2010 Kobalt Tools 500 Preview and Pick to Win

Race: Kobalt Tools 500
Date: Sunday November 14, 2010
Track: Phoenix International Raceway
Time: 3 pm ET
Channel: ESPN

by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com

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Jimmie Johnson may just be handing the Championship over to Denny Hamlin after last weekend at Texas. With a horrible pit road performance stop after stop, Johnson’s crew left the box along with Chad Knaus. Steve Latarte and the Dupont crew took over the calls for the 48 team after Gordon was wiped out of the race by Jeff Burtonyes, I really did say Jeff Burton.

Texas was one heck of a race. From Burton wrecking Gordon and Gordon trying to start a fight to the Dupont team taking over the 48 crew, it certainly wasn’t the weekend that either of the 2 main Hendrick teams were hoping for. Jimmie managed to lose the points lead to Hamlin, who won Texas.

That being said, Johnson has a lot of work cut out for himself. Phoenix is our next race this weekend, and Phoenix has notoriously been good to Denny Hamlin. What Johnson needs is a poor track or at least a poor finish for Hamlin, but it looks as if that consistency streak left the 48 team for the 11 team.

Phoenix is a 1-mile tri-oval with some awesome blue walls that make for great racing. Turns 1 and 2 have 11 degree banking with 9 degree banking on the backstretch and turns 3 and 4. The frontstretch, which stands at 1179 feet, boasts only 3 degree banking. Based on that, we can consider this a pretty flat track. That seems to be what Hamlin has excelled at so far this year. He won Martinsville and won last weekend at Texas, so there’s no counting him out of victory lane this weekend at Phoenix.

Now, the only good news for Jimmie Johnson this weekend is that he has one heck of a record here at Phoenix. While this is still a strong track for Hamlin, Johnson boasts an incredible 4 wins here. Hamlin has none. A good indicator of where these guys are going to finish is in their qualifying. Track position means a lot here and most winners have not started outside the top 10, with a few exceptions starting as far back as 15th. I really think that Jimmie Johnson is going to drive hard this weekend. His only option is to win. There are only 2 races left this season, and Homestead, the final race, is another great track for Hamlin, so Johnson has to rock it out this weekend.

That being said, I think that Johnson, despite his horrendous performance last week, is going to win this weekend. The funny thing is that horrendous for the 48 team is either 7th or 8th place. It’s not like Johnson finished 20th, but he just needs to rebuild some confidence in his team, and he said in his post-race interview that he’s out to do that for them this weekend.

Look for Denny to run extremely strong along with Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon.

Here are your current top 12 in the points:

1. Denny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Carl Edwards
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Kyle Busch
8. Tony Stewart
9. Greg Biffle
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Kurt Busch
12. Jeff Burton

This is the closest that the points have ever been coming into the last 2 races in the Championship. Hamlin only holds 33 points over Johnson. Kevin Harvick seems to keep being forgotten, however, and he sits pretty only 59 points behind Hamlin. The battle isn’t over yet, and it’s certainly only going to get better. Stay tuned for what is certainly going to be an incredibly exciting race this weekend as we head to Phoenix!

Virginia’s Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson