Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Will Jeff Gordon go back to back or can Dale Earnhardt, Jr. end the drought: Kobalt Tools 400 Preview

By Shaun Burke

Can Jeff Gordon go two for three in the 2011 Sprint Cup series at the Kobalt Tools 400? The Loop Data overwhelmingly says yes! In the six races run at Las Vegas where Loop Data was accumulated, Jeff Gordon’s average running position is 6.389, more than one position higher than Kyle Busch who has a 7.634. Gordon has led the most laps, spent the most laps in the top 15 and completed the most quality passes. In the last six races at Las Vegas, Gordon has finishes of 4, 5, 2, 35 (crashed while leading late), 6 and 3. Clearly Gordon is a great pick for Las Vegas.
Now for the rest of the story! These stellar results by Jeff Gordon at Las Vegas were with crew chief Steve Letarte. In the pre-Letarte era, Las Vegas was one of Gordon’s worst tracks. While he did win during his championship season of 2001, Gordon had five finishes outside the top 15 and only one of those was due to a crash. He flat struggled at Las Vegas. This fact bodes well for Dale Earnhardt Jr. With Steve Letarte’s past at Las Vegas, this could be the race Earnhardt, Jr. ends the drought.
Las Vegas has also been kind to Jimmie Johnson; but really, what track hasn’t. Johnson won three in a row from 2005-2007 and is the defending race winner. Johnson has been hit or miss at Las Vegas as he only has one finish inside the top 10 that wasn’t a win. Between his three in a row from 2005-2007 and his victory in 2010, Johnson finished P29 and P24 in 2008 and 2009. It also doesn’t hurt that the race sponsor is also Johnson’s sponsor.
Las Vegas is the home track to the Busch Brothers. The track has been kinder to Kyle who has a win and 4 top 10 finishes; however, expect both Busch brothers to run well in front of their friends and family.
Other drivers to watch:
Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards
Drivers to stay away from:
AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Robby Gordon, Regan Smith, Brian Vickers

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