Friday, November 4, 2011

AAA Texas 500 Preview

By Micah Roberts

Only three races to go until we see someone new hoisting the trophy (Getty)
We’ve got three races to go in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship with Carl Edwards holding an 8-point lead over Tony Stewart. Martinsville became almost the type of wild card Talladega was with Brad Keselowski (-27 points) and Matt Kenseth (-36) getting shuffled back due to poor finishes despite running well throughout.

The big winner in the entire deal last week was Stewart who won his third race of the Chase, his only three wins of the entire season. The Las Vegas Hilton Super Book made a massive adjustment on Stewart going from 9-to-2 following Talladega to now being even money to win the title. Edwards went from a-160 favorite to -120 following Stewart’s win.

The big winner in all of this may have been Edwards, who finished ninth at Martinsville despite it not being one of his favorite tracks. Not only does he have an 8-point lead, but the final three races of the season are all tracks that he does exceptionally well at.

Beginning with this week’s race at Texas, Edwards has three wins there in 13 starts and finished third in the first race held there in April. To close the season out, all Edwards will have to do is run well at Phoenix and Homestead, two tracks that he won at to close the year out last season.

After getting his third win of the Chase and getting nearer to Edwards in points, Stewart laid down the gauntlet.

"He'd better be worried," Stewart said of Edwards, "that's all I can say. He's not going to have an easy three weeks."

Stewart's charging hard and has a great car this week (Getty)
Stewart finished 12th in the first Texas race, but it might be wiser to look at what he’s done more recently on the 1.5-mile tracks, preferably the high banked sister tracks of Atlanta and Charlotte. While winning on the flatter Chicago track to start the Chase, Stewart also finished eighth at Charlotte and third at Atlanta in the last two months.

Edwards was able to better Stewart on average just a little on the two sister tracks getting a third and fifth-place finish respectively.

Edwards also has his Las Vegas win from early in the season to go off which runs similar to Texas. Ironically, Edwards got that win due to some back luck in the pits on Stewart’s final stop. Stewart had that race thoroughly dominated and is using the same car this week.

“Texas is one of our strong points," said Edwards. "I feel really good about going there, especially the way our Roush Fenway Fords run there.Texas is different than any track we go to just because of the atmosphere. It’s one of the biggest races of the year. The fans, sponsors and drivers all know it, there is a lot on the line and there is a lot of pride in winning a race there.”

The winner of the first Texas race this season, who also won at Charlotte three weeks ago, was Matt Kenseth. Despite his chances of winning a second championship appearing to be gone, Kenseth should run as one of the favorites this week based on his recent and past history at Texas, not to mention he's using the same winning chassis from Charlotte.

No one has more consistent at Texas than Kenseth. Along with his two wins, he also has four runner-up finishes keeping in line with a long standing tradition of Jack Roush cars running well in the Lone Star state. A Roush driver won the first two races ever held there and since then has visited the winner’s circle with three other drivers.

Denny Hamlin swept both Texas races last season, but he hasn’t been a real contender in any 1.5-mile tracks this season. Jimmie Johnson got his only Texas win in 2007 and has had three runner-up finishes since, but hasn’t finished better than eighth in his last two starts. he's be using his winning Kansas chassi this week. Look for Jeff Gordon to well on the basis of his Atlanta win.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #17 Matt Kenseth (7/1)
2) #99 Carl Edwards (6/1)
3) #14 Tony Stewart (8/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
5) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)

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