ALL EYES ON KASEY KAHNE AT RICHMOND DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 6, 2006) -- The 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season has come down to the race at Richmond International Raceway that determines the field for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup....
ALL EYES ON KASEY KAHNE AT RICHMOND
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 6, 2006) -- The 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season has come down to the race at Richmond International Raceway that determines the field for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. And 725,760 possible point outcomes for the top 11 drivers following this weekend's race Richmond is sure to be a wild event.
Kasey Kahne currently sits 30 points out of the 10th and final spot in the Chase. His prospects couldn't be any better at Richmond -- the track where he scored his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory last May. His Driver Rating of 109.3 ranks sixth-best at Richmond. Kahne has led the second-most laps at the famed .75-mile track, leading 20.7% of the laps run over the past two years.
Kahne's potential to make the Chase will vary depending on the success of other drivers vying for a spot. Five other Chase contenders currently in the top 10 rank worse than Kahne in Driver Rating. Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon all have lower Driver Ratings than Kahne. Busch is the highest ranked at seventh with a rating of 108.8, while Gordon ranks the lowest with the 23rd-best Driver Rating of 65.0.
Burton (16.3) and Gordon (36.3) also have a lower Average Finish than Kahne's 14.3 at Richmond.
Additionally, Kahne's Percentage of Laps in the Top 15 of 69.1% ranks higher than Martin (59.3%), Earnhardt (36.3%), Burton (66.1%) and Gordon (29.1%). Kahne also has led twice as may laps at Richmond as those five drivers combined. Kahne has led 167 laps while Busch, Martin, Earnhardt, Burton and Gordon have combined to lead only 65 laps.
SPEED STATS: Where does speed matter at Richmond?
Kevin Harvick leads the Driver Rating category at Richmond with a rating of 125.5, but is winless at the D-shaped oval. Harvick has impressive speed stats there and leads three speed-related categories, including Fastest Drivers Early in a Run, Fastest Drivers on the Frontstretch and Fastest Green Flag Speed.
One area where Harvick's speed has been conspicuously low is Late in a Run. Harvick ranks ninth in this category with a speed of 119.393 mph.
Speed Late in a Run may be one of the most important stats at Richmond. Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch all rank higher than Harvick in that category and have accounted for a combined five wins while Harvick has none.
The unique racing surface at Richmond International Raceway generates some of the best racing on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit. The Frontstretch is where the most passing happens. Turn 1 ranks second.
Passing Thoughts ...
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. has completed the most Green Flag Passes at Richmond with 171. Earnhardt has been passed 129 times, giving him a Passing Differential of 42.
* Jeff Burton leads the Quality Passes category with 63 passes coming over a car running in the top 15. Burton is averaging 21 Quality Passes each time he races at Richmond.
* All of Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman's passes have been completed over a car running in the top 15, giving each driver Quality Passes Percentage of 100%.
Others Drivers to Watch ... In addition to Kahne the Loop Data reveals other notables:
* Denny Hamlin: Had the second best Driver Rating. ... Has completed 100% of his Laps in the Top 15. ... Finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his first start at Richmond.
* Tony Stewart: Ranked fifth in Driver Rating 109.9. ... Has three career wins at Richmond. ... Has an Average Finish of 5.0. ... Has completed 90.7% of his Laps in the Top 15. ... Has led 11.9% of the laps run at Richmond over the past two seasons.
From STATS LLC (the company that compiles NASCAR's Loop Data) ...
"Kasey Kahne is coming back to one of his best tracks exactly when he needs a great run. Kahne is 30 points out of the Chase and within 95 points of fifth place. Beginning with third place, all drivers ranked above him are within his reach if they falter. Kahne has averaged the sixth-best Driver Rating at Richmond (109.3), with his lowest Driver Rating occurring this spring (80.6 despite his 34th-place finish). Kahne has been the fourth-fastest Early in a Run (122.099 mph) and the second-best among active drivers Late in a Run (119.609 mph). Kahne also has scored the most Fastest Laps (167) over the past three races at Richmond.
"Kahne's greatest obstacle is how well the drivers ahead of him perform at Richmond. Denny Hamlin finished second in his only Cup race with a stellar 118.5 Driver Rating, never falling below 10th place. Tony Stewart has top 10s in his past three races on his way to the fastest active driver Late in a Run (119.616 mph). Jeff Burton and Mark Martin haven't been as strong at Richmond, neither scoring a top 10 in any of the races in 2005 or 2006." -- Stefan Kretschmann, STATS LLC.