Commentary

Look for Martin to hold off Bowyer in Kansas upset special

The Eliminator: Kansas

Updated: September 26, 2008, 2:54 PM ET
By Matthew Willis | ESPN.com

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that after the great racing to end Dover, with three teammates, all Chasers, going hard for the win, Kansas is going to be a letdown.

Yeah, it's your basic 1.5-mile cookie-cutter track. And yeah, Kansas isn't one of your most exciting states, unless you love farming. Should I write more about farming? Is that a market I'm missing out on?

But, you could be wrong about Kansas … the racetrack. I've got nothing against the state, but this is a NASCAR column, not a geography column. Let's just look at the action from 2007, and you decide.

Insert flashback effect.

In 2007, a non-Chaser, strangely Greg Biffle, won this race -- but didn't cross the finish line first. No, Biffle was running low on fuel -- and speed, I guess. Kansas native Clint Bowyer finished second -- or was it first? The record book says second, so let's go with second.

Let's not forget that the race was started, stopped due to rain, started again and then stopped due to darkness. It was enough to make a guy seasick.

Oh yeah, about half the Chasers ran into problems last year. Take a look at this list:

• Denny Hamlin: 29th
• Matt Kenseth: 35th
• Jeff Burton: 36th
• Carl Edwards: 37th
• Martin Truex Jr.: 38th
• Tony Stewart: 39th
• Kyle Busch: 41st

(Strangely, if Busch runs 41st this week, it'll be an improvement from last week.)

So, don't blow off Kansas just because it's a cookie-cutter track. There could be some excitement. Besides, some of us like cookies.

Let's get eliminating, shall we?

First of all, the history at Kansas Speedway goes back just seven races. However, each one of those seven winners finished in the top 20 earlier in the season at Texas. Actually, five of those winners finished in the top six at Texas, but since it's early, we'll limit it to the top 20, which takes out 25 and leaves, of course, 20.

Next up, let's take a look at the entry list for the Nationwide Series race (as of Tuesday). That's because each of the past four Kansas winners ran, and ran well, in that weekend's companion Nationwide Series event. But since there's no way to tell who will run well Saturday, we'll just advance everyone who will attempt the Nationwide race, nine in all.

And, look at this, that gets us to the …

Trivia break! Only one driver has swept a weekend at Kansas. Who is it?

Next up, the past seven Sprint Cup winners this season finished at least 13th in that race the previous season. As I mentioned earlier, many top drivers struggled in this race last year, so that gets rid of another six. Only three drivers remain in the running.

Kansas is a 1.5-mile oval, and get this: The past four winners on 1.5-mile tracks this season did not run in the top 10 in the previous race on a 1.5-mile track. In short, don't run well on a cookie-cutter if you want to do well in the next cookie-cutter. That takes out one more, leaving our final two.

One more step to go. Look for this week's winner to have some fond memories of Victory Lane. That's because every Kansas winner already had won at least three times in the Cup Series coming into Kansas. Bowyer was runner-up last year, and he might be the runner-up again, but he won't win this week.

Trivia break! Joe Nemechek is the only driver to pull the double at Kansas, sweeping both races in 2004.

This week, in a little Eliminator upset special, look for Mark Martin to get back to Victory Lane before he joins Hendrick Motorsports next season. And always remember: The numbers don't lie.

Eliminator breakdown
  1. All seven Kansas winners finished in the top 20 earlier in the season at Texas. (25 drivers eliminated, 20 remaining)
    Drivers eliminated: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Kurt Busch, Patrick Carpentier, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Sam Hornish, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Casey Mears, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Petty, Tony Raines, David Reutimann, Scott Riggs, Elliott Sadler, Johnny Sauter, Regan Smith, Reed Sorenson, Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip.

  2. The past four Kansas winners all raced in that weekend's Nationwide race. (11 drivers eliminated, nine remaining)
    Drivers eliminated: Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Gilliland, Jimmie Johnson, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers.

  3. The past seven Sprint Cup winners finished in the top 13 in that race last year. (Six drivers eliminated, three remaining)
    Drivers eliminated: Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan.

  4. The past four winners on 1.5-mile tracks did not finish in the top 10 in the previous 1.5-mile track race. (One driver eliminated, two remaining)
    Driver eliminated: Kevin Harvick.

  5. Every Kansas winner had at least three previous Cup Series wins. (One driver eliminated, one remaining)
    Driver eliminated: Clint Bowyer.

  6. And your winner is: Mark Martin.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.

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