Numbers say Kenseth the man to beat at Phoenix
The Eliminator: Phoenix
Updated: November 7, 2007, 2:04 PM ETBy Matthew Willis | ESPN.com
The Eliminator is rolling at the end of the season, a couple of top-10 finishes in a row. I'm not saying I'm on a Jimmie Johnson-ish roll. Seriously, who else is at that point? He's the first driver to win three straight races since ... well, Jimmie Johnson.The last driver to win four straight races? Of course, it's Jeff Gordon! He did it in 1998, and nobody else had done it since Mark Martin back in 1993.Speaking of rolls, Hendrick Motorsports employs both Gordon and Johnson, and they've won five straight races. The last team to do that? Well, it's Hendrick Motorsports, just a few months ago.But the last team to win six straight races? I'll give you a moment to think ...(Waits ... goes and gets a snack ... delicious!)It was Petty Enterprises back in 1967. That team actually won 10 in a row, all with Richard Petty.No, I'm not on a roll like those guys, but at least I'm not Morgan Shepherd. Now, I'm not busting on Morgan. He's had a nice career -- 15 Busch Series wins, four Cup Series wins -- but his 2007 season leaves something to be desired. Shepherd has raced in 20 Busch events and hasn't finished a single one. In fact, he hasn't finished 10 laps in a quarter of those races.Yes, it's all part of a 37-race streak of DNFs for Shepherd, which, to the best of my research, ties Jeff Fuller's Busch Series record. Shepherd is on the Busch Series entry list this week, so I wish him luck. But, if you're putting together your own Busch Series eliminator at home, I think that's an excellent reason to eliminate him.So, no matter how badly things are going for you, you probably are not having a run of luck like Morgan Shepherd. But The Eliminator is running well now, and we can't waste any more time. Even though I LOVE wasting time. Eliminator time.Insert Phoenix/old people joke here. But, the truth is, the past 11 Nextel Cup winners at Phoenix have been 35 or younger. Gordon was 35 when he won at Phoenix earlier in the season, but he since has turned 36. Tony Stewart also turned 36 this season, so he is one of the 23 eliminations.A good streak is a good streak. Last week, I mentioned that eight straight Cup Series winners finished no worse than 14th in their previous race. Well, Johnson extended that streak at Texas. I can't bet against the trend, so let's take out the 16 remaining drivers who were 15th or worse in the Lone Star State. We're down to 10.Since 1993, the fall Phoenix winner finished eighth or better in his previous Phoenix race. The weather is hot in Phoenix, but so is our eventual race winner. Let's take out the seven Phoenix slackers, and with good riddance. Just three are left.Like I mentioned before, Hendrick is so hot right now, much like Hansel. But no team has ever won six consecutive races in NASCAR's modern era (since 1972). I'll bet dollars to doughnuts (mmm ... doughnuts) against the streak extending another week. History is not on their side, and I usually go with history. Let's take out Johnson and Kyle Busch, leaving us with just the one.Matt Kenseth came oh-so-close last week at Texas, but I think this is his week. He has won there before and has two top-5s in his past three races. Remember, the numbers don't lie.Eliminator breakdown
- The past 11 Phoenix winners have been 35 or younger
(23 drivers eliminated, 26 remaining).
Drivers eliminated: John Andretti, Johnny Benson, Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, Ward Burton, Patrick Carpentier, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Petty, Tony Raines, David Reutimann, Ricky Rudd, Tony Stewart, Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Waltrip.
- Nine straight NASCAR Nextel Cup Series winners have finished 14th or better in the previous race
(16 drivers eliminated, 10 remaining).
Drivers eliminated: A.J. Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Sam Hornish Jr.., Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan, Johnny Sauter, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, Brian Vickers, J.J. Yeley.
- Since 1993, every fall Phoenix winner finished eighth or better in their previous Phoenix race
(Seven drivers eliminated, three remaining).
Drivers eliminated: Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler, Martin Truex Jr.
- No team has won six straight races in the NASCAR modern era
(Two drivers eliminated, one remaining).
Drivers eliminated: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson.
And your winner is: Matt Kenseth.
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