Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Texas Storylines: 2013 AAA Texas 500

Matt Kenseth is very good at Texas, maybe best
NASCAR Storylines for Week of Oct. 28, 2013

Everything’s said to be bigger in Texas and very little looms larger than this year’s edition of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ arriving Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Championship heavyweights Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson enter the AAA Texas 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM Satellite Radio) in a dead heat. Each has scored 2,294 points, the deadlock unprecedented in Chase history with three races remaining.

Kenseth technically is the standings leader, a tie broken by his seven season victories to Johnson’s five. The 2003 champion, like Johnson, has won twice at the 1.5-mile speedway.

The Texas Chase race has been pivotal in all five of Johnson’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. Finishes of second and first in 2006-07 gave Johnson the points lead. He retained his No. 1 position in 2008-10.

Kenseth and Johnson continue to distance themselves from all but one pursuer. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who entered the postseason as the Chase’s final seed, closed to 27 points with his 88th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Following a two-weekend break, the NASCAR Nationwide Series teams return for the final three races of the 2013 season beginning with Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Austin Dillon holds a slim, eight-point championship advantage over Sam Hornish Jr. A tight owners’ title struggle pitting Joe Gibbs Racing against Penske Racing continues as well.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Jeb Burton goes for a Texas Motor Speedway season sweep in Friday’s WinStar World Casino 350k (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Burton, however, trails Ryan Blaney and last weekend’s Martinsville winner Darrell Wallace Jr. in the rookie standings.


Most Wins May Determine 2013 Championship

Advantage – Matt Kenseth? Kenseth has scored the same number of points, 2,294, as rival Jimmie Johnson. The Wisconsin driver, however, currently holds the tie-breaker by virtue of his seven season victories to Johnson’s five. The Chase era’s previous closest contest with three races remaining came a year ago when Johnson led ultimate champion Brad Keselowski by two points.

Texas Solidified Four of Johnson’s Five Title Runs
Jimmie Johnson entered Texas Motor Speedway’s Chase race with the points lead in four previous seasons and closed the deal in three – 2008 through 2010. The Fort Worth track also was pivotal in Johnson’s other two championship campaigns. He took the points lead from Matt Kenseth in 2006 and Jeff Gordon in 2007 with finishes of second and first, respectively.

Gordon Closing But Does He Have Enough Time?
Twenty-seven points down with three races to go, Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon likely needs help from Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson to claim a fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Gordon has one victory at Texas Motor Speedway (2009) as well as two poles. Six DNFs, however, have pushed up his average finish to 17.0. Gordon fell out of April’s race with suspension damage and finished 38th.

Harvick’s Title Hopes May Hinge On Elusive Texas Victory
Kevin Harvick’s sixth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway was good – but not good enough. Harvick lost ground to Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson as well as a share of third place in the standings. Harvick needs to rebound with a victory and that would be a first at Texas Motor Speedway for the driver of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Childress has one NASCAR Sprint Cup race win at the 1.5-mile track, with Jeff Burton in 2007.

Kyle Busch Dominated Season’s Spring Lone Star Race
Kyle Busch’s championship hopes didn’t end in Martinsville but a 15th-place finish didn’t improve Busch’s chances. Texas offers redemption for the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who won from the pole and led 171 of 334 laps when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited in April. Busch finished third in last year’s Fort Worth Chase race.

RFR Pair Retain Texas Favorites’ Role As Title Hopes Dim
With this year’s Chase winding down, the hungriest drivers may be those whose postseason hasn’t gone exactly to plan. Greg Biffle (eighth) and Carl Edwards (10th) effectively are out of the championship hunt. Both, however, are favorites to win the AAA Texas 500. Edwards has won three times in Texas; Biffle twice. Roush Fenway Racing counts nine victories at the track.


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