Monday, April 9, 2012

Texas Samsung Mobile 500 Storylines

Texas Two-Step boogie-woogie (Getty)
And…we’re back.

Though not ALL of NASCAR racing took a complete break during the Easter weekend, each of the three national series did. But each one returns, and in grand fashion.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing returns to primetime this Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway for the first time since the rescheduled Daytona 500. The Samsung Mobile 500 starts at 7:30 p.m. ET. NASCAR’s premier series starts under the lights in four of the next six events, and will end under the lights in five of the next seven.

After a two-week break, the NASCAR Nationwide Series returns, also at Texas Motor Speedway for Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

A rarity, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will cap off the racing weekend, with NASCAR’s much-anticipated return to Rockingham Speedway in Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 Presented by Cheerwine.

Storylines for all three series follow…


Texas: Roush's House
Kenseth has the best average finish at Texas
Roush Fenway Racing has two cars in the top four and all three in the top 12. Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth (along with Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.) is 12 points behind teammate and points leader Greg Biffle while last season’s standings runner up Carl Edwards is 12TH. Kenseth and Biffle are two of only three drivers to have three top-five finishes. (Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the other.)

Momentum aside, the Roush stable has good reason to look forward to this weekend. Kenseth won this race last season, and Roush has eight victories at Texas overall – more than twice the second-place owner on the TMS wins list.

Hamlin Win In The Bag After Being On The Bag?
Pretty soon, golfers everywhere will hammer Denny Hamlin’s inbox for tips. Hamlin caddied for Bubba Watson during last week’s Par 3 Tournament at Augusta National, the ceremonial precursor to the year’s first major tournament. A few days later, Watson won The Masters.

Will Hamlin’s fortune mirror Watson’s this weekend at Texas? Signs point to “sure, why not?”

Hamlin swept the two Texas race in 2010, so past success is prevalent. And not he has a not-so-secret weapon: Darian Grubb. Grubb won last year’s Texas Chase race with driver Tony Stewart.

Earnhardt Returns To Scene Of First Triumph
Junior hopes to break a winless streak this week (Getty)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been stuck on win No. 18 for 135 races. Could this weekend’s site finally signal the end?

Earnhardt nabbed his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway on April 2, 2000. So there’s good memories, and great momentum.

He has three top-three finishes (and four top 10s overall), which has moved him to second in the points. The last time he was this high in the points late in the season was 2008, the season he last won. The last time Earnhardt held the points lead was October 2004.

Of course, an Earnhardt win this weekend would be extra special. Hendrick Motorsports has a mini-win drought on its hands – 12 races have passed since its last win. The organizations next victory would be No. 200.

Mikey Likes It
Michael Waltrip Racing still has three drivers in the top 10 in owner points and two in the top nine in the driver standings. Martin Truex Jr. is one of four drivers with four top-10 finishes, along with Biffle, Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.

Truex’s surge shouldn’t surprise many. The New Jersey native finished the 2011 season with five top 10s in the last six races.

Wild Cards, Anyone: Kahne Leads Crop Of Big Guns Who Need Wins, Badly
A fourth finish outside the top 25 has landed Kasey Kahne outside the top 30 in points. His hopes of climbing into the top 10 in the next 20 races seems slim. So what now? The Wild Card, that’s what.

After race No. 26, the top 10 in points will earn a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Spots 11 and 12 will go to those drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins, provided they are in the top 10.

Kahne isn’t the only “big name” driver outside the top 20: Gordon is 21st, Jamie McMurray is 24th and Kurt Busch is 26th.

Who’s The Fastest?
Greg Biffle's 193.736 mph last fall won the Coors Light Pole Award and was the fastest lap of the season in qualifying. For this year's Daytona 500, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards turned a lap of 194.738 mph for the Coors Light Pole. If Texas wants to keep its title as fastest track, Friday's pole-sitter will need to do just over a mph faster. The track record is 196.235 mph.

One Position The Difference Between Locked In And Qualify On Speed
The No. 83 owned by Thomas Ueberall and driven by Landon Cassill is in the field at Texas Motor Speedway on April 14 by the slimmest of margins: one point and one finishing position. That’s the difference between the 35th and 36th positions in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owners’ championship standings following the season’s sixth race at Martinsville Speedway. The No. 10 owned by Tommy Baldwin and shared by David Reutimann and Danica Patrick is 36th and must qualify its way into the Samsung Mobile 500.

The ongoing battle over a top-35 ranking currently is a three-way battle. Richard Childress’ No. 33 Chevrolet is four points to the good in 34th – but that’s good enough, at least for now.

- NASCAR Media Services

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