NASCAR Numbers Game: 6 Amazing Stats for Richmond International Raceway

David Smith crunches the numbers for the Toyota Owners 400
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<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.</p>

Every year the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits a stretch of the season in which it is premature to judge the championship hunt, but cogent enough to pinpoint problems with underperforming drivers and teams. It’s an odd stretch, for sure. Through eight races we have seen some unexpected strong performances from non-household names, while also getting much of the same from the usual title-contending suspects, some of which you will read about below. It’s been a crazy, competitive year that has provided plenty of statistical fodder.

NASCAR Numbers Game: 7 Amazing Stats for Kansas Speedway

David Smith crunches the numbers for the STP 400
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<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.</p>

Kansas Speedway was the site for one of the weirdest races of the year in 2012. On a newly paved surface with an unfamiliar tire compound, the race offered drama (Jimmie Johnson crashing), comedy (Danica Patrick attempting to wreck Landon Cassill, but wrecking herself instead) and action (Matt Kenseth stormed to the front late in the race – there is more on this below – to scoop up the surprise win).

Backseat Drivers Fan Council

Racing NASCAR's Trucks at Eldora and surprises in Kansas
<p> Dustin Long's Backseat Drivers Fan Council voice their opinions on what a NASCAR Truck Series race at Eldora would be like and talk about Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway.</p>

Is it time for NASCAR to look in a different direction to run a race? Maybe something old school. You know, some place dirt-y? Of all that happened last weekend in Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas, what was the most impressive feat? Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated those and other questions this week. Here’s what they said:

NASCAR’s Cookie Cutter Crisis

Denny Hamlin wreck a rough reminder of racetracks in crisis
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles examines the proliferation of "cookie cutter" tracks on NASCAR's Sprint Cup circuit.</p>

Denny Hamlin began Thursday playing the role of NASCAR Chase contender. How’d he end it?

Trying to avoid the label of tragic footnote.

Smashing his car into the Turn 1 wall at a reported 202 mph, a test at the repaved Kansas Speedway turned into a headache—literally—as Hamlin fought dizziness to the point he made a second trip to the infield care center for further evaluation.

NASCAR News & Notes of the Week

Rule Changes, Bowyer's Big Win and Earnhardt's Absence
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long has a lot of NASCAR ground to cover this week. From Clint Bowyer's big win and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s absence to AJ Allmendinger's return and new rules procedures, it's all in Athlon's NASCAR News &amp; Notes of the Week.</p>

Don’t be fooled by the court jester routine Clint Bowyer seems to play in press conferences. For all the joking he does, he’s serious about winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

With five races left in the Chase, Bowyer is fourth in the standings for car owner Michael Waltrip’s team, 28 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Texas

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Kansas
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.</p>

Typically known for dealing with the thunderous roar of tornadoes, this weekend the Sprint Cup Series storms into Kansas for the STP 400.

Sunday’s race will be the 12th for the Sprint Cup Series at the Kansas Speedway, and the last on the current surface. Following the 400-miler, the track will be repaved prior to the series returning for its mid-October Chase date.

NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

The Dynamic Duo Returns

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Haven’t we seen this movie before? Summer turns to fall and the 48 team shifts into another gear that no one else has, and that it seemed to be hiding all along.

2. Carl Edwards  Edwards’ tough-it-out third- and fifth-place finishes the last two weeks are the type of performances that championships are made of. Dare we call them “Johnson-esque?”

Exclude From Games: 
<p> Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus lead the 48 team back into the title hunt — and to the top of Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings — after a dominating win in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.</p>