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Notes: Mistakes Will Separate Contenders In 2013 Chase

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 1 2013

Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth will be hoping to avoid mistakes at Texas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, the top two drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, will shadow one another when the green flag waves over Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.

Five-time Cup champion Johnson will roll off third for Sunday’s 334-lap event. Matt Kenseth will line up on the next row, in sixth.

“I don’t think there’s a weakness for either team right now,” Johnson said, after touring the 1.5-mile oval at 195.943 mph. “We’re probably going to finish by each other. If somebody has a mistake, I think that will be the deciding factor. But other than that, I think we’re going to run right around each other for these next three races.”

Ford drivers Carl Edwards and defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski will start on the front row.

Kyle Busch’s long-shot bid to get back into Chase contention likely came to a screeching halt following a disappointing 15th-place finish at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.

The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is fifth in the Chase standings, but 36 points behind co-leaders Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.

“It’s a little disappointing the way we ran at Martinsville,” Busch said. “We certainly didn’t hope for that obviously. We have run well there in the past and I think that’s the first time I finished out of the top-five in a few times of going there. That was frustrating for us and we tried something new, tried something different and it just didn’t quite work for us.

“It’s certainly going to be a lot tougher now than what it had been and obviously we’re going to have to have some luck on our side and the other guys aren’t going to be able to have luck on their side. If you have bad luck with the front two then that’s going to bring five guys back into it I feel like.”

Darrell Wallace Jr. made great strides to tear down racial barriers when he became the first black driver to win a NASCAR event in one of the top series in five decades on last Saturday at Martinsville.

Wallace, the driver of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 54 Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, seemed willing to take on the role of being a trailblazer when he met the media at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday.

“It’s huge, and for me, it’s very important for our sport is to bring in a new face,” he said of his victory. “But for me, what’s important is running up front and trying to help that. I’m trying to let that settle in with the good finishes and running up front and wins kind of take care of that.

“Not as far as myself, but that’s kind of how I go about it. If I can continue to do that and get people involved if I’m winning, that gets a kid to want to get involved which means his parents have to get involved, which means they’re going to tell other people that they’re getting involved and then all of a sudden you have a whole family involved before you know it.

“If that doesn’t help, then I just don’t know. I’m going to continue to run up front and try to run up front.”

If Kenseth and Johnson slip, Jeff Gordon is ready to pounce in the Chase.

The four-time Cup champion surged to third in the standings and is just 29 points out of the lead with his win at Martinsville on Sunday.

It was Gordon’s first victory at the paperclip-shaped track in eight years. The win includes a famous grandfather track from the historic track in southern Virginia.

“I don’t even know if we have taken delivery of it yet, maybe we have,” said Gordon, who explained that the clock in victory lane on Sunday was a prop. “We have not made any decisions with it just yet. Certainly want to put it somewhere where the team can view it and enjoy it.

“My offices are right above where the No. 24 and (Kasey Kahne’s) shop are. Maybe we can find a way to display it where everybody on the team can look at it.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 1 2013
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