|Gordon makes his 28th start at Texas - only driver to start every Texas race|
The top candidate to win at Texas Motor Speedway according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook's odds is Kevin Harvick at 9-to-2. In 23 starts at Texas, Harvick has never won, but his prowess on the nine 1.5-mile tracks already run at this season -- where he's led hundreds of laps -- makes him an easy favorite.
On the last race at a 1.5-mile track (Charlotte), Harvick led 162 laps and took the checkers for the first time in 2014 -- it was the first time a non-Penske Racing or Hendrick Motorsports driver won on a 1.5-mile track. Harvick uses a Hendrick Chevy engine for his Stewart-Haas team. He's the driver to beat coming in before any qualifying or practice sessions.
If we look back on the previous nine races held on 1.5-mile tracks this season, you'll see that Penske has five wins and the Hendrick engine has four wins. Don't look for that to change this week. Because of a poor run at Martinsville, Harvick and Brad Keselowski are almost in a situation where they have to win to advance, and we saw what Keselowski could do in the crunch at Talladega.
Here's a look at where the Chasers stand and what they've done at Texas (deficit in parenthesis):
1). Jeff Gordon: With Earnhardt Jr. winning last week, it opens up this round for drivers that can points race as only two immediate tickets to Homestead can be punched. Gordon has the points lead and a 2009 Texas win under his belt. He's been strong on 1.5-mile tracks all season, so no reason to doubt he'll be top-5 again.
2). Ryan Newman (-3): He's the feel-good story of the Chase and comes in having finished 15th or better in his last seven races on 1.5-mile tracks. His 2003 win here is long gone, but his championship chances are better than ever. He's also won at Phoenix.
3). Joey Logano (-4): He took the checkers in the April race and also won at Kansas. The Penske power is a tough animal as they've won five races on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
4). Matt Kenseth (-5): He's a two-time winner here and has a career legacy at stake. He doesn't have the horsepower to compete with the heavyweights, but he may be able to point himself into the points Chase with another top-5 run.
5). Denny Hamlin (-8): This guy swept the season in 2010 and his team/crew is getting better. The No. 11 team comes off a disappointing eighth-place finish at Martinsville, but the Gibbs cars have been getting stronger. Look for another finish of eighth or better.
6). Carl Edwards (-20): He has three Texas wins, but none since a 2008 sweep. Roush-Fenway Racing has been awful on this type of track over the past season. Edwards doesn't look so hot on the competitive balance landscape so far.
7). Brad Keselowski (-31): We saw him do it at Talladega and we might see him win at either Texas or Phoenix to advance -- two places where he's never won. He has three wins at 1.5-mile tracks and two others on flat tracks similar to Phoenix such as Richmond and New Hampshire. He was runner-up in 2012 for his best Texas finish, which also was a prelude to 'The guy is insane and comes up big in money situations.'
8). Kevin Harvick (-33): All this guy does is lead laps, and he's been the most impressive on 1.5-mile tracks despite only one win on such a track to show for it (he has three wins overall this season). He is the top candidate to win this week and it's quite understandable.
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