Bristol II: In the loop

Kenseth Close To Clinching Edwards Adapts To High-Banked Bristol DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 22, 2007) -- Matt Kenseth needs only to start Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway to clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL...

Kenseth Close To Clinching
Edwards Adapts To High-Banked Bristol

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 22, 2007) -- Matt Kenseth needs only to start Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway to clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Currently, he's 556 points ahead of 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr.

If Kenseth -- or any other driver -- ends the Bristol race 391 points ahead of the 13th-place driver, he'll clinch a spot in the Chase.

Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch are also in contention to lock up a Chase spot this Saturday night. Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin have already clinched.

The maximum amount of points a driver could lose in a given race is 161 (if the winner earns the maximum of 195 points compared to 34 points for a 43rd-place finish). So, if that unlikely fate befalls Kenseth, he'll still be at least 395 points ahead of 13th-place.

But Kenseth need not worry about that "worst case scenario." His past Bristol performances foreshadow yet another dominant run this Saturday night under the lights.

Kenseth has won two consecutive Bristol night races, and has done so in dominant fashion. Over those two races, Kenseth has a Driver Rating of 141.3 (a perfect rating is 150.0), an Average Running Position of 2.1, 532 laps led, 146 Fastest Laps Run and 999 of 1,000 Laps in the Top 15. All those marks rank first over the two races.

Below are track bests in two key Loop Data categories:

Bristol's Best Driver Ratings

Driver            Date  DR

1. Matt Kenseth 8/05 149.8
2. Matt Kenseth 8/06 132.8
3. Jeff Burton 8/06 132.1
4. Matt Kenseth 3/06 130.2
5. Kevin Harvick 4/05 127.4

Bristol's Best Average Running Positions

Driver            Date  ARP

1. Matt Kenseth 8/05 1.3
2. Matt Kenseth 3/06 2.5
3. Tony Stewart 3/06 2.7
4. Jeff Burton 8/06 2.7
5. Matt Kenseth 8/06 2.9

Kenseth had a near-perfect Driver Rating in this race in 2005, and had the top Driver Rating in last season's spring Bristol race won by Kurt Busch. Kenseth finished third that race.

Of the other drivers with an opportunity to clinch this weekend, Stewart seems the most likely to do so. Stewart is currently 512 points ahead of 13th-place and ran extremely well in this year's spring Bristol race before a fuel pump problem knocked him from contention. He finished 35th, but led 257 laps and scored a third-best Driver Rating of 114.4.

Below are Stewart's Bristol statistics, along with his rank among drivers competing Saturday:

Tony Stewart at Bristol (2005-2007)
Driver Rating: 98.7 (7th)
Average Running Position: 13.0 (8th)
Fastest Laps Run: 125 (3rd)
Laps in the Top 15: 1,539 (7th)
Laps Led: 502 (2nd)
Quality Passes*: 75 (5th)

* -- Quality Passes are passes of cars in the top 15 under green flag conditions.

Edwards, currently 409 points in front of the Chase cutoff, has adapted well to the unique, high-banked Bristol short track. Success there was not immediate, however. Edwards struggled through finishes of 33rd, 26th and 24th in his first three trips to Bristol from 2004 through 2005.

Over the last three races, though, Edwards has improved dramatically. He finished fourth and seventh in the two 2006 Bristol races and 12th this past spring.

Take a look at the contrast in Edwards' statistics in his two 2005 races compared to his Bristol races since:

Edwards' Bristol Driver Ratings
2005 (1): 43.5
2005 (2): 48.4
2006 (1): 108.9
2006 (2): 94.1
2007 (1): 82.5

Edwards' Bristol Average Running Positions
2005 (1): 33.1
2005 (2): 25.3
2006 (1): 6.5
2006 (2): 11.1
2007 (1): 14.0

Edwards' Bristol Laps in the Top 15
2005 (1): 0
2005 (2): 7
2006 (1): 500
2006 (2): 384
2007 (1): 392

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch