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From The Marbles

Scary thought: Phoenix may be Jimmie Johnson’s best track

Jimmie Johnson is pretty good at Martinsville.

He's even better at Phoenix.

According to the average finishes, it's true. With a win two weeks ago at Martinsville, Johnson improved his average finish to an astonishing 5.5. And while he may have more wins at Martinsville (7), his Phoenix average finish is still just slightly better.

In eighteen Phoenix races, Johnson has four wins, 12 top fives and 15 top 10s. Add all those up, and they equal an average finish of 5.3, the best of any Sprint Cup Series track in Johnson's career outside of Kentucky, where he's only raced twice. His last Phoenix win was in the fall of 2009, but it's not like he's tailed off since then. In those five races, he's been better than that average finish all but once, when he finished 14th in last year's fall race.

Martinsville was where Vader swiped the points lead from Brad Keselowski, who turned in the best paperclip performance of his career. And still lost nine points to Johnson. Another nine points at Phoenix may make Homestead pretty anticlimactic.

But for Keselowski, while his average finish of 21.8 may not inspire confidence, he did finish fifth earlier this year at Phoenix, his highest career finish at the track. And as we've learned time and time again, the average finishes aren't exactly damning proof of Keselowski this year, and this is only the third race on the new Phoenix layout. When you add up those two factors, we can just throw Keselowski's average finish out the window.

Let's look at the rest of the Chasers:

Jeff Gordon: Four-time won the final race on the old layout at Phoenix for his second career win at the track. In the two races since, he's finished 32nd and 8th. Given 2012 Jeff Gordon, either of those finishes are entirely plausible on Sunday, as Gordon will have a fast car, but also probably infuriate the karmic luck gods at some point during the race. His average finish is 10.8.

Denny Hamlin: Think of it this way, Denny; if you are leading late in the race and are cutting it close on fuel, you don't have to worry about stopping to top off to minimize any potential losses in the points. Despite a win and 7 top 10s in 14 Phoenix starts, Hamlin's average finish is 10.9.

Tony Stewart: Was that not the most "where did he come from?" fifth place finish of Smoke's career on Sunday? Stewart's average finish at Phoenix is 11.8 and he has one win and 11 top 10s in 21 starts.

Kevin Harvick: Cupcake swept the 2006 Phoenix races for the only two PIR wins of his career. In 19 starts, he has 9 top 10s and an average finish of 13.5.

Greg Biffle: Biffle has 6 top 10s in 17 starts and in the fall 2005 race and spring 2006 race, led a combined total of 340 laps. In his other 15 starts, he's led nine laps. His average finish is 14.1.

Martin Truex Jr.: In 2008, Truex finished last after his car overheated just 27 laps into the race. Why is that noteworthy? Well, it really isn't, except that it's his only finish at Phoenix below 22nd. Truex has almost always hung around in the top 20 at Phoenix, thus his average finish is 15.2.

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer's average finish is 16.9 and he finished 30th in the spring race at Phoenix, which stemmed from a chronic front tire rub.

Matt Kenseth: Kenseth started this race last year on the pole but finished 34th after crashing out. He's got eight top 10s in 20 Phoenix starts, and finished 13th in the spring. His average finish is 17.8.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior went back-to-back in the 2003 fall race and the 2004 spring race, but has only finished in the top five once since then. His average finish is 18.1 and he was 14th in the spring.

Kasey Kahne: The guy who won last year's race is bringing up the rear of the Chasers. Kahne's win in the fall for Red Bull was just his second top five at Phoenix and the first came in his first start at the track. In the spring — and as part of his horrid start to his Hendrick tenure — Kahne was 34th.

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Geoffrey Miller

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