By the numbers: The 2013 Chasers at Phoenix

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The Chase for the Sprint Cup descends upon the desert this coming weekend for the penultimate race of the season – the Advocare 500K at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway.

Now holding a seven-point lead over Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup championship thanks to his win Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson comes to a track that has been very good to him over the years. In a head-to-head comparison of their respective bodies of work at PIR, Johnson has the clear edge over Kenseth.

But before we start thinking that Johnson’s going to bury everybody like he did on Sunday, remember that we were thinking the same thing going into Martinsville two races ago – and Kenseth wound up beating him there (second place to Johnson’s fifth) to tie Johnson in the championship going into Texas.

Unpredictability has been a constant in this Chase. Just as we think somebody is going to take control, the momentum shifts again.

In the series’ first visit of 2013 to PIR back in March, Johnson finished second to Carl Edwards, who turned back the five-time Cup champion on the last restart of the day and went on to win in a green-white-checkered finish. Kenseth finished a respectable seventh.

Expect both Johnson and Kenseth to be towards the front again this coming Sunday. Now, as provided by NASCAR, here’s the career numbers at Phoenix for all 13 Chase contenders.

Jimmie Johnson (Leader – 2,342 points)
· Four wins, 13 Top-5s, 16 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 6.5 in 20 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 7.0
*Series-best Driver Rating of 116.4
*Series-high 538 Fastest Laps Run
*Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 125.519 mph
*Series-high 4,749 Laps in the Top 15 (88.2%)
*Series-high 466 Quality Passes (green-flag passes of cars in Top 15)

Matt Kenseth (Second, -7 points)
· One win, five Top-5s, nine Top-10s
· Average Finish: 17.2 in 22 races
· Average Running Position: 16.0, 15th-best

Kevin Harvick (Third, -40 points)
· Three wins, six Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 12.9 in 21 races
· Average Running Position: 11.0, fifth-best

Kyle Busch (Fourth, -52 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 13.9 in 17 races
· Average Running Position: 12.0, eighth-best
*Series-high 466 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Fifth, -62 points)
· Two wins, five Top-5s, nine Top-10s
· Average Finish: 17.6 in 22 races
· Average Running Position: 17.2, 21st-best

Jeff Gordon (Sixth, -69 points)
· Two wins, 10 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 11.4 in 29 races
· Average Running Position: 10.7, third-best

Clint Bowyer (Seventh, -69 points)
· Two Top-5s, six Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.9 in 16 races
· Average Running Position: 16.7, 16th-best

Greg Biffle (Eighth, -73 points)
· Five Top-5s, seven Top-10s
· Average Finish: 13.9 in 19 races
· Average Running Position: 14.8, 10th-best

Joey Logano (Ninth, -91 points)
· One Top-5, three Top-10s
· Average Finish: 18.0 in nine races
· Average Running Position: 17.0, 18th-best

Kurt Busch (10th, -96 points)
· One win, four Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 13.9 in 21 races
· Average Running Position: 10.7, fourth-best

Carl Edwards (11th, -116 points)
· Two wins, seven Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 11.8 in 18 races
· Average Running Position: 12.8, ninth-best

Ryan Newman (12th, -118 points)
· One win, eight Top-5s, eight Top-10s
· Average Finish: 19.0 in 22 races
· Average Running Position: 15.5, 12th-best

Kasey Kahne (13th, -133 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, six Top-10s
· Average Finish: 19.1 in 18 races
· Average Running Position: 19.5, 24th-best

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”