Wednesday, April 6, 2016

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Notes heading to Texas

Who can stop Jimmie Johnson this week at Texas?

Busch Clocks In First At Martinsville, Readies For Texas

Kyle Busch earned his first win of the season and his first career checkered flag at Martinsville Speedway when he led 352 of 500 laps on his way to Victory Lane in Sunday’s STP 500. Busch virtually guarantees himself a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the fifth different driver to win this season (Jimmie Johnson, 2; Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin).

The only current NSCS tracks where Busch hasn’t won are Kansas, Pocono and Charlotte. He has visited Victory Lane at every current XFINITY Series track at which he has at least one start except Watkins Glen. The Las Vegas native has 35 career NSCS wins.

Busch leads all drivers with five top-five finishes this season. He ranks tied with Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards for the most top 10s with five.

The No. 18 Toyota driver will go for his second straight win in Saturday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. on FOX). In the last four races at TMS, he has the best average finish (3.7).

In case you missed it, check out this viral video of Kyle Busch signing a hat for a fan while leaving the race track.

Johnson Texas Ranger: No. 48 Chevrolet Driver Goes For Fourth Straight Win In Lone Star State
Chuck Norris wears Jimmie Johnson pajamas.

The No. 48 Chevrolet driver is the real Texas Ranger.

Johnson boasts the track records at Texas Motor Speedway in wins (6) top 10s (19), average finish (8.4), laps led (1,023) and driver rating (108.0). He ranks tied with Matt Kenseth for the most top fives with 13.

In Saturday’s Duck Commander 500, Johnson will go for his fourth consecutive victory in the Lone Star State. He has won five of the last seven races at Texas Motor Speedway, including four of the last five.

Winning again will be a tough task for Johnson. In the Texas race last fall, he had to run down a dominant Brad Keselowski car with four laps remaining. He also has to contend with Kevin Harvick, who leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 18 top-two finishes at intermediate tracks since 2015 (Johnson ranks second with 10).

Through the first six races of this season, Johnson is the only two-time winner (Atlanta, Auto Club).

Click here for an infographic on Johnson’s performance at TMS.

Dallas Star: Kenseth Can Turn Around Season At Fort Worth

By Matt Kenseth’s standards, the 2016 season hasn’t started very well.

In the first six races he only has one top 10 (seventh at Phoenix), despite leading laps in five of the six races this season (for a total of 144).

Luckily for Kenseth, his panacea has arrived – Texas Motor Speedway.

In 26 starts at the 1.5-mile track, Kenseth owns two wins, 13 top fives (tied for first in course history with Jimmie Johnson) and 17 top 10s.

Loop data indicates Kenseth has been the victim of bad luck and his performance will improve. Though he ranks 14th in points, his 97.9 driver rating and 10.4 average running position rank sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Cowboy Up: Dillon Leads RCR Into Texas

Austin Dillon continued his strong start last Sunday to what looks like will be a career season.

He placed fourth in the STP 500 after starting 29th. Dillon now has a career-high two top fives on the season. His four top 10s are one less than his career-best mark of five set last year.

And the NASCAR season is only six races old.

Dillon wasn’t the only bright spot for his Richard Childress Racing team at “The Paperclip.” His teammates Paul Menard and Ryan Newman finished eighth and 10th, respectively, for their first top 10s of the season.

Dillon leads the RCR contingent to Texas Motor Speedway where he finished a track career-best 11th last fall. He will attempt to improve on his eighth-place position on the Chase Grid.

Team Penske Tries To Continue Texas Success

The Team Penske tandem of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will try to continue its strong performance at Texas Motor Speedway in Saturday’s Duck Commander 500.

Keselowski led a record 312 of 334 laps in last year’s fall race at TMS, but he was passed by Jimmie Johnson with four go-arounds remaining, and finished second.

In his last seven starts at the 1.5-mile track, Keselowski claims six top-10 finishes, including a top-five showing in each of his last three races there.

Logano visited Victory Lane at Texas in the 2014 spring race and is the only driver not named Jimmie Johnson to take the checkered flag there since Kyle Busch in spring of 2013.

If Saturday’s contest comes down to a late caution, don’t be surprised to see Logano in the mix again. He is the fastest active driver on restarts at Texas (180.190 mph).

’Dinger Zings To Top Finish At Martinsville

AJ Allmendinger scored his best finish since his 2014 win at Watkins Glen when he placed second on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The No. 47 Chevrolet driver trailed winner Kyle Busch by a mere 0.663 seconds.

“Well, I was hoping for one more spot, but man that was a lot of fun,” Allmendinger said. “I passed Jimmie Johnson like five times at Martinsville. That is pretty freaking cool. I just can’t thank everybody on this team enough.”

The result marked the fourth time in his career Allmendinger has finished in the top 10 in two consecutive races. He has never placed in the top 10 three times in a row – a feat he will attempt to achieve in Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Allmendinger jumped seven spots from 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings to 12th following the race.

Right On Target: Larson Logs Third-Place Paperclip Finish

Kyle Larson did at Martinsville what the North Carolina basketball team struggled to do on Monday night.

He rebounded.

Two weeks after placing 39th at Auto Club due to a wreck, Larson finished third at Martinsville, moving up 14 spots from his 17th starting position.

Prior to Sunday, the NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity (operated by Rev Racing) alumnus never finished higher than 19th at Martinsville in four previous starts there. His Sunday showing was his top effort this year since finishing seventh in the Daytona 500.

“In the past it's been my worst race track on the schedule, so to get a top-three finish here feels great, feels like a win to be honest, and hopefully this is a good momentum shift that we need,” Larson said. “We've been struggling all year long so far and been working hard, but it hasn't paid off.”

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver will attempt to build momentum at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. He struggled at TMS last season with finishes of 25th and 37th, respectively, but placed fifth and seventh at the 1.5-mile oval in 2014.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Fan Vote Now Open

NASCAR fans are invited to cast their votes for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 by participating in the annual Fan Vote on

Fans are encouraged to vote for five of the 20 nominees for the Class of 2017. The top-five vote-getters, as voted upon by the fans, will make up one of the ballots from the Voting Panel that will be used to tabulate the results for the NHOF Class of 2017 on Voting Day, Wednesday, May 25.

Voting is open now and closes at 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, May 23.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.

Back In Texas: Buescher Readies For Second Start At Hometown Track

Chris Buescher, a native of Prosper, Texas, returns to his hometown track for his first start there as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. Buescher placed 30th at Texas last spring, moving up 10 spots from his 40th starting position in only his third NSCS start. The 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion currently ranks fourth in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.

Six Texans have won a NSCS race: Terry Labonte (22), Bobby Labonte (21), A.J. Foyt (7), Billy Wade (4), Bobby Hillin Jr. (1) and Johnny Rutherford (1).

Did You Know?

In its infield, Texas Motor Speedway can fit the stadiums of both of the Lone Star State’s NFL Football teams (Cowboys, Texans), its two MLB teams, its three NBA squads, and Texas A&M’s Kyle Field. The infield spans 84 acres and houses the Guinness World Record-recognized world’s largest TV – “Big Hoss.”


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