Chase Viewer's Guide: Round 3

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

In the Chase for the Nextel Cup, Kansas Speedway is an unknown because it has so little history. It's only six years old, and the track has changed over the years since it opened in 2001. Kansas typically isn't as volatile as Dover was last week or as Talladega most surely will be next week. But that doesn't mean it's any less of an obstacle. It's not a place where you can predict one driver will drive well. Sure, Jeff Gordon won the first two races here, but it's lost grip, which helps make it a wild-card race.

Who to Watch

  • Carl Edwards: I may be a little biased with this pick, but my Chase is On co-host, Carl Edwards is hot at the right time. While he feels a 25-point penalty at Dover is unwarranted and unfair, it gives him a little bit more motivation to go along with the momentum of winning last week's race. But the No. 99 team is getting hot at the right time. Even though it isn't a Car of Tomorrow race, the Roush Fenway cars have made a dramatic improvement. It's going to help them the rest of the season. As an organization, they're good.

  • Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have been tagged the Big Three, and I anticipate they will run well. But Kyle Busch has been overlooked a little bit, perhaps because he's leaving at year's end to go to Joe Gibbs Racing. He should be good as well.
  • What to Watch

  • Better racing through time: The racing has gotten a lot better because it's lost a little bit of grip, which is actually a good thing. When the track first opened, it had a ton of grip, but it was only on the bottom of the racetrack. Kyle Busch said that if you can run the high side, then you can really start hauling the mail. Over time, this track has widened out. It's no longer a one-groove racetrack.

  • Engine concerns: Similar to racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway with hanging RPM, it's important for the engine tuners to make sure that they have the right balance between horsepower and durability. This is the first of five 1 ½-mile tracks in the Chase so engine reliability through sustained RPM will play a huge role in the championship.

  • Know when to hold 'em: Last year, Tony Stewart gambled because he wasn't in the Chase. He was on fumes when he took the checkered flag. He'll be the first to tell you that he won't take that kind of gamble again this season. He can't. As close as the Chase is after a couple of races, none of the Chase drivers will gamble. You may see somebody outside the Chase pull that same strategy. They'll know how far they can go plus or minus one lap. They know what kind of mileage they're going to get, but if you're Tony Stewart, and you're half a lap short, are you going to do stay out? I don't think so.
  • Pit Perspective

    Roush Racing President Geoff Smith wants the Edwards 25-point penalty reduced. He thinks it's too harsh, given the fact it was handed down in the final 10 races. They're definitely going to appeal it, but it's got to be 25 points, regardless of whether it's in the Chase or not. It's kind of a baffling penalty. All the experts will tell you that where that car was low won't enhance performance. It's going to be interesting to see how the stock car commission rules on that appeal.

    Speed Mail Steve

    Finish Line

    Larry McReynolds had a great point. It seems like something always happens late in this race, whether it's a late caution or somebody gambling on their fuel lasting until the end. You'd better be watching the last lap. Don't go away with 10 laps to go. You need to hang around the entire race.

    NFL on FOX pick

  • Tampa Bay vs. Carolina, Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET: The Panthers won last week, but they didn't look good beating the Falcons. I'll give them a slight edge at home.

  • NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.

    Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch

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