Fantasy Racing: Texas
Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, November 8, 4:00 ET, ABC
Race Facts: Matt Kenseth—not surprising—is the worst qualifier to win at Texas. He qualified 31st in 2000… Last year’s race had the fewest cautions in TMS history with five. I have my doubts that we’ll break that record this year (wink wink)… There were also 40 cars running at the finish in last year’s fall race, and unless the start-and-parks DNQ, that won’t come close to being broken either… Ford has the most wins of any manufacturer with nine, and Carl Edwards has the most wins of any driver with three.
Drivers to Watch:
Carl Edwards: Yes, I just mentioned that Edwards has the most wins of any driver at Texas, but he’s in this column because of Roush’s relative struggles this year. It’s amzing to see the struggles that Edwards and Kyle Busch have had in 2009 given the way that they dominated the series—outside of Jimmie, of course—in 2008. Edwards is perfectly capable of having a good run Sunday, but I do think that a win is out of the question. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if he’s having to explain why he didn’t trust his foot enough to backflip Sunday night.
Jamie McMurray: Why can’t Jamie Mac make it two in a row? He’s pretty decent at Texas, with three top 10s in his last five races—yes, he did finish 38th in the spring—and he’ll have the new Ford engine under the hood again this weekend. This will be a big test for that engine, as Ford execs have said that it will allow the teams to tape up the grill more, creating more downforce. More power and better handling? That’s a tempting combination. We’ll see how that plays out Sunday.
Jeff Burton: Burton’s average start in his last six Texas starts is somewhere in the mid 20s, but his average finish is a shade under 7.2. Look for Burton to qualify relatively poorly as always, and work his way through the field during the middle portions of the race. And don’t forget, the RCR cars were pretty good at Charlotte.
Drivers to Watch Out For:
Kasey Kahne: Given his success on 1.5 mile tracks, it’s surprising to realize that Kahne has struggled at Texas, but in the last six Texas Races, Kahne hasn’t finished higher than 18th. He’ll probably run the R6 engine because he’s so far out of contention, so he’ll have a better power plant under the hood, but at the same time, Kahne’s probably biding his time until 2010 when he can use the new Ford engine. (And if we really want to speculate, 2011, when he joins Stewart-Haas Racing)
Brad Keselowski: There’s nothing more than a hunch for this pick, and David Stremme made the timing of this move look pretty odd with his best run of the season at Talladega. I do think there will be a bit of an adjustment for Keselowski as he runs a Penske COT for the first time, and with Denny Hamlin out of the Chase, there’s a chance that he could take out some frustration on Brad on the track.
Sam Hornish Jr.: What the heck is up with Slammin’ (into walls) Sammy? He’s been absolutely brutal since finishing eighth at Richmond, with just two top 20s in the last seven races. Heck, he’s become so irrelevant that he got the “oh, Sam Hornish has taken his car to the garage” treatment last week at Talladega when he retired with an engine problem.
Stone Cold Lock of the Week:
Jeff Gordon: Someone needs to make a race of this Chase if NASCAR wants to have any drama whatsoever at Homestead and Phoenix, so it might as well be Gordon. He’s finally figured out what it takes to win at TMS, and he’s obviously going to have the equipment capable of a season sweep. Of course, with the way things have gone lately, even if Gordon wins the race, Jimmie will finish second, so any points gain will be minimal. (For the record, I’m not against Jimmie winning a fourth straight title, I just wish, along with a lot of other people, that there was a little more drama in this Chase. When there are even whispers about going back to the old system because it would be more competitive, that’s when you know you have a snoozer on your hands.)
To Watch: Newman 36th, Ky. Busch 15th, Vickers 13th
To Watch Out: Martin 28th, Truex 31st, Waltrip 7th
Stone Cold Lock: Earnhardt Jr 11thNo Comment