN: April 22, 2012 | GREEN: Approximately 1:16 p.m. ET

WHERE: Kansas Speedway

TRACK DESCRIPTION: 1.5-mile tri-oval

BROADCAST: Fox | RACE LENGTH: 267 laps, 400 miles

The lowdown

Last week, one of the keys stats that needed to be considered was how a driver's record compared in both 2011 Texas races. In those two events, 23 drivers who competed in both finished the fall race within seven positions of their spring attempt. Kansas hosted two races for the first time in 2011, which sent curious stats aficionados scuttling to their calculators. The finish of the spring STP 400 was altered by a fuel mileage gambit among the top three drivers, and yet the comparative results of it and the fall Hollywood Casino 400 were actually quite close. Carl Edwards finished fifth in both races with Regan Smith also posting matching results of 24th; in total, 19 drivers finished the fall race within five positions of their spring attempt and another eight finished within seven spots (for a grand total of 27 compared to Texas' 23). That is not the only race that will help make sense of this week's event, however. Kentucky Speedway made its Cup debut last year. With similarly flat banking and a shape that gets it listed among the "cookie-cutter" tracks, these two courses make good comparatives. Juxtaposing Kentucky's single race with Kansas' fall event gives the following stats: 16 drivers finished Kentucky within five positions of their fall Kansas' attempt and another six finished within 10 spots.

10 best drivers at Kansas

Over the past four races at Kansas, these drivers have the best average finish.

1. Jimmie Johnson
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 4.75 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 8.27 in 11 attempts

Johnson is trying to regain his "cookie-cutter" crown and become king once more. He was visibly frustrated at the end of the Samsung Mobile 500 because he was not only outdriven, but also outsmarted by Biffle at the close of that race. One also has to assume that his second-place finish at Vegas earlier in the year played a factor in his emotions. But while he desperately wants to get that one extra position -- especially since it will be Rick Hendrick's 200th Cup win -- he is amassing a great record. Johnson could get his wish this week and visit Victory Lane; after all, he was the most recent winner on this track last fall.

2. Greg Biffle
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 5.50 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 8.27 in 11 attempts

This is a great time to develop momentum. Biffle has a chance to win back-to-back races for only the second time in his career, (he doubled-down at New Hampshire and Dover late in 2008). Texas and Kansas are both excellent courses for Biffle and he showed how much strength he has this season by dominating the Samsung Mobile 500 and cruising past Johnson late in the race. Biffle has always been strong at Kansas, but his first victory there was one of the most bizarre races in the record books. On a rain-plagued afternoon with the gloomy sun setting and no lights at the track, he seemed to run out of gas and drove into the grass -- coasting across the finish line fourth. NASCAR gave him his position back and created a buzz in the media center, but he proved he deserved the trophy by finishing third in the next two events and winning in 2010.

3. Carl Edwards
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 6.50 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 10.67 in 9 attempts

Edwards has conflicting stats this week. Like Texas, Kansas is one of the best tracks for the Roushketeers and last year, their three current drivers swept the top 10 on that course. Edwards was the only one to sweep the top five, and in fact, he finished that well on every "cookie-cutter" course except for the fuel-mileage altered Coke 600. Unfortunately, he isn't the same driver in 2012 that he was last year. So far this season, he has alternated one top-10 with a finish outside that mark and if the pattern holds, he is due to finish in the teens again this week.

4. Tony Stewart
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 7.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 12.17 in 12 attempts

Like Edwards, Stewart has been hard to handicap this season. Victories on the "cookie-cutter" Las Vegas track and the flat unrestricted, intermediate speedway of Auto Club should have heralded a strong run at Texas, but he rolled off the hauler with problems. He was anemic in the first practice session, crashed in Happy Hour, and was looking around for a priest to perform an exorcism on his car during the race. He's been equally unpredictable at Kansas. Stewart has two victories on this track, but he also has a tendency to overdrive and wreck, which is as evil as it gets.

5. Denny Hamlin
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 9.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 15.75 in 8 attempts

Hamlin finished third in last year's STP 400 and with only four Kansas races in the books for the last three years, that boosts his average finish quite a bit. He also has a fifth-place finish at Kansas to his credit in 2009, but the news isn't uniformly good. Hamlin's other two efforts on this track in the last three years have been outside the top 10 and his recent record on the combined "cookie-cutter" tracks is not encouraging. Since finishing third in this race last year, Hamlin has only two more top 10s in eight starts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and his average result is a meager 15.9.

6. Brad Keselowski
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 10.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 10.00 in 4 attempts

When Keselowski stretched his fuel mileage in this race last year and scored the victory, it triggered a five-race streak of top-10s on "cookie-cutter" courses. That string of solid results culminated in a third in the fall Hollywood Casino 400 and provided bookends for his season on this track type, which will generate a lot of attention for the Young Gun. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security, however; this track type does not suit Keselowski. Since the mini-surge in the middle of last season, the No. 2 has not scored another top-15 in four starts and before he stretched his fuel to win at Kansas last spring, he had never cracked the top 10 on any other similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track.

7. Kevin Harvick
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 11.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 13.75 in 12 attempts

Harvick is a yeoman at Kansas. In 12 career attempts there, he has only scored one top-five when he followed Biffle and Johnson across the finish line in the 2010 Price Chopper 400. He's come close on three other occasions, however, with sixth-place finishes. One of these came last fall in the Hollywood Casino 400. A career-average finish of 13.8 puts this track solidly in the middle of his personal best, but that number requires some explanation. In his first six attempts at Kansas, Harvick netted an average of only 18.2; his most recent six races have improved by almost 100 percent to showcase an average of 9.3. Oddly enough, his last six races this season have netted an identical average of 9.3.

8. Jeff Gordon
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 11.25 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 10.25 in 12 attempts

Last weekend looked like it would be another disappointment for Gordon. He was not very impressive in practice and flubbed his qualification attempt to start deep in the field. Since both practices were held before time trials, there was very little reason to believe he would be any better in race trim, but as soon as they dropped the rag, he bolted like a mule with its tail on fire. In itself, Gordon's top-five finish would be impressive, but it was even more so because he made up 30 positions without the benefit of many caution flags. Actually, the long green flag segment may have played into his favor, because Gordon has become one of the worst drivers in the field on restarts.

9. Kurt Busch
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 11.50 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 17.67 in 12 attempts

Busch has only one top-10 finish this year, but this team is performing better than anticipated and last week at Texas is a great example. Roush Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports dominated the top 10 to the exclusion of nearly every other owner. They placed all seven of their drivers in the top 10, leaving only three positions to be claimed by Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing. That placed a premium on drivers capable of cracking the top 15 and Busch's 13th was impressive by comparison. It is going to be a long time before the No. 51 is expected to finish in the top 10 on a weekly basis, but that day will probably come before the end of the season.

10. Mark Martin
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 13.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 13.08 in 12 attempts

If there was any doubt that Martin would be successful as a part-time racer, last week removed it. Several years ago when he first announced a limited schedule, Martin was given a rocking chair that one can only assume hasn't gotten much use. This 53-year-old driver is perhaps the most physically fit athlete in the field and racing among the top five at Texas proves he also remembers how to set up a car.


11. Matt Kenseth
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 14.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 18.00 in 12 attempts

The only thing keeping Kenseth from being one of the 10 best average finishers at Kansas during the last three years is a blown engine in 2009. If not for that mechanical failure, he would almost certainly enter the weekend with five consecutive top 10s. Instead, he has four results of seventh or better in that same time frame. Kenseth did not sweep the top five at Kansas last year, but he came extremely close. His sixth-place finish in the STP 400 is also partly attributable to the fact that Keselowski, Hamlin, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stretched their fuel mileage and finished in the top three spots.

14. Clint Bowyer
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 15.25 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 12.00 in 12 attempts

Bowyer crossed the finish line first in 2007 after Greg Biffle slowed down well below the yellow flag speed and drove into the grass. NASCAR decided that the No. 16 maintained a reasonable speed even if he did not keep up with the pace car and awarded him the victory. That decision must have haunted Bowyer for several years to come. After that near miss on his hometown track, Bowyer failed to crack the top 10 again in the next four races. He still has yet to finish in the top five, but last year he earned a little retribution by finishing seventh in the fall.

15. Ryan Newman
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 16.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 17.33 in 12 attempts

Two weeks ago, Bowyer blamed Newman for bumping him into the wreck that robbed Hendrick Motorsports of their 200th victory. Last week, Jimmie Johnson blamed him for slowing the No. 48 enough to allow Biffle to catch and pass him. Neither of these are the complete story: Bowyer chose to dive bomb the leaders before getting the nudge from No. 39 and Newman had every right to try and remain on the lead lap instead of rolling over to be passed by the leader, but perception helps define reality in this sport. And one has to wonder just how enthusiastic the Hendrick Motorsports engine department is going to be when they supply Stewart-Haas Racing with their next engine.

18. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 18.50 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 17.33 in 12 attempts

Last week, Earnhardt had every right to blow his own horn. He has momentum on his side from a 2012 campaign that has him in the top three in points and the series was visiting a track that has been extremely kind in the past. But he refused to get swept up in the emotion of the weekend. That explains why he is simultaneously the most popular and least dominant racer in the field. His humility makes him easy to like, but he lacks the assurance to make hard decisions about car setup in the middle of a race. He'll be reasonably strong at Kansas, but he should contend for the victory at Richmond in two weeks if he can find an inner confidence.

23. Martin Truex Jr.
Last four races average finish at Kansas: 23.00 in 4 attempts
Career avg. finish at Kansas: 26.29 in 7 attempts

Texas marked the first time in his career that Truex posted four consecutive top 10s. He came as close as three straight several times, including once at the end of 2011 when he finished 10th at Talladega, eighth at Martinsville, and eighth again at Texas. What makes this current streak even more remarkable is the fact that it is preceded by consistently strong runs. In addition those three top 10s at the end of last year, he has a third at Homestead in the 2011 season finale and a seventh at Phoenix this spring. No one knows how long this streak will last, but even if Truex fails to finish in the top 10, he will likely run strong in the STP 400.

All Drivers: Last four races at Kansas
DriverAvg. finish (attempts)DriverAvg. finish (attempts)
1. Jimmie Johnson4.75 (4)23. Martin Truex Jr.23.00 (4)
2. Greg Biffle5.50 (4)24. Jamie McMurray 23.25 (4)
3. Carl Edwards 6.50 (4)25. Joey Logano24.25 (4)
4. Tony Stewart7.00 (4)26. Regan Smith24.67 (3)
5. Denny Hamlin9.00 (4)27. David Reutimann25.00 (4)
6. Brad Keselowski10.00 (4)28. Scott Speed26.33 (3)
7. Kevin Harvick11.00 (4)29. Sam Hornish Jr.27.00 (2)
8. Jeff Gordon11.25 (4)30. Casey Mears 29.50 (4)
9. Kurt Busch11.50 (4)31. Travis Kvapil31.33 (3)
10. Mark Martin13.00 (4)31. Reed Sorenson31.33 (3)
11. Matt Kenseth14.00 (4)33. Landon Cassill31.67 (3)
11. Kyle Busch14.00 (4)34. Dave Blaney33.50 (4)
13. Kasey Kahne 14.75 (4)35. David Stremme34.67 (3)
14. Clint Bowyer15.25 (4)36. David Gilliland35.25 (4)
15. Ryan Newman16.00 (4)37. Bobby Labonte35.50 (4)
16. Paul Menard17.25 (4)38. Mike Bliss38.00 (3)
17. Juan Pablo Montoya18.25 (4)39. J.J. Yeley41.00 (3)
18. Dale Earnhardt Jr.18.50 (4)40. Michael McDowell41.25 (4)
19. A.J. Allmendinger19.75 (4)41. Tony Raines41.50 (2)
20. Marcos Ambrose20.75 (4)42. Scott Riggs42.00 (1)
21. David Ragan21.00 (4)43. Joe Nemechek42.50 (4)
22. Jeff Burton21.75 (4)44. Josh Wise45.00 (1)

Caution to the wind

Most caution flags: 13 (2001 Protection One 400)

Fewest caution flags: 5 (2010 Price Chopper 400, 2011 STP 400)

Average number of caution flags per race: 8.4

Final Caution, last five races:
October 2011: Lap 266 of 272 - Oil (to set up green-white-checkered finish).
June 2011: Lap 163 of 267 - Debris.
October 2010: Lap 188 of 267 - Fluid.
October 2009: Lap 238 of 267 - Oil.
September 2008: Lap 227 of 267 - 2-car accident in turn 4, (Sam Hornish Jr. and Michael Waltrip).

Most caution laps: 70 (2001 Protection One 400)

Fewest caution laps: 22 (2011 STP 400)

Average number of caution laps per race: 37.8

Leading the way

Most leaders: 14 (2009 Price Chopper 400)

Fewest leaders: 9 (2011 Hollywood Casino 400, 2011 STP 400)

Average number of leaders: 11.2

Most lead changes: 26 (2009 Price Chopper 400)

Fewest lead changes: 13 (2002 Protection One 400)

Average number of lead changes: 19.1

Victory Lane

Last five winners at Kansas (starting position):
October 2011: Jimmie Johnson (19th)
June 2011: Brad Keselowski (25th)
October 2010: Greg Biffle (5th)
October 2009: Tony Stewart (5th)
September 2008: Jimmie Johnson (1st)

Worst starting position for race winner: 25th - Brad Keselowski (June 2011)

A race at Kansas has been won by the pole sitter 2 times and from the front row 3 times.

Active winners at Kansas

Tony Stewart (2)
Jimmie Johnson (2)
Jeff Gordon (2)
Greg Biffle (2)
Ryan Newman (1)
Mark Martin (1)
Joe Nemechek (1)
Brad Keselowski (1)

First time winners at Kansas

No one has earned their first career win at Kansas, but Brad Keselowski won his second in the 2011 STP 400

Backing it up: Kansas 2011 spring vs. fall

Last year, drivers showed remarkable consistency in Texas' two races, but Kansas was even more so. Here is a look at where they finished the spring STP 400 and the fall Hollywood Casino 400.

DriverFall 2011Spring 2011Difference
Carl Edwards550
Regan Smith24240
Kyle Busch11121
David Gilliland32331
David Stremme40391
Dave Blaney31321
Matt Kenseth462
Greg Biffle8102
Brad Keselowski312
A J Allmendinger25272
Bobby Labonte30282
Michael McDowell39412
Joe Nemechek41432
Ryan Newman18153
Kurt Busch1394
Jeff Burton21254
Kevin Harvick6115
Casey Mears42375
J J Yeley43385
Jimmie Johnson176
Juan Pablo Montoya23176
Joey Logano29236
Tony Stewart1587
Jamie McMurray22297
David Ragan20137
Paul Menard12197
Travis Kvapil27347
Clint Bowyer71811
Mark Martin102111
Dale Earnhardt Jr14212
Kasey Kahne21412
Denny Hamlin16313
David Reutimann352213
Martin Truex Jr362016
Marcos Ambrose92617
Landon Cassill173518
Jeff Gordon34430

"Cookie-Cutter" Comparison

The next three "cookie-cutter" tracks on the circuit are actually fairly diverse both in shape and the degree of banking in the corners -- with the exception of Kansas vs. Kentucky. However, since only one race has been run in the bluegrass state, that average is not meaningful and Atlanta has been included instead.

DriverCombined Avg.Combined AttemptsKansasCharlotteAtlanta
Tony Stewart9.96267.0015.507.00
Matt Kenseth10.122614.007.178.50
Jimmie Johnson12.42264.7519.3313.25
Kevin Harvick12.502611.0014.1712.75
Carl Edwards13.12266.5015.0020.75
Denny Hamlin13.42269.0015.6719.50
Greg Biffle13.65265.5016.8316.50
Kasey Kahne13.882614.7514.3317.75
Jeff Gordon14.122611.2514.6710.00
Ryan Newman14.382616.0016.5013.50
Mark Martin14.882613.0020.5019.00
Clint Bowyer14.922615.2517.5023.75
Kurt Busch15.272611.5015.3312.25
Kyle Busch15.842614.008.8316.50
Marcos Ambrose16.502620.7518.5016.25
A J Allmendinger17.502619.7517.6713.50
Dale Earnhardt Jr17.732618.5025.8318.25
Juan Pablo Montoya18.152618.2519.677.50
Joey Logano18.582624.258.1727.00
Martin Truex Jr18.772623.0019.8319.75
Paul Menard18.812617.2522.3318.25
David Reutimann19.352625.0010.8322.75
David Ragan19.502621.0015.1731.00
Jeff Burton19.622621.7520.5017.75
Brad Keselowski20.832410.0018.8022.33
Jamie McMurray22.082623.2520.1722.00
Regan Smith23.502224.6716.2527.00
Scott Speed27.862126.3328.0025.00
Bobby Labonte28.422635.5024.8327.25
Sam Hornish Jr28.471527.0028.2531.00
Casey Mears29.082529.5028.1731.00
Reed Sorenson30.471531.3329.5020.50
Aric Almirola30.805---
David Gilliland31.502635.2529.1725.50
Landon Cassill33.691631.6735.0033.50
Travis Kvapil34.052131.3334.2033.67
David Stremme34.941734.6733.6029.50
Dave Blaney36.192733.5035.1737.75
Mike Bliss37.002238.0036.6733.25
JJ Yeley38.721841.0037.0032.50
Michael McDowell40.872441.2540.6040.67
Tony Raines41.091141.5043.0045.00
Joe Nemechek41.312642.5041.1739.50
For more stats and analysis, follow @FantasyRace on Twitter.


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