October 30, 2012
And now it’s down to two. The Sprint Cup Series championship will likely be won by either Jimmie Johnson or Brad Keselowski, and there’s three races left on the schedule for those two to duke it out. On Sunday, the drivers will log 500 long miles at Texas Motor Speedway, which is a 1.5-mile tri-oval race track. Speeds will be high and cautions will be few, and it’s always possible that the race will come down to fuel mileage.
During The Last Race At Texas…Jimmie Johnson led nearly half of the race here back in April but it was Greg Biffle who crossed the finish line ahead of “Five Time”. Mark Martin ended up 3rd that day with Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth rounding out the top 5. Pole sitter Martin Truex, Jr., who led 69 laps that day, wound up 6th.
Practice Schedule…Just like last weekend at Martinsville, the Sprint Cup Series will practice on Friday afternoon (12:30 pm) and then have qualifying later that day (4:30 pm). Then, on Saturday, there will be two additional practice sessions, the first starting at 3:00 pm and Happy Hour set to kick off at 5:30 pm. The AAA Texas 500 should start sometime around 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon. All times are in EST.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The AAA Texas 500:
*Chase participants marked in red*
1. Jimmie Johnson - Five Time’s record here isn’t as great as it is at other tracks, but it’s still good nonetheless. In eighteen career starts here, Johnson has only one win but averages a finish of 9.7 and has finished inside the top 5 nearly half of the time. This team will be on the A game from here on out so get used to seeing Jimmie’s name near the top of every power rankings chart. On similar tracks this season, nobody has been as strong consistently as the #48 team and here at Texas back in April Johnson led a race-high 156 laps. He has five top 5s in the last seven Sprint Cup races and should easily make it six of eight on Sunday evening.
2. Matt Kenseth - Statistically this has been Matt Kenseth’s best track on the circuit and he also has the best average finish here at Texas (8.6) among active drivers. The #17 won a couple weeks ago in Kansas–another tri-oval intermediate track–and wound up 5th here back in April. That makes it six top 5s in the last seven Texas races for Kenseth and twelve in the last fourteen. The #17 is up front here every single race and that won’t change this weekend, as Kenseth should be challenging for his third win in the last five Sprint Cup races–and his third career at this track.
3. Clint Bowyer – Right now it’s just difficult to overlook how strong this #15 team has been for the last month or so. I didn’t really take Clint seriously when he said they were going to go out and try to win every week for the rest of the season but this team has been living up to that statement. At Texas specifically, Bowyer’s record isn’t super strong, but it’s still pretty good. Three of the last four races at this track have ended with Clint solidly inside the top 10 and only five drivers have a better average driver rating in the five races here since the beginning of the 2010 season. Clint won at Charlotte a few weeks ago and ended up 6th back at Kansas, both of which are tri-oval intermediate tracks. He has eleven top 10s in the last thirteen Sprint Cup races and should make it twelve for fourteen when the checkered flag waves on Sunday.
4. Kasey Kahne – When you look at Kasey Kahne’s record on the tri-oval intermediate tracks this season, it might surprise you a little bit considering this team got off to quite a rocky start early on. In the nine races on these types of tracks thus far, Kahne has recorded seven top 10 finishes and one win, which came at Charlotte in May. Most recently, he finished 4th at Kansas after starting on the pole. Here at Texas Motor Speedway, Kasey has recorded one victory (back in 2006) and has finished 3rd and 7th in his last two attempts. Kahne’s average finish of 18.8 here might worry you a little bit but keep in mind that this team has been firing on all cylinders since the Chase started and hasn’t finished worse than 15th.
5. Kyle Busch - Speaking of being really strong in this year’s Chase, the #18 team has been right up there with the best of them when there hasn’t been any mechanical issues, something you can’t predict. In the last eight races on tri-oval intermediate tracks, Rowdy has finished 11th or better in all but one of them, and that was at Kansas a couple weeks ago. We all know what happened there. At Texas, Kyle has been somewhat hit-or-miss–similar to his record last week at Martinsville–but when he has a good car, he can be counted on for a top 5 for the most part. Busch finished 11th here back in April but should be much stronger than that this weekend, and he’s a lot better here than his 15.8 average finishes makes him out to be.
6. Brad Keselowski - Well, in the two Chase races that Brad Keselowski was worried the most about, he finished 8th and 6th. He still lost the points lead to Jimmie Johnson but I think it should be a good battle from here on out between the #48 and the #2. Keselowski’s record here at Texas is nothing special whatsoever–five starts, ZERO top 10s, and an average finish of 25.3–but this is one of those weeks where you simply need to disregard those statistics. On similar tri-oval intermediate tracks this season, Bad Brad has been one of the best and has finished 11th or better in each of the last seven. I boldly predict (just kidding, this isn’t bold at all) that Keselowski will post a career-best finish at Texas this weekend. His current best is 14th, which came back in 2010.
7. Greg Biffle - Despite having a career average finish of 16.2 at Texas, this is actually one of the best tracks on the circuit to use Greg Biffle in fantasy racing. He’s always strong here but sometimes he simply doesn’t get the finish he deserves. However, as I stated earlier, The Biff is the most recent race winner at this track and is currently on an eight-race streak of top 10s here and has led an incredibly impressive 452 laps over that span. There’s no doubt in my mind that the #16 should be solidly inside the top 10 here on Sunday, but it is worth noting that this team has been disappointing on the tri-oval intermediate tracks as of late, with just one top 10 (at Charlotte) in the last five races. The other four results were: Kentucky (21st), Atlanta (15th), Chicago (13th), and Kansas (27th).
8. Denny Hamlin - Hamlin won both races here during the 2010 season but hasn’t done much since. In the three events at Texas since those two victories, Denny has finished 15th, 20th, and 12th and has led a grand total of zero laps. That being said, he’s been really strong on the tri-oval intermediate tracks as of late, posting a 3rd-place finish or better in five of the last seven. With two “stumble” weeks in a row, however, you have to wonder how that is affecting Denny Hamlin mentally, and whether or not that will show on the racetrack this weekend. In a perfect world, Hamlin would be a serious threat for a top 5 finish on Sunday (and maybe even a win), but this world is nowhere near perfect. In fourteen career starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Denny has an average finish of 10.3, which is good enough for third-best among active drivers.
9. Jeff Gordon - This ranking will most likely be too low when it’s all said and done on Sunday, but there are just other drivers that I like more than Jeff Gordon this weekend. As I stated earlier, he finished 4th here back in April and that was a follow-up to his 6th-place effort in this event last season. When you look at the recent tri-oval intermediate track races, however, the #24 hasn’t been as strong as expected (35th at Chicago–not his fault–18th at Charlotte, and 10th at Kansas). In twenty-three career starts at this track, Jeff Gordon has a career average finish of 16.2 but should improve upon that in the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday. I’m not expecting another top 5 out of him, though. He has one career victory at this track, which came back in 2009.
10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Yeah, he disappointed fantasy owners last week in Martinsville (myself included) but the #88 Chevrolet was still strong, in my opinion. This week we’re at Texas Motor Speedway and this venue is actually one of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s best tracks on the circuit. In twenty career starts here, he has collected eleven top 10 finishes and he won here back in 2000. Currently, Junior is on a three-race streak of top 10 finishes here and should make it four-straight on Sunday. When you look at the tri-oval intermediate track races this season, it may or may not surprise you that Earnhardt hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in any of them.
11. Mark Martin - The one reason that I have Mark Martin outside of the top 10 this week is because the engine woes returned for him at Kansas a couple weeks ago. That may very well have been a fluke problem but the race this Sunday is a 500-mile event and that adds a little bit more worry into my mind. That being said, Mark was a solid top 5 car here last time around and his average finish of 13.3 here is sixth-best among active drivers. Also, in five of his last seven Texas starts, Martin has finished 6th or better, which shows you how much he likes this track. If the #55 doesn’t have another engine problem, Martin should be a very good pick on Sunday–I’m back to thinking that that’s a pretty big “if,” though.
12. Martin Truex, Jr. - Believe it or not, Truex has just one finish this season outside of the top 12 on the tri-oval intermediate tracks this season, and that was his 17th-place run at Las Vegas back in March. I know that the #56 Toyota has been strong this season but even that surprises me. Truex ended up 2nd in Kansas a couple weeks ago, and although I don’t think he’ll be that strong this weekend in Texas, a top 10 is nowhere out of the question for this team. As I mentioned before, he was 6th here last time around and that followed up his 8th-place finish in this event one year ago. Before his breakout season this year, Texas had actually been a pretty good track for Martin; he has finished inside the top 10 in half of his fourteen starts here and really Truex’s bad runs only happened due to either a wreck or engine problems.
13. Kevin Harvick – This team had an engine failure in Martinsville last weekend but I wouldn’t expect that to happen again, so you can probably count on Harvick for another finish between 11th and 16th. He finished 9th here back in April but that’s when this team was running a little better than they are now. I’m not sure what’s going on there but right now it looks like the #29 Chevrolet is the second-strongest car out of the RCR fleet every week. Happy has a career average finish of 12.7 here at Texas Motor Speedway and that is good enough for fourth-best among active drivers.
14. Tony Stewart - Smoke won this event last season but keep in mind that that was during his incredible run to win the championship. When you take that out of the equation, that is Tony’s only top 10 finish at this track since the start of the 2010 season. Still, with an average finish of 13.1, Smoke still has the fifth-best average finish here among active drivers and he finishes inside the top 10 more often than not. He’s a two-time winner at Texas and even though I don’t think the #14 has a shot on Sunday, it’s certainly possible (remember how strong this team was on the intermediates to start the season?). In recent tri-oval intermediate track races, Stewart has finished 5th (Kansas) and 6th (Chicago) among four races outside of the top 20 (both Charlotte races, Atlanta, and Kentucky).
15. Paul Menard - Paul has finished 15th or better in three of the last four Texas races and he should make it four in the last five on Sunday evening. This team has picked up right where they left off once Slugger Labbe came back and that includes their surprising 3rd-place run in Kansas a couple weeks ago. I’m not predicting a finish similar to that at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the #27 Chevrolet flirted with the top 10 in the AAA Texas 500. Menard’s best run here came in 2011 when he finished 5th. Since the Charlotte race in May this team has been a top 15 machine on the tri-oval intermediate race tracks.
April 10, 2012
After the first weekend off of the 2012 season, the Sprint Cup Series will now have five straight points-paying races before another “break,” which will be the All Star weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Three of these five–including this weekend’s event at Texas Motor Speedway–will be some good old Saturday night racing. This is your typical cookie-cutter track, and Texas (which is a 1.5-mile, d-shaped oval) is most comparable with Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
During The Last Race At Texas…Tony Stewart led a race-high 173 laps en route to his fourth win of the 2012 season. This was in the midst of Smoke’s battle with Carl Edwards, who finished 2nd. Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, and pole-sitter Greg Biffle rounded out the top 5. Kenseth won the spring race earlier in the season. Interesting fact: eight drivers who started in the top 10 finished there in the April Texas race, with five doing the same in November.
Practice Schedule…Things will be a little different than most weekends. Practice #1 will start at 5:30 pm on Thursday evening. Once that is over, the cars won’t be on the track until the next day; Happy Hour will be at 3:00 pm on Friday followed by qualifying at 6:30. The Samsung Mobile 500 is set to start a little after 7:00 pm on Saturday. That could be a little interesting because the cars won’t be on track for practice at any of the same time frame when the actual race will be ran. For those that play Yahoo! Auto Racing: the deadline to set your rosters is Friday morning.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Samsung Mobile 500:
1. Tony Stewart - Not sure how much detail I need to go into here. Stewart is on absolute fire at the intermediate tracks and should be on your roster, no matter what, until further notice. As I said before, Smoke won the last race at Texas in 2011, which was the second of his career here (the first coming back in 2006). His average finish of 12.6 in twenty starts at Texas Motor Speedway is fourth-best in the series, and Stewart has the third-best average driver rating over the last four events here. Make no mistake about it, the #14 will be up front at some point on Saturday night, and right now I’m thinking he’s going to win the Samsung Mobile 500.
2. Greg Biffle – These next three drivers could be ranked any way in spots 2 through 4 this weekend. They should all three be good picks, but I’m just giving the nod to The Biff and Kenseth because Roush-Fenway Racing has been the best organization at Texas over the last two years. The Biff has been the only driver in the series to finish in the top 10 in each of the last seven races here, and the last three have all been top 5s. When it comes to driver rating, Biffle hasn’t had one under 92.5 at Texas since early 2008. I’d consider Greg a lock for a top 5 on Saturday night.
3. Matt Kenseth – Matt Kenseth has the best average finish of anyone in the series at Texas Motor Speedway (8.7) and has just one finish outside of the top 20 in nineteen career starts here. He’s led 756 laps here–also a series-best–and like his team mate Greg Biffle, Kenseth has three straight top 5 finishes here. He put the #17 Ford in the top 5 during qualifying in both 2011 events here, but Matt has yet to record a pole at Texas. Kenseth’s finishes have been lacking on the intermediates so far in 2012 (22nd at Las Vegas and 16th at Fontana) but there’s no reason to think this team won’t turn that around on Saturday night. He won this event last season and had a near-perfect driver rating of 144.7 while doing so. As usual, Kenseth will be good pick at Texas, but I’m not considering him a lock for a top 5 yet.
4. Jimmie Johnson – When you look at Five Time’s record at all of the current tracks, you might be surprised to find that Texas is pretty far down the list (in 13th). However, Johnson still owns an average finish of 10.2 here and twelve top 10s in seventeen starts. He won the fall race in 2007 and Jimmie has recorded three top 10s in the last four races here. Johnson has the second-best average driver rating on the intermediates thus far in 2012 (chart here) and still hasn’t finished worse than 12th since Daytona. I wouldn’t expect that to change on Saturday night, although I don’t see Johnson fighting for the win. He should, however, still have a nice, solid race, as usual.
5. Carl Edwards – Despite having three victories at this track, Cousin Carl’s average finish here isn’t that great (although it’s not terrible, either). In fourteen career starts, Edwards has amassed six top 10s, but also four finishes outside of the top 25. When you add it all up, Carl’s average finish is 15.5. There’s no reason for that to scare you away from picking him this weekend, though. I have a hunch that this team is finally getting their wheels underneath them, and that this “hangover” they are experiencing will go away this weekend. Edwards finished 3rd and 2nd in the two Texas races in 2011 and has posted top 5s in both intermediate races thus far in 2012. He had led the fifth-most laps at this track of anyone in the series (493).
6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Somewhat quietly (for who it is, anyway) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is off to the absolute best start of the season in a very long time (maybe even his whole career). Junior now has two straight 3rd-place finishes after Martinsville a couple weeks ago, and–ironically–that is also the number of top 5s he has recorded in nineteen career starts at Texas Motor Speedway. His average finish of 14.1 is eighth-best in the series at this track and Earnhardt has notched three top 10s in the last four races here, which is where I expect him to end up on Saturday. In the intermediate races thus far this season, Junior has the fourth-best average driver rating (chart here) and has finished 10th and 3rd. He’s one of only four drivers with two career poles at this track.
7. Kevin Harvick – Harvick has averaged the fifth-best driver rating in the two cookie cutter races this season (chart here) and I expect him to have another solid Chevy at Texas this weekend. In eighteen starts at this track, “Happy” has averaged a finish of 12.9–which is fifth best in the series–and owns eight top 10s. He doesn’t lead many laps, though, with just five total coming in four different races. Harvick’s best finish here has been 3rd, which came back in 2006, and in seven of the last nine events here, Kevin has finished 13th or better. Texas is his sixth-best track on the circuit (statistically).
8. Ryan Newman -This ranking may be a little too high for The Rocketman, but I can’t look past the fact of how strong him and his owner have been on the intermediate tracks this season. Newman finished 4th at Las Vegas and wound up in 7th at Fontana, and he ran in the top 10 for most of those two races. At Texas, though, Newman’s record is a little bit discouraging. However, I’m not too worried about it. In seventeen starts here, The Rocketman has averaged a finish of 20.7 while amassing just three top 10s. The good news? He’s been consistent. In the last six events at Texas, Newman hasn’t finished worse than 20th and in five of the six he’s ended up between 11th and 16th. I like him for a fourth top 10 at Texas going into this weekend.
9. Clint Bowyer – I’ve jumped the gun a bit on Bowyer at the intermediates this season, but that’s not to say he isn’t a bad pick. I think this team is capable of grabbing their fourth top 10 of the 2012 season this Saturday night, but it’s nowhere near a lock. Clint’s history at this track, however, is pretty good, so it’s probably going to come down to how strong the #15 Toyota is this weekend. In twelve career starts at Texas, Bowyer has notched seven top 10s, and even finished runner-up in this race last year. In the last five events at this track, Clint has finished in the top 10 in four of them. This is the seventh-best track on the circuit for Bowyer (statistically) and he should be a solid pick on Sunday night, but make sure he looks good in practice before committing.
10. Martin Truex, Jr. – Another week down and another solid finish for Truex, so that begs the question: is he a real Chase contender? You can vote by clicking here. At Texas, Martin tends to have a good race unless he gets in an accident, which happened in the fall race of 2010 and this race last season, where he finished 38th and 35th, respectively. However, Truex six top 10s in thirteen starts to his name here, and you know what I always say: pick ‘em while they’re hot. He finished 17th at Las Vegas and 8th at Fontana. I’m not sure what happened during the Vegas race, but the #56 Toyota was in the top 10 for the majority of the event (Yahoo! chart here). I’m expecting another top 10 out of Martin Truex, Jr. this weekend.
11. Denny Hamlin – Denny seems to have a really good finish at Texas or end up in the lower teens or worse, and with his performance at the intermediates in 2012 thus far, I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt going into this weekend. Hamlin won both Texas races in 2010 and has three more top 5s to his name in thirteen career starts. His average finish of 10.2 is second best in the series at this track, but qualifying has been a sort of struggle for this team here lately: in the last six Texas races, Hamlin hasn’t started any race in a spot better than 22nd. We’ll see what #11 shows up this weekend because it’s been a tale of two cars in the two intermediate races this season.
12. Kyle Busch – Rowdy was an early favorite of mine to take the championship this season, but he’s really letting me down–as well as fantasy owners–thus far. I’m not sure what to expect out of Kyle this weekend in Texas, to be honest with you. His record here is decent: thirteen starts, five top 10s, with an average finish of 16.2, and he owns the ninth-best average driver rating in the last four races here. He didn’t race in the fall event here last season (suspension) but Kyle ran a decent race here in April last year, starting 11th and finishing 16th. If he starts in the top 10, I’d give Rowdy more consideration, but going into the weekend there are simply too many other options that would be better than the #18.
13. Mark Martin – Martin is back behind the wheel of the #55 Toyota this weekend, and I expect another solid teen finish out of him like we have gotten in the other cookie cutter events in 2012 (he wound up 18th at Las Vegas and 12th at Fontana). Mark has made twenty-two career starts at Texas Motor Speedway and owns twelve top 10s, including a win back in 1998. He struggled in the two 2011 events here but in 2009 and 2010, Martin wound up in the top 10 in all four Texas races. He will probably look faster than he is in practice, just to warn you.
14. Kasey Kahne – One of these weeks, the #5 team is going to break out and finally put together a complete race, but the question is when. Kahne’s history here at Texas is hit-or-miss; in fifteen career starts, he’s notched four top 5s (including a win from the pole back in 2006) as well as five finishes of 25th or worse. What I’m expecting out of Kasey this weekend is similar to what we saw out of him in Fontana: have a good qualifying effort but then fall back early and just ride around and get the finish. He wound up in 14th that race and you can view his Yahoo! chart by clicking here.
15. Brad Keselowski – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: BK just has a knack for getting to the front in races this year; he’s led at least one lap in four of the first six events in 2012. His finishes on the cookie cutters this season have been less than stellar (32nd at Las Vegas and 18th at Fontana), but when you look at his Yahoo! Driver Charts for those races (here and here, respectively), the Blue Deuce was at least a top 15 car. At Texas, Brad’s best finish has been 14th in seven career starts, and I expect him to finish right around that mark on Saturday. He’s also my dark horse pick of the week.
Those To Avoid Entering The Samsung Mobile 500:
Joey Logano – If his 26th-place average finish at Texas doesn’t scare you away from Sliced Bread this week, then his performance on the intermediate tracks thus far in 2012 surely will. He finished 16th at Las Vegas but Logano’s Yahoo! chart (click here) shows that he had really a mid-twenties car until the end of the race. He has a 4th-place finish to his credit at Texas (back in 2010) but other than that race, Logano hasn’t finished on the lead lap in any other of his seven career starts at this track.
Juan Montoya – Like Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya rarely finishes all of the laps when the series visits Texas Motor Speedway. He has made ten career starts at this race track and has ended up with just two top 10s (in 2007 and 2009), in which he was on the lead lap at the end. In the seven starts here that Montoya has finished at least one lap down, he owns an average finish of 26.6. His average driver rating in the first two intermediate tracks this year has been 59.0. I wouldn’t expect much out of the #42 this weekend.
Aric Almirola - I’m not a big advocate of “start saving” when it comes to Yahoo! Auto Racing, but I just see no point in taking Almirola on the intermediate tracks; it has been obvious so far this season that the #43 team is at its best on the short/flat tracks. He’s going to be a mid-twenties driver just like the Las Vegas and Fontana (24th and 25th, respectively) and you should be able to at least match that by picking Trevor Bayne, who finished 17th in this race last season (IF he is entered this week).
November 2, 2011
I hope you enjoyed last Sunday’s caution-filled race at Martinsville Speedway because this weekend’s event at Texas Motor Speedway will, more than likely, be what I like to call a snooze-fest. What’s good for fantasy owners, though, is that the practice schedule for this event is back to “normal.” There will be one session on Friday afternoon followed by qualifying at 4:30 eastern time. Then, on Saturday, two more practices will be held where all of the cars will be in race trim, so average practice speeds shouldn’t be skewed much. The AAA Texas 500 is scheduled to start around 3:30 pm eastern time on Sunday.
During The Last Race At Texas…It was a Roush-Fenway type of day back in April at this track. Matt Kenseth got his first win of this 2011 season after leading 169 of the 334 laps. His team mates didn’t fare too bad, either, with Carl Edwards finishing 3rd and Greg Biffle following him to the line in 4th. Clint Bowyer, who led 44 laps that day, wound up 2nd, and Paul Menard rounded out the top 5. One interesting statistic from that race: eight of the drivers who started in the top 10 that day also finished there.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The AAA Texas 500:
*Chase participants marked in red*
1. Matt Kenseth – Load up on Roush this weekend, that’s all I’m going to say. Kenseth may have saw his title hopes go down the drain last weekend in Martinsville, so he needs a good run this weekend and he’s coming to the perfect track. As I said before, Matt is the most recent winner at Texas, and in the last five races here, he has post four top 5s. What’s even more impressing than that is since 2005 (twelve races), Kenseth has eight top 5s and a worst finish of 20th. His average finish of 9th here is the best in the series and Kenseth has led more laps (669) than anyone at this track.
2. Carl Edwards – If this Chase has shown anything to me, it’s that Carl Edwards is going to win this year’s championship. This team (and driver) continue to overcome obstacle after obstacle and Cousin Carl now hasn’t finished worse than 11th in Sprint Cup action since Michigan in August. Seriously. Edwards’ record at Texas Motor Speedway is shaky to say the least (16.5 average finish in thirteen starts) but he is a three-time winner here and finished 3rd in the spring. Carl has been a model of consistency this season and that’s what you need to win a fantasy NASCAR championship (as well as a Sprint Cup championship).
3. Jimmie Johnson – I’ll make this quick. Sixteen starts at Texas Motor Speedway, twelve top 10 finishes and just two finishes outside of the top 20. Johnson has just one win here (back in 2007) but has finished 2nd four other times and is on a three-race streak of top 10s at this track. As you probably remember, “The Champ” wrecked in Charlotte, relegating him to a 34th place finish, but before that Johnson finished in the top 10 in each of the five intermediate tri-oval races prior. It’s the Chase, don’t go against the #48. That should be written in a rule book or something.
4. Greg Biffle – If The Biff is going to put a one in the victory column this season, Texas is the best place for him to do so. Finishing the race has plagued this team all season but one of these times everything is going to go as planned, right? Texas isn’t one of Biffle’s best tracks statistically, but in the last five races here, no other driver has been better. In that span, Greg has cranked out top 10s in each race (with three being top 5s) and his average driver rating of 113.9 is the best of all drivers. He won here in 2005 after starting 5th and leading 219 of the 334 laps.
5. Denny Hamlin – This is Hamlin’s fifth-best track on the circuit, and after last week’s solid 5th-place run at Martinsville, not only does it seem like Denny has his reliability back, but this team also has some momentum, as that makes three straight top 10s in Sprint Cup action. Hamlin finished 15th here in April, which is okay, but a bit disappointing for him because in the three races prior, Denny captured two victories and a runner-up finish as well. His average finish of 9.3 in twelve career starts at Texas is bested only by Matt Kenseth’s 9.0.
6. Tony Stewart – This weekend is a little similar to last weekend for “Smoke.” He hasn’t been great recently at Texas (32nd, 11th, and 12th-place finishes in the last three races), but his overall history at this track is pretty good. We all know what happened last weekend. Stewart has made nineteen career starts at Texas Motor Speedway and has finished inside the top 10 in more than half of them (ten). He visited victory lane here in 2006, and Tony hasn’t been too bad on the tri-oval intermediates in 2011: 8th most recently at Charlotte and a worst finish of 15th in the past six events. I haven’t been real high on Stewart this season (I’ve started him just once in my Yahoo! league) but you can’t go against the momentum this team has right now.
7. Kurt Busch – The elder Busch brother isn’t dominant at Texas Motor Speedway, but I don’t see why you won’t be able to rely on him for a solid top 10 finish on Sunday. In seventeen career starts here, Kurt has only three top 5s (including a win in 2009), but he has a total of eleven top 10s, and four of those have came in the last five events here. His average driver rating of 97.7 in those last five races is good enough for sixth-best in the series. On the intermediate tri-oval tracks this season, Busch hasn’t finished worse than 13th, and I don’t expect that to change on Sunday.
8. Kevin Harvick - Surprisingly, to me anyway, Kevin Harvick now has eight top 12 finishes in the last nine Sprint Cup events after last week’s 4th-place effort in Martinsville, and I just don’t see that changing this weekend. At Texas Motor Speedway, Kevin has made seventeen career starts and has came away with eight top 10s and a total of fourteen top 20s. In the last four tri-oval intermediate races, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas, and Charlotte, “Happy” has finished 7th, 2nd, 6th, and 6th, respectively. He finished 20th here in April but before that, Harvick had three-straight top 10s at this track.
9. Mark Martin – Obviously, with the way his season is going, ranking Mark Martin this high might not be the smartest move, but this guy’s luck has to turn around some time, doesn’t it? At Chicago and Kansas Martin finished 9th and 10th, respectively, and I think he has a chance to do that again this weekend. At Texas, Mark has made twenty-one career starts and owns an average finish of 13.5 and twelve top 10 finishes (as well as one win, which came back in 1998). He laid an egg in the April race here (36th) but before that, Martin had four-straight top 6 finishes at this track, and that 36th earlier this year has been Mark’s only finish outside of the top 12 since 2007. His average driver rating of 92.9 over the past five races at Texas is eighth-best in the series.
10. Jeff Burton – Am I going crazy? Not one bit. I don’t know if you have noticed (I didn’t until I looked it up), but Jeff Burton now has two straight top 10 finishes and seven top 15 finishes in the last ten Sprint Cup races. Quite a turnaround from earlier this year when I wrote him off after so many disappointing runs. What’s even more re-assuring is Burton’s record at Texas: in twenty-one career starts here, Jeff has two wins and an average finish of 15.9. What’s more impressive is that he has only finished outside of the top 20 six times in those twenty-one races. And what’s even more impressive yet is that Burton has just one finish outside of the top 13 in the last nine races at Texas. Don’t let the #31 slip by you this weekend.
11. Kyle Busch – “Rowdy” has been great or ‘just okay’ in the tri-oval intermediate tracks this season, and that’s also how his history at Texas Motor Speedway is as well. In thirteen career starts here, Kyle Busch has five finishes in the top 6, but he also has four finishes outside of the top 20. In the last five races at this track, Busch has the fourth-best average driver rating (101.7) but just the sixteenth-best average finish (16.0). If Kyle is on your roster this weekend, you better hope he hasn’t called it a season already.
12. Clint Bowyer – Clint hasn’t been outstanding on the intermediate tracks this season, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him fighting for a top 10 at the end of the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday. In eleven career starts here, Bowyer owns an average finish of 13.4–good enough for sixth-best in the series–and has just two finishes outside of the top 20. In three of the last four races at Texas, Clint has ended up in the top 10, and, like I said before, he finished runner-up to Matt Kenseth in April (and also led 44 laps).
13. Kasey Kahne – In the last two tri-oval intermediate races (Kansas and Charlotte), Kasey Kahne has finished 2nd and 4th, but otherwise this season he has been a teens driver on this type of track. Don’t get me wrong, he could definitely pull off another top 5 on Sunday in Texas, but I want to see what kind of car he has before ranking him that high. Kahne won here in 2006 but that is one of just three top 10s he has here in fourteen career starts. All three were also top 5s, though, so when Kasey is good here, he’s really good. If he starts in the top 5 and looks good in practice, I wouldn’t think twice about starting Kahne.
14. David Ragan – As I said before, load up on the Roushkateers. David Ragan started on the pole in the April race here and led 11 laps en route to a solid 7th-place finish. In the last seven races here, he has just one finish worse than 17th, and in the last two Ragan has finished in the top 10. He’s racing for a ride for next season and it seems like drivers come through in the clutch when that happens.
15. Brad Keselowski – This ranking will probably be a little too low for “Bad Brad” when it’s all said and done on Sunday, but there’s just 14 other drivers I like better than him going into the weekend. This team’s ability to adjust on the car during the race is simply amazing, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Keselowski ended up in victory lane once again before this season ends. At Texas, he has made six career starts with his best finish coming in the spring race last season, which was 14th. Earlier this year at this track, Keselowski led 32 laps but ended up finishing 18th. In the last six tri-oval intermediate races, Brad hasn’t finished worse than 16th. There’s definitely a lot of potential with this team right now.
Those To Avoid Entering The AAA Texas 500:
Brian Vickers – I’m a little worried about someone getting payback against Vickers this week (is there a driver he didn’t run into in Martinsville?), but what is more troublesome is his history at this track: in thirteen career starts at Texas, Vickers has zero top 10s and an average finish of 24.1.
Joey Logano – “Sliced Bread” finished 4th in this race last season, but you know what they say: even a blind squirrel finds nut once in a while. In his five other starts at this track, Logano has managed a best finish of 19th and has never finished on the lead lap. In April, Joey started 8th but ended up 24th despite having one of the worst driver ratings (56.8) of the non-start and parkers.
Jamie McMurray – Yeah, Jamie Mac screwed me on some of my fantasy rosters last week as well. He has a decent record here at Texas (career average finish of 16.9) but he has only one top 20 finish here since 2008 and McMurray has been god-awful on the intermediates this year: one top 20–a 16th at Atlanta–on the nine tri-oval intermediate tracks in 2011.
April 5, 2011
The Sprint Cup Series heads to “The Great American Speedway” in Texas this weekend for the first night race of the season. The green flag is set to wave around 7:30 eastern time on Saturday night after a practice session and qualifying is held on Friday afternoon. The first of the two practice sessions this weekend is set to be run on Thursday at 5 o’clock eastern time. Texas Motor Speedway is 1.5-mile quad oval similar to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. There are really very few drivers that are consistently up front here, so picking for a race like this can sometimes be difficult.
During The Last Race at Texas…Denny Hamlin started 30th but wound up winning the race here in November after leading 31 laps. Greg Biffle had the most laps led that day with 224; he ended up finishing 5th. Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Joey Logano filled in the space between Hamlin and Biffle in the finishing order. During the spring race here in 2010, Hamlin also found victory lane after starting 29th and leading just 12 laps. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five that day. Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, and Greg Biffle were the only drivers to record top ten finishes in both races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2010.
My Recommendation To Fantasy Racers…The cars from Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing have the best average finish here over the past two years, but don’t be afraid to sprinkle in some of the Hendrick Motorsports boys. You can’t overlook Roush-Fenway Racing when the series comes to these intermediate tracks but they haven’t won here since 2008 when Carl Edwards swept both races. Usually those who start near the front finish there, but as Denny Hamlin showed in both races last year, it is not necessary to be fast in qualifying to visit victory lane. If you are wondering how important average practice speed is at Texas, click here for the results of the fall race last year with the drivers ranked on how fast they were in practice.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Samsung Mobile 500:
1. Kevin Harvick – I said in the off-season that everyone should jump off of Harvick’s bandwagon while they could, but it looks like I need to jump back on (read that story by clicking here). The #29 Chevrolet was junk for 80% of the race in Martinsville but they got it dialed in late and Harvick wound up winning the race. He really is living up to his nickname of “The Closer.” At Texas, Kevin has made 16 career starts and owns an average finish of 12.4 with a best finish of 5th. I think he has a great shot to better that this week, as he has had super fast cars at most of the races this year–including two weeks ago at Las Vegas. He’s only led five laps here in his career, but it’s the last lap that counts, as Harvick should know by now. His past three finishes here have been 6th, 7th, and 5th.
2. Matt Kenseth – Kenseth is actually really, really good at this track and he’s on a roll this year, with three straight finishes of 6th or better and no finish lower than 11th since Daytona. He finished 20th in the spring race here last season, but before that he was on a streak of six straight top 10s, and he turned around and finished runner-up in the fall race. In seventeen starts at this track, Kenseth has recorded 11 top tens (including one win) and has an average finish of 9.5. He’s finished runner-up at this track four times.
3. Denny Hamlin – His teammate, Kyle Busch, says that Joe Gibbs Racing has found the cause of their engine problems, and this week will be a good one to test that statement. As I said before, Hamlin won both races at Texas in 2010 and has an average finish of 4th over his past four starts at this track. He’s finished outside of the top 20 only once in eleven tries here, and that is evident by his career average finish of 8.8. After last week’s heartbreaker and with the engine problems Gibbs has had this year, Hamlin could be a risky pick, but as the saying goes, “high risk, high reward.”
4. Jimmie Johnson – For the last three years, “Five Time” has finished 2nd in the first race held at Texas Motor Speedway. Can he continue that streak this weekend? It’s surely possible, especially with how strong he was at Fontana. In fifteen starts at this track, Johnson has amassed eleven top 10s, including one win in 2007. He’s also finished outside of the top 15 just twice in his career at this track, so expect another solid day out of “The Champ” on Saturday night.
5. Greg Biffle -Over the past four races at this track, “The Biff” has the best average driver rating in the series and the third-best average finish (6.5). He’s on a five-race streak of top 10s at this 1.5-mile racetrack and he won here in 2005. He started 3rd and 2nd at Texas in 2010 so expect a good qualifying effort out of Biffle on Friday as well. He’s struggled a bit at these intermediates thus far in 2011, but I expect that to change on Saturday.
6. Tony Stewart – The Stewart-Haas cars have been really strong on the intermediate tracks this season and I don’t expect that to change on Saturday night. “Smoke” won here in 2006 and has an average finish of 13.2 in eighteen career starts at this track. In the last seven races at Texas, Stewart has just one finish outside of the top 20, and it will take a wreck or mechanical failure for that number to be two after this weekend’s race.
7. Kurt Busch – Last week, Kurt finished 16th in Martinsville after being a 30th-place car for much of the afternoon. I don’t expect the “Double Deuce” to be a 30th-place car this weekend, so a top ten can be expected on Saturday. Kurt has struggled at this racetrack here and there, but he has three top tens in his past four starts and a career average finish of 13.8. He won the fall race in 2009.
8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Little E has been running great this season and hasn’t finished worse than 12th since Daytona. He’s struggled at Texas recently–with just one top ten (8th last season) in the past eight races here–but this is the track where he got his first Sprint Cup series win. With another strong car this weekend, Junior might find victory lane and finally end his winless streak. He should have a good qualifying effort on Friday, too, as his average start at this track is around 10th.
9. Kyle Busch – This ranking will probably prove to be too low once it’s all said and done, so look for Shrub to move up when I post my predictions on Friday. Last fall, Busch had a fast car but, in case you don’t remember, he was penalized two laps for flipping off a NASCAR official and finished 32nd. Kyle finished 3rd in the spring race last season, and that is his best finish at this track. If you think his engine will last all race, Rowdy probably won’t be too bad of a pick this weekend.
10. Ryan Newman – As I said before, the Stewart-Haas cars have hit on something at these intermediate races this year. Newman isn’t the first driver I think of when the series comes to these tracks, but he finished 5th in Las Vegas last month as well as in Fontana a couple weeks ago. “The Rocketman” won at this track in 2003, and while his best finish is 11th while driving for Stewart-Haas at this track, that could easily change this weekend. His average finish in the past two years at Texas is 14.5.
11. Carl Edwards – Edwards isn’t as consistent at this track as he is at other intermediates, but he’s won here three times and you can never overlook the 99 here. He hasn’t finished better than 10th here since his wins in 2008, but Carl is having a great season so it’s very possible that he turns his luck around at this track. He won in Las Vegas and had just a decent car at Fontana but still got a 6th-place finish. If he looks good in practice, expect Cousin Carl to move up when I make my predictions on Friday.
12. Mark Martin – This team is lacking something this year, and until they get it figured out, I won’t be very high on Martin. He hasn’t finished worse than 6th at Texas in his past four starts here and has an average finish of 12.4 in his career here. I think Martin will be a mid-teens driver on Saturday night, with a small shot at a finish around 10th if he can get lucky.
13. Clint Bowyer – Clint has made ten starts at this track and owns five top 10s and an average finish of 14.5. He’s finished 7th, 7th, and 4th in past three fall races at Texas, so you might want to wait until November when the series visits this track again to pick him. Bowyer has two top tens in a row now, though, so he looks to be climbing out of the hole that he dug himself in earlier this season. He ended up 7th in Fontana.
14. Martin Truex, Jr. – If Truex qualifies in the top ten on Friday, expect a good race from him on Saturday. He finished 6th at Las Vegas after qualifying 9th and has top ten finishes in every race that he has qualified there at Texas. Martin’s average finish here is 16.1 and, as always, be cautious if you pick him this weekend because he is always a risky pick.
15. David Ragan – David got his first top ten of the season last week in Martinsville (who expected that?) and could get his second on Saturday, although I would say a top fifteen is more likely. In eight starts at Texas, Ragan has three finishes of 37th or worse, but in the other five races he hasn’t finished worse than 17th. David ended up 15th and 8th at this track in 2010.
Underdogs Entering The Samsung Mobile 500:
Marcos Ambrose – Ambrose hasn’t been terrible this year at the intermediates and has found success at this track. He’s made five starts here and has just one finish worse than 21st. Last year he finished 17th and 12th at Texas and had a super fast Ford at Las Vegas a month ago.
Trevor Bayne – With Bayne running a limited schedule, this is an excellent place to use him in allocation leagues. He made his Sprint Cup debut here last fall and posted a respectable 17th-place finish. The Daytona 500 winner finished 20th at Las Vegas, and I think he will be right around there this weekend with the possibility of a top fifteen.
A.J. Allmendinger – I like him better at the flat tracks, but Allmendinger has found success at the intermediate tracks as well. He finished 14th at Fontana and ended up 19th at Las Vegas. The ‘Dinger hasn’t finished worse than 14th at Texas in his past three starts here and has been quietly having a very consistent season.
Paul Menard – As you know, these are the tracks that Menard excels at, so it’s a good idea to keep him in the back of your mind when the series comes to the intermediates. He got a 10th-place finish here last fall and in the two races at intermediate tracks this season, Menard had finishes of 16th and 12th.
Those To Avoid Entering The Samsung Mobile 500:
Brian Vickers – Vickers has two top tens on the intermediates this year, so he may surprise me this weekend, but his average finish at Texas is 23.8 and he hasn’t finished better than 16th here since 2007. His best result at this track came in his first start, and that was 12th.
Joey Logano – “Sliced Bread” posted a top five at Texas in the fall last year, but his next best finish is 19th. With the way this young man’s season has been going, I’d wait until he has a few good races before taking Logano.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon won here in 2009, and while he has nine top 10s in his twenty starts at this track, he also has eight finishes outside of the top 20. He hasn’t been impressive at the intermediates this season, either, ending up 36th at Las Vegas and 18th at Fontana. There are better choices than the #24 this week.
Brad Keselowski – His teammate, Kurt Busch, may have found success at Texas in the “Blue Deuce,” but I doubt that BK will. He finished 14th here last spring but his career average finish is right around 25th. He won’t be any good for qualifying bonus points, either, as Keselowski has never started better than 35th at this track.
Hopefully you like night races because we’re entering a streak of them. Over the next four races, three of them will be held on Saturday night. Be sure to check out my post-qualifying race predictions on Friday over at ifantasyrace.com and if you’re looking for a good place to chat with other fans during the race, check out NASCAR Nation.
November 5, 2008
First of all, my apologies for stretching the deadline here longer than Carl Edwards did at Texas. With 2 races left we may have a title race on our hands again, but it will be no picnic – Jimmie Johnson has won here and usually runs better than Edwards at this track. Then again, Johnson was the defending winner at Atlanta and Texas, so there you go. Jimmie won here in the spring as well, but had far from the best car, instead playing the fuel mileage game as the dominant car of Mark Martin played it safe. Last year at this race Jimmie solidified his advantage over teammate Jeff Gordon and in the process winning an incredible 4-race win streak.
The Chevys have been the car to beat at Phoenix in this race as each of the four winners since the inception of the Chase has piloted a Chevy to victory lane. Thus far in the Chase, some of the “rules” have been broken but some have remained the same. When the checkered falls Sunday evening, we’ll see if this one holds.
2007 – Jimmie Johnson
2006 – Kevin Harvick
2005 – Kyle Busch
2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2007 – Jimmie Johnson – 1st
2006 – Jimmie Johnson – 2nd
2005 – Tony Stewart – 4th
2004 – Kurt Busch – 10th
Admittedly, this is not one of my favorite tracks to watch a race. For fantasy purposes, here is a list of 5 drivers to choose from. I’m taking Carl for the championship hunt, but feel free to choose one of the others – the winner will likely come from this list.
1. Carl Edwards
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Kyle Busch
Jamie McMurray has been on a roll lately, and he should fare well at Phoenix too. I really like David Reutimann and A.J. Allmendinger this week. Reutimann ran great at Richmond, a track similar in many respects to Phoenix, and Allmendinger has been top 15 since he stepped into the #10 car.
The song this week comes from the Foo Fighters, their hit from one year ago “The Pretender.”
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media
October 31, 2008
NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler took time before the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway to visit students and their parents at Colleyville Heritage High School outside Dallas on Thursday, October 30, to talk about the importance of teen safe driving. Sadler was joined by SPEED TV personality John Roberts.
Sadler, who won at Texas Motor Speedway in 2004, came to the school as part of the Allstate Teen Safe Driving Pit Stop. This program is a national partnership between Allstate and Gillett Evernham Motorsports that highlights the importance of teen safe driving to high school students and their parents in key race markets across the country. Sadler spoke to the crowd of more than 300 about how his racing experiences on the track have made him a better driver off of it.
“I’m a much more cautious motorist,” said Sadler, driver of the No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge. “Having 42 other drivers going around the track at nearly 200 miles per hour makes you very aware of your surroundings – one mistake can cause a major accident, just like on the street.”
According to the Allstate America’s Teen Driving Hotspots study released in May, more than 5,000 teens die each year in car crashes. The study also ranked the 50 largest metro areas by their teen driving fatality score. The Dallas / Ft. Worth metro area ranked 17th worst in the country with a Teen Fatal Crash Rate of almost 27 per 100,000 teens.
Sadler and Roberts encouraged students and their parents to improve their communication as it relates to teen driving. To help make this possible, Allstate has created a Parent-Teen Driving Contract, a catalyst of conversation between the parents and their teens. The contract, available at www.allstate.com/teen, allows both parties to set rules and consequences if those rules are broken as it relates to a teen’s driving.
Roberts, who has three children, including a teenage son, is glad that Allstate came out with this contract.
“Sitting down with my son Jordan to fill out the contract was a great opportunity for us to discuss the dangers of driving,” Roberts said. “Safe driving is one of those topics that can be difficult to talk to your children about. The contract is a great vehicle to start the conversation.”
Although Sadler never had a physical contract with his parents when he began driving, there was a strong verbal agreement.
“I was told by my parents the day I got my license that driving is a privilege and can be taken away just as fast as it is granted,” Sadler recalled. “They told me speed on the race track is fine, but when I was on the street, I had to obey every traffic law and prove that I was responsible enough to have a driver’s license.”
Those who attended the event had the opportunity to visit the Allstate Safety Zone, an interactive safe driving mobile display that features various safety devices that help keep NASCAR drivers safe on the track. They also had the chance to complete the Parent-Teen Driving Contract at computer kiosks. Sadler and Roberts even tested the crowd’s racing knowledge with trivia questions, with autographed No. 19 hats going to those who answered the questions correctly.
Photo credit: Khampha Bouaphanh
October 30, 2008
This ain’t Run’s House, not does it belong to anyone else either. Other than the Thunder Lounge, of course, but we’re talking on the track. Let’s check Atlanta’s top non-chasers, then move onto bigger and better things.
Well neither Vickers nor Bobby Labonte did any spoiling at Atlanta last weekend. Jamie McMurray sure did though, with a nice 7th place run, and right in front of teammate David Ragan. Crossing the stripe right before Jamie was Kurt Busch. Both he and Jamie getting a little redemption from Martinsville.
While we leave the warm-up for this weekend behind, we’re not going to Run’s house.
Actually, we’re not going to anyone’s house. Texas isn’t like Charlotte, where you could call it Johnson’s house. Texas has seen very few repeat winners since coming onto the scene in 1997. In other words, the checkers are fair game for all.
The big winner in Texas sure ain’t the Cowboys. Ever see that clip after last season on YouTube? If you have, you know what we’re talking about.
One big winner has to be Babe’s Chicken. If you make it down here, find ‘em.
Oh, that’s right… we’re talking racing.
So here we come to Texas, and wondering which non-chaser has the opportunity to make a showing.
As much as I hate to say it, those that ran well at Atlanta have a good shot at doing so again. While differences exist between the two, it’s a good possibility for more of the same. If you’re betting against Johnson, it’s going to take bad luck to slow his roll anytime soon.
So who can swipe some points this week? Jamie Mac’s a good bet. Other than that it’s Texas, and you’d better know when to run.
October 30, 2008
Carl Edwards won the battle of Atlanta but Jimmy Johnson surely won the war. With a 183 point lead, only three races to go and a seemingly invincible team, Hendrick Motorsports’ no. 48 has it’s third straight Sprint Cup all but locked up. Edwards is putting up a spirited fight, but the Johnson - Chad Knaus combo is relentless.
Still this column is not about championships. We’ve been mostly using data derived from NASCAR’s scoring loops, mixing in some traditional stats and the random hunch, to try and pick a winner for each upcoming race in the Chase to the Cup. Next up is the 500 miler at Texas Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR’s ubiquitous, intermediate tracks.
Great military leaders throughout history have always strived for command of the terrain. Carl Edwards held the high-ground at Atlanta Motor Speedway for most of the day last Sunday. In the end he managed to hold off the counter-attack of Jimmy Johnson. But it may have been more a matter of Johnson running out of laps than that of Edwards commanding the field. Carl did all he could do. Can he do it again at Texas?
Carl has some things stacked in his favor. He won the first Texas race of 2008. Same year sweeps seem to happen more often on intermediate tracks than on any other type. Cousin Carl has eight wins on the I-tracks during the last five years – a total that trails only Greg Biffle (12) and Johnson (14). And, as Matt pointed out, the fall Atlanta winner has followed up with a Texas Two-step in each of the last three years. Edwards’ Loop Data is strong for Texas too, with a Driver Rating of 96.0 – sixth best – 255 Laps Led and 70.2 percent of his Laps in the Top 15.
Tony Stewart is tied for the top Driver Rating with a 107.9 and has series leading stats of 196 Fastest Laps Run, 2109 – 89.8 percent – Laps in the Top 15, 437 Laps Led and and Ave Position of 8.0. Tony has four I-track wins, including 2006 at TMS.
Biffle, as stated before, has 12 wins on the intermediates. He always seems fast on fast tracks like Texas. But his tenth best DR for TMS and his lack of category leading Loop Stats make it tough to pick him over his teammate Edwards.
Biffle’s other Roush-Fenway partner, Matt Kenseth has a better shot. Kenseth has the second best Driver Rating – 104.9 – and the best Ave Finish and Ave Mid-race Position – 6.9 and 4.9 – along with the top Ave Points Gained for races at Texas. Kenseth is a six-time I-track winner.
Denny Hamlin’sDriver Rating is a strong 101.9 and though winless on intermediates, has the third best Ave Finish on the I-tracks in general and TMS in particular.
Dale Earnhardt Jr is a three-time I-track winner and has a Loop Driver Rating of 98.1 – 5th best. But if you heard any of the in car radio conversation between Junior and crew chief Tony Eury Jr, it will be hard to have confidence in their ability to figure the current car out enough to win at Texas. Eury Jr was at a loss to the point where Earnhardt had to calm HIM down. Not the normal state of affairs with the no. 88 team.
Jimmy Johnson was asked if he felt that, with such a big points lead, he could ease up a bit and drive for points. He said, absolutely not. He plans to drive every race that’s left with the intention of winning it. That should send chills down the rosy necks of Johnson haters everywhere. Johnson has a Driver Rating of 107.9 – tied for best with Stewart – he has the best Ave Start and Ave Finish on I-tracks in general and the most wins too.
The pick is the no. 48 Lowes Chevrolet to win this week. For an upset special take Martin Truex Jr who is seventh in Driver Rating and due for DEI to get a break.
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media, Inc.
October 28, 2008
Texas Motor Speedway has made the Chase more predictable. Immediately following Atlanta, just 2 races removed from Lowes, and with only Phoenix sandwiched in between it and Homestead, Texas serves as the place where the best remain on top – just ask the last 3 winners of the fall Atlanta race, as they’re in victory lane the very next week at Texas. For Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson, they haven’t minded a bit.
It’s downright scary how similar these two tracks have been, and look at the finishing order in the top 5 for each of these races:
Atlanta – Texas
1. Edwards – Edwards
2. Gordon – Martin
3. Martin – Kenseth
4. Earnhardt Jr. - Mears
5. Kenseth – Johnson
Atlanta – Texas
1. Stewart – Stewart
2. Johnson – Johnson
3. Earnhardt Jr. – Harvick
4. Kenseth – Ky. Busch
5. Biffle – Bowyer
Atlanta – Texas
1. Johnson – Johnson
2. Edwards – Kenseth
3. Sorenson – Truex
4. Kenseth – Ky. Busch
5. Burton - Newman
The margins seem to be decreasing, but the winners have an uncanny knack for doubling up. Personally, I’d prefer the 2004 schedule to return in some way… Darlington took the penultimate spot in the Chase and Phoenix was third from the end. That’s my editorial soapbox. Let’s see where our champs finished:
2007 – Jimmie Johnson – 1st
2006 – Jimmie Johnson – 2nd
2005 – Tony Stewart – 6th
I went with Jimmie at Atlanta, and the end result was good fantasy-wise. Chase-wise, it was a bummer. Edwards did as much as he could to cut into the lead, slinging a car around the track and making the money move when it mattered. Not to mention that he flat dominated this race in the spring. However, I’m torn this week as I’d love to see the tradition continue for his sake, but I have a feeling it could be broken. I’d look for Carl and Jimmie to be strong again, but Denny Hamlin made an impressive run that could have easily landed him in the win column. I also expect to see Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Jeff Burton to be near the front after varying runs at Atlanta. This has been a Ford/Chevy battleground, and I see no reason for that to end.
Jamie McMurray could win here Sunday. In the last few weeks, the #26 has been on fire only to succumb to misfortune, whether it be parts failure or getting caught in a mess. He was fast at Lowes and ended strong at Atlanta, and is a smart sleeper pick. Another smart sleeper will be Juan Pablo Montoya. He had a piece at Atlanta as well. My third option would be AJ Allmendinger, unquestionably the best driver in the series without a full-time ride for 2009.
We’re going to delve down country music row for Texas. My pick this week is a perfect complement to the Texas moniker The Great American Speedway. It’s the Brooks & Dunn song “Only In America.”
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media
October 27, 2008
Anybody got a coon-skin helmet? Ask the guys who drive for Richard Childress Racing. They may feel about as besieged at Texas Motor Speedway as Davey Crockett and the Texicans did at the Alamo. Well, not quite, but you get the idea. With a total of only seven laps led in the last seven races between the lot of them, TMS hasn’t been good to Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer.
The RCR trio are the worst of the Chasers, Driver Rating-wise with scores that put them 13th-15th of the rated drivers. That, in itself isn’t all bad. Jeff Gordon is only 12th himself. But if you are looking to pick a winner for Texas, Gordon has at least led 194 laps.
Only Greg Biffle, of the Chase contenders – and after Atlanta, that is a very loose description – has run smaller percentage of Laps in the Top 15 – 46.6 – than the RCR boys, who range from 54.6 to 55.9 percent. But Biffle has 280 Laps Led.
Other drivers with poor stats at Texas include Ryan Newman – DR 67.3 and 5 Laps led with an Ave Finish of 22.3. Elliott Sadler – 68.1 DR and 23.1 Ave Finish and Brian Vickers with a Driver Rating of 62.9 and 25.1 for an Save Finish.
Be safe. Take Jimmy Johnson.
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media, Inc.