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Race Day: It’s Around No. 8 Of Chase

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 8 2009
Texas Motor Speedway host today's Sprint Cup race. It's a fan and driver favorite. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Texas Motor Speedway host today's Sprint Cup race. It's a fan and driver favorite. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Another Chase weekend and another oval race. Some think that should change, that a road race should be included in the 10-race playoff, if for no other reason, to break up the monotony.

You would think those people would have the vehement support of one of the best road racers of all time, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Those people, it turns out, would be disappointed.

Montoya, one of the best at racing the twisties in the NASCAR garages, says he loves road racing – but not in 3,400-pound stock cars.

This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, site of today’s Dickies 500, Montoya was asked if a stock car could run at some of the Formula One venues.

He had short answer: “No.”

No? Why not?

“I wouldn’t take it to a road course at all to be honest. I’ve driven race cars like Formula One on road courses and open wheels on road courses. This is fun on an oval. This is not much fun on a road course personally. It’s kind of weird. I know a lot of people love road courses because it’s different from what you do all year and from a perspective its fun and the racing is cool but these cars really shine on an oval. Places like here or Atlanta or Miami.”

Montoya was asked how Cup cars could be made to be more suitable to road racing.

“Take about 2,000 pounds out of the car and add another 2,000 pounds of down force and they’ll drive really well on the road course.”

Fast facts

What: Dickies 500
Where: Texas Motor Speedway; Fort Worth
When: Sunday, 3:15 p.m. ET
TV: ABC, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval
Race distance: 334 laps/501 miles
Estimated pit window: 50-55 laps
Qualifying: Friday, 4:40 p.m. ET
2008 winner: Carl Edwards
2008 polesitter: Jeff Gordon
2009 polesitter: Jeff Gordon

Points leaders: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 6,248; 2. Mark Martin, 6,064; 3. Jeff Gordon, 6,056; 4. Juan Pablo Montoya, 6,009; 5. Tony Stewart, 5,969; 6. Kurt Busch, 5,936; 7. Greg Biffle, 5,908; 8. Ryan Newman, 5,846; 9. Kasey Kahne, 5,834; 10. Carl Edwards, 5,811; 11. Denny Hamlin, 5,800; 12. Brian Vickers, 5,697.

Texas trivia

Two-parter. Which driver has led the most laps in Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway? And who has the most DNFs? (Answer below)

New career begins

Three races remain in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, but for most teams, 2010 preparations have been under way for some time.

Penske Racing made one of the more visible moves this week with its announcement that Brad Keselowski will take over the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge for the rest of the season.

Keselowski already was to succeed David Stremme in that seat in 2010. Doing so now was deemed important for momentum’s sake.

“Penske Racing wants to give Brad an opportunity to work with the team and get to know the race car as we prepare for the 2010 season,” owner Roger Penske said. “These three races will provide a good base for both Brad and the team as we head into next year. Penske Racing also thanks David Stremme for his contributions to the team this year. We wish David the very best moving forward.”

Stremme, who finished 22nd last Sunday at Talladega, ends his tenure with 33 Penske starts.

Keselowski, who won the spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega for owner James Finch, has run 12 series races this season, five for Finch and seven for Hendrick Motorsports.

He’s currently in third place in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings, running a full schedule for the Hendrick-supported JR Motorsports.

Next year marks the first full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup season for Keselowski.

The key to Texas

Carl Edwards has three victories at the 1.5-mile TMS track.

Here is the secret to Texas successes, he said: “It takes a really, really good race car to win at Texas. That’s the bottom line. You have to have a very powerful engine and you’ve got to have a great aerodynamics package. Your crew chief and engineer have to have the car put together really well and sometimes you need great fuel mileage on top of that. It takes a lot to win in Texas.”

Victory Lane mayhem

Victory lane turns into the OK Coral after the race at Texas as six guns blaze away and cowboy hats filling the air.

Yep, partner, thanks to track president Eddie Gossage, Texas is unique after the race. The trophy is that neat carved cowboy boot thing and the winner now gets the guns.

Jeff Gordon, who won the spring race at TMS, was asked about his favorite trophies this week. It went like this:

Question: What would you say is the best trophy out there from any of these racetracks?

Gordon:  The best trophy? I mean, the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400. If you’re talking about just looking at the trophy, the ones here at Texas are cool.  Bristol is cool.  There’s some cool trophies out there. But as far as the ones that mean the most, those are the ones that mean the most.

Question: What about Martinsville?

Gordon: The clocks are very cool.  I think those are trophies that are going to stick with you and last a lifetime because they’re a great clock as well.

Question: Where are your clocks?

Gordon:  We have ‘em spread out.  We have some in the office.  I don’t have any at home.  But, you know, some crew chiefs have taken clocks.  Rick Hendrick.  Myself.  We have them spread around quite a bit.

Working fan

If Kurt Busch wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, he’ll be sharing space in Victory Lane with more than his crew.

Busch can make Oklahoman Michael McGee an instant millionaire if he wins the Dickies 500, Round 8 of NASCAR’s 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. McGee, an agricultural teacher and horse training businessman from Broken Bow, Okla., was selected from among six finalists as 2009 Dickies American Worker of the Year during the Professional Bull Riders World Finals in Las Vegas last month.

As the promotion’s designated winner, McGee received $50,000 and an all-access, VIP trip to the Dickies 500 race weekend. The package included all track activities surrounding NASCAR’s Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup series, a tour of the track’s garages, a view of the race from exclusive seats in the Dickies suite and the chance to turn his $50,000 windfall into $1 million.

McGee randomly selected Busch, one of 12 drivers competing in the Chase, to move him into a higher tax bracket. Driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger fielded by Penske Racing, Busch is sixth in the Cup points standings led by three-time/reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports.

The season in review:

– 14 different race winners
– 10 different Coors Light Pole winners
– 42 drivers led at least one lap
– 35 drivers have scored at least one Top 10 this year
– Average Margin of Victory of 1.138 seconds
– 16 races with an MOV under one second
– Average of 10 leaders per race
– Average of 20 lead changes per race
– Average of 25 green flag passes for the lead all along the track
– Average of 3,131 green flag passes per race
– 53 percent  of the cars finished on the lead lap
– 83 percent of the cars were running at the finish

Milestones

Casey Mears will make his 250th series start Sunday. Corpus Christi, Texas native Bobby Labonte (No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet) could earn his 200th series top 10, becoming the 26th driver to do so.

Trivia answer:

Matt Kenseth has lead 498 laps at TMS. Joe Nemechek has the most DNFs at TMS with five.

Up Next: Phoenix International Raceway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads next to Phoenix International Raceway for next Sunday’s Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil (ABC, 2:30 p.m.)

It’s also the ninth and penultimate event in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Jimmie Johnson is the defending race winner. He also won last year’s pole.

Johnson has won three of the last four series races at Phoenix, including a sweep of both events last season. He leads all drivers with those three wins there. Ryan Newman leads all drivers with four Phoenix poles.

Mark Martin, who won there in April, leads all drivers with 10 top fives and 16 top 10s at Phoenix.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 8 2009
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