Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Texas Betting Preview: 2019 AAA Texas 500

Kyle Busch has three Cup wins at Texas.
There are dozens of juicy storylines coming into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway that heighten the anticipation for the second of three races in the Round of 8. One driver, Martin Truex Jr., has already clinched one of the Championship 4 berths and the seven other eligible drivers to participate for the 2019 Cup Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17 will fight it out for the three other spots.

And fight it isn’t just a loose term thrown out there. Two championship contenders went after it last week at Martinsville, or at least their crews did. Joey Logano wasn’t happy with the way Denny Hamlin pinned his car to the wall last week. He talked with Hamlin after the race and it looked civil at first, but as Logano was about to leave the conversation, he shoved Hamlin and then walked away, and then it was on.

Logano still ended up finishing eighth so the big question is whether or not he thinks he needs to retaliate at Texas or Phoenix in an attempt to end Hamlin’s championship hopes the way Matt Kenseth did to Logano in 2015. The way I see it is that Hamlin still owes Logano a few more paybacks in a rivalry that includes spinning Hamlin at 200 mph at Fontana in 2013 that resulted in Hamlin hitting the wall hard and breaking his back. He missed four races because of it.

It would be a shame if Logano tries to damage Hamlin’s championship run, and it’s not only because I’m holding a 25/1 futures ticket on him to win the title. It’s because Hamlin is having the season of his career with a 9.2 average finish and a series-leading 18 top-fives. He comes into Texas confident after winning there in the March race, his third Texas win.

“It would certainly help, clinching a spot to move on and not have to worry about it in Phoenix,” Hamlin said. “We’re all going to work as hard as we can to prepare and position ourselves to end up in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway.”

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has Hamlin listed at 7/1 odds along with four other drivers with Kyle Busch and Truex co-favorites at 5/1 odds.

With a win, Hamlin would become the only driver to ever sweep a season at Texas, twice. Jimmie Johnson (2015), Carl Edwards (2008), and Hamlin (2010) are the only three to sweep Texas.

A good reason to support a Hamlin wager this week is that he has three wins in the 16 races using this week’s race package with cars having aero ducts and engines producing 550 horsepower. No other driver has more with it. The last race using it was also the last race on a 1.5-mile track at Kansas two weeks ago and Hamlin won.

Another driver not a Logano fan is Kevin Harvick, who is also listed at 7/1 odds to win and the reason to support him begins with it being the playoffs and Harvick currently outside looking in while sitting fifth in points. Of all the clutch moments in the playoffs I can remember, it seems like they’re all Harvick wins.

“Clutch moments – there’s nothing like them,” Harvick said. “It’s one thing to dominate a race all day and win – that’s great. But, making a last-lap pass, an end-of-the-race pass or winning on a day when you’re not supposed to, there is just no better feeling than getting out of the car and looking at those guys. Having the rest of the field asking how was he able to win today.

“Those are the types of moments that I love to be a part of. We’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of those. That’s the adrenaline rush that comes with what we do. There is no better feeling than those particular moments.”

Two of those moments came the last two playoff races at Texas. Harvick won them both, the first two wins at Texas of his career which helped him qualify for his third and fourth Championship 4 in five chances, the first of which he won his lone Cup Championship in 2014. He’s currently on a run of 10 straight top-10s at Texas, which also includes three runner-ups.

Harvick was eighth in the Texas spring race, but his team hasn’t gotten much better with this particular race package since August. He’s won at Michigan and Indianapolis with it and was also runner-up with it at Las Vegas.

This particular round seems like it was almost hand crafted for Harvick because of his amazing active streak at Texas and also being the all-time leader at Phoenix nine wins. If he doesn’t win Sunday, he’s a good bet to win at Phoenix next week as the favorite.

Denny Hamlin is 7/1 to win at Texas

D enny Hamlin won the March 31 race at Texas.
Denny Hamlin
#11 FedEx Office Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing

Race Info:
Race: AAA Texas 500
Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 3/3:00 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 334 laps / 501 miles
Track Shape: Oval
Track Length: 1.5 Miles
Banking: 24 degrees
2018 Winner: Kevin Harvick

Express Notes:

Martinsville Recap:
Denny Hamlin earned a top-five finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, giving himself a second-place perch in the Playoff points after the first race of the Round of 8. The 500-lap race at the close-quartered short track featured its typical beating and banging – as well as some lengthy green-flag runs with no passing at all. Hamlin started from the pole in his #11 FedEx Freight Toyota and led the first 30 laps. But a couple of slow pit stops in the early stages dropped him farther back in the top 10. Reclaiming those spots proved difficult for the rest of the race, with the driver citing a lack of grip to make moves off the corners. The 263-mile race featured 11 caution flags, including three within the final 50 laps that repeatedly bunched up the leaders and allowed Hamlin to regain several spots and move into the top five. He crossed the finish line in fourth place as teammate Martin Truex Jr. took the victory after leading 464 of the 500 laps. Hamlin’s finish puts him second in Playoff points with two more races remaining before the championship field is pared to four.

Texas Motor Speedway for a 501-mile event on Sunday, Nov. 3. In his 27 starts at the Fort Worth track, Hamlin has three victories, including his second victory of the 2019 season. He and the FedEx #11 team look to repeat their past success this weekend at the 1.5-mile oval track.

Hamlin Statistics:
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Races: 27
Wins: 3
Poles: 0
Top-5: 7
Top-10: 13
Laps Led: 277
Avg. Start: 14.1
Avg. Finish: 13.2

Hamlin Conversation – Texas:

How are you feeling moving ahead to Texas after a long, challenging race at Martinsville?

“You always want to come away with a victory each time you hit the track, but we’ll take our top-five and move on. It was difficult to make up spots in Martinsville. Chris (Gabehart) and the team worked hard to give us a fast car, but we just weren’t able to pass our way back up to the front under the conditions. But, we’re in a good spot in the points, and we move on to a racetrack in Texas where we won earlier this year.”

With two races left in the Round of 8, how important is it for you to secure a victory this week in Texas?

“It would certainly help, clinching a spot to move on and not have to worry about it in Phoenix. We’re all going to work as hard as we can to prepare and position ourselves to end up in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway.”

FedEx Office Along for the Ride at Texas Motor Speedway: For the Texas race, FedEx Office will spotlight the efforts that went into its new internal online task management solution, My Action Planner, with the letters MAP on the B-post of the FedEx Office Toyota. The MAP App establishes a single repository for the vast majority of store-specific tasks and was the result of time, expertise and support from the managers and teams in Region 35 Heartland, District 38 Kansas City, Region 48 Ohio Valley and District 70 Pittsburgh.

Busch & Logano are riding long droughts

Two of the season’s most competitive championship contenders, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, remain among the top four in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings heading into this week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. But both seem overdue to return to Victory Lane.

Busch, a four-race winner and the 2019 regular season champion, heads into the AAA Texas 500 ranked third in the Playoff standings, seven points behind second-place Denny Hamlin. He’s 20 points behind standings leader and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr., who has already secured a spot in the Championship 4 with his win last weekend at Martinsville.

Team Penske driver Logano is a two-race winner this season and challenged Busch for the regular season title. He is currently fourth in the Playoff standings, three points behind third-place Busch and 14 points ahead of fifth-place Kevin Harvick.

But for all their early season success, neither Busch nor Logano has won a race since June – taking the checkered flag in consecutive weekends. They each have only three top-10 showings through the opening seven races of the Playoffs and neither has earned top 10s in consecutive Playoff races.

Busch was the quickest driver to reach four victories this season, earning his fourth on June 2 at Pocono. His 1,375 laps led on the season are most in the series. And his average finish of 9.5 through the first 33 races is second best in the series to his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin (9.2).

Since his victory at Pocono, however, Busch has 11 top-10 finishes in 19 races. Eight times he finished a race lower than he started on the grid, including a pair of season-low 37th-place finishes at Indianapolis and the Charlotte ROVAL. His best Playoff showing was a runner-up at Richmond Raceway – the second race of the Playoffs – where he led a race-high 202 laps but finished runner-up to Truex by more than two seconds.

Logano earned his wins in March at Las Vegas and this summer at Michigan, where he won from the pole position. His average start (10.7) this season is third best behind only Harvick (9.0) and his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski (10.1). He has 10 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes on the season.

However, in the 18 races since his Michigan win on June 10, he has only two top-five and seven top-10 showings. Eleven times in those 18 races, Logano has finished worse than he’s started. His best Playoff showing is an eighth place last week at Martinsville.

Busch and Hamlin are tied with the most Texas wins (three) among the eight Playoff drivers, his last coming in the spring of 2018. Logano has one Texas win in the spring race in 2014. Busch has a pair of top 10s – including the win – in his last five Texas starts. Logano had a string of six consecutive top-10 finishes at Texas snapped this March, when he finished 17th.

Hamlin’s championship path

Denny Hamlin is 7/1 to win at Texas.
Denny Hamlin’s season has been an example of sustained excellence.

After winning the season-opening Daytona 500 – his second career victory in the sport’s most famous race – he has steadily answered with victories on a wide variety of venues and turned in convincing showings even when he hasn’t hoisted a trophy. He is the most recent winner at this week’s Texas Motor Speedway, he won on the unique Pocono 2.5-miler this summer, answered that with a win from the pole position at Bristol Motor Speedway and then won a Playoff race at the Kansas two weeks ago.

His five victories mark the second-largest single-season trophy haul for the 38-year old Virginian. He won eight times in his 2010 championship runner-up season. His 18 top-five finishes this year is a personal best and his 22 top-10 efforts ties a personal high set in 2016 and 2017. He has the most top-five finishes in the series and only Kyle Busch (24) and Kevin Harvick (23) have more top 10 results.

While some of his closest competitors are enduring months of winless efforts, Hamlin has been consistent - especially on his game for the Playoffs. He has five top-five finishes through the opening seven Playoff races, winning a pair of pole positions (at Dover and Martinsville) and notching that win at Kansas – his first there since 2012. He’s led 404 laps in the seven Playoff races – 51.9 percent of his entire season total (777).

Hamlin arrives in Fort Worth tied with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch for the most wins (three) there among the championship-eligible Playoff drivers. He’s had three top-10 finishes in the last eight Texas races and is one of only three drivers (Jimmie Johnson - 2015 and Carl Edwards - 2008) to score a season sweep at the track (2010).

High expectations for Harvick

Kevin Harvick is 7/1 to win at Texas. 
Kevin Harvick hasn’t celebrated in Victory Lane since a dominating victory in the regular season finale at Indianapolis on Sept. 8, but he’s been close. And the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford heads into the final two races of this Playoff round a heavy favorite to hoist hardware at either this week’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBSCN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) or next week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway.

Harvick, 43, earned all three of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories this season in a seven-race span starting with the New Hampshire mile in July and ending with the notoriously challenging Indianapolis 2.5-miler in September. Since Indianapolis, he’s had six top-10 finishes in the seven Playoff races, including a best showing of runner-up in the Las Vegas Playoff opener and a third place at the Charlotte ROVAL.

In total he’s had 12 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes and his five pole-winning efforts ties him with Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron for most on the season. His 8.96 average start is best in the series, and his 10.6 average finish is fourth-best.

Only championship leader Martin Truex Jr. has equaled Harvick’s Playoff top 10 effort. And only Truex (6.2) has a better Playoff average finish than Harvick (7.0).

But while Truex’s win last week at Martinsville Speedway secured a position in the Championship 4, Harvick rolls into Texas ranked fifth in the championship standings, 14 points behind fellow Ford driver Joey Logano in that all-important fourth position in the standings.

The encouraging news for Harvick is that he’s secured a position in the Championship 4 in four of the previous five years of this title format and actually won the first version of it in 2014.

The Californian isn’t just “good” at the upcoming tracks, his 11 combined wins is the most of any current Playoff driver at Texas (two) and Phoenix (nine) – a mark that ties seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (seven at Texas and four at Phoenix) for most among active drivers at the two venues.

Importantly, Harvick’s two wins at Texas have come at crucial times. He’s won the last two Playoff races there, securing his position to contend for the big trophy. He’s finished in the top-10 in the last 10 Texas races – with three runner-up finishes to compliment his two wins. In total at Texas he has 21 top-10 finishes in 33 starts – 64 percent of his races.

Should Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team continue on to Phoenix next week still looking for a Playoff win, he has the confidence of nine Phoenix victories, most in the field. His last Playoff win there came in 2014, the year Harvick won his series championship.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Kyle Busch is 5/1 co-favorite to win 2019 AAA Texas 500

Everything is Bigger in Texas

Kyle Busch is a 3-time winner at Texas.
HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Oct. 29, 2019) – As the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs hit the homestretch with Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’S Toyota team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) know all too well that “everything is bigger in Texas.”

Why is that the case? With just three races remaining in the Cup Series season, Busch and his team are very much in the championship battle, and a win Sunday at Texas would punch his ticket to the Championship 4 showdown at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.

In each of his last four playoff runs, Busch and his M&M’S team have successfully followed their blueprint to the Championship 4 at Homestead by steadily advancing through each playoff round via solid finishes. With his sights on his fifth straight visit to the Cup Series finale as championship eligible, Busch has been able to survive and advance through the first two rounds and into the current Round of 8, despite not having the playoffs he had hoped for by his team’s lofty standards.

Busch heads to Texas this weekend hoping to bring home his fourth career Cup Series win there. He’s certainly been trending in the right direction at the 1.5-mile oval with seven top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts there. He has 27 career Texas starts with 12 top-five finishes.

Along with his three Cup Series wins at Texas, Busch been a frequent visitor to victory lane in most everything he’s raced there. He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Xfinity Series wins at Texas from April 2008 to 2010 and added four more for a total of nine Xfinity Series wins there, including in his most recent visit there in April. Add his four NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series wins in November 2009, 2010, 2014, and 2019 and it’s no wonder Busch is feeling good about his chances of reaching victory lane yet again Sunday.

The Las Vegas native sits third in the playoff standings heading into Sunday’s second race of the Round of 8. Martin Truex Jr. punched his ticket to the four-driver, winner-take-all championship shootout at Homestead by virtue of his win at Martinsville last weekend. Now, Busch sits 17 points above the fifth-place cutline and will look to either solidify his position among the top four drivers in the playoff standings or, better yet, automatically punch his own ticket to the championship round with a win Sunday.

So while Busch and his M&M’S team look to add yet another signature cowboy hat and six-shooters as race winners in the Lone Star State to their trophy collection, Busch and his team will continue to follow the blueprint that got them to the Championship 4 during the last four playoff runs by shooting for at least a solid finish Sunday, but a win would certainly be bigger in Texas. If all goes according to plan, they once again may be the ones with a chance to hoist the Cup Series championship trophy down in South Florida in two weeks.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
Looking ahead to Texas, did you learn anything from Kansas Speedway that will transfer over to Texas, especially when it comes to restarts?

“Restarts in (turns) one and two are certainly treacherous, just the way the banking is not quite there to hold you like it used to be. The track ends are very different in three and four, different than one and two. You kind of see, especially with the Xfinity cars with the lower downforce, they have a bit more issues. We’ve seen some late-race restarts and some problems for some guys in that race a couple of times and, for us, it’s no different. We also have some of the same issues. We learned some things I think at Kansas that helped our car and hopefully we can transfer some of that knowledge to Texas and Homestead, as well, with our M&M’S Camry.”

What does it mean to win at Texas and take some of the pressure off before Homestead? Can that be a detriment, as well?

Certainly there’s some opportunity there to mess up or overthink things, but I believe any time you’re under pressure or under the amount of stress as what this round is to get yourself into the final four for Homestead, any time you can kind of take a step back and have a clear head is a good time, in my opinion. The pressure that sets in over these next two weeks if you’re behind the cutoff line and trying to get in or whatever, or if you’re right on the cusp of the cutoff line and trying to stay in, that can certainly wear on your team during the week. You try to have other things to do to kind of take your mind off of it a little bit but, overall, this is what we live, eat, breath, sleep, everything. It’s always on our mind.”

Do you have extra confidence knowing you’ve made it to the Championship 4 the last four years?

“I believe every year is a new year, but you certainly can’t forget what you’ve done and what’s gotten you to that point of being in the Championship 4. I do feel like the experience we’ve had and the times that we’ve been there, we can lean on some of that and some of those bullet points that have given us that success to be able to get to the final four and rely on that information over again. Some of these guys who haven’t made it there have made it to the Round of 8 but haven’t been able to transfer through. They’ve certainly learned some of the things of what not to do, but I feel like we just have to continue doing the things we know to do and hopefully that all comes to fruition.”

What’s it like trying to get back to the Championship 4 if you don’t win a championship the prior year?

“It’s a long time from championship to championship. It’s 365 days and it feels like an eternity when you look at it in a driver’s mind but, also from traveling so much, as much as we all do, it feels like a short time. We were just in Daytona, it feels like. This year, the JGR cars are good again, but you never know what is going to happen. It’s going to be a dogfight down to the end on whose able to bring it home and who’s able to get it at Homestead. It’s going to be an interesting battle, for sure, but I’d like to think we can fight them out all the way to the end and see where things fall.”

Aric Almirola is 80/1 to win 2019 AAA Texas 500

Almirolling to Texas

Aric Almirola finished 7th in spring Texas race.
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 29, 2019) – Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is set to compete for a win at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth this weekend. 

Almirola had an unusual start to the spring Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race there earlier this year when a stomach bug kept him up the night before. On race-day morning, he battled weakness and consumed a substantial amount of fluids. When the green flag waved, he was ready to go. The No. 10 Ford advanced to the top-four in the final stage and even led three laps before finishing seventh to earn his sixth consecutive top-10 of the season. 

“I didn’t sleep at all that night with a stomach bug,” Almirola said. “I was worn out. We don’t get to call in sick. That’s the challenging part of our job, occasionally. The flu or a cold or a stomach bug pops up and you’ve got to fight through it. We had a good car and we still got out of there with a top-10, which was our sixth in a row at the time. I was just happy to come home with a good finish after all of that.”

In 17 career Cup Series starts at Texas, the 35-year-old Almirola has three top-10 finishes and has led three laps. His three starts at Texas with SHR have resulted in two top-10 finishes. 

In addition to his Cup Series experience at Texas, Almirola has four NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, all top-20 finishes, and five laps led. He’s also made nine NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts at Texas with two top-10s and 14 laps led. 

After 33 races this season, Almirola has one pole, two top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and has led 118 laps. That adds to a career total of two wins, two poles, 17 top-five finishes, 60 top-10s and 475 laps led in 313 starts.

Last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Almirola started on the front row and piloted the Smithfield Ford in and around the top-five until an incident on lap 360 ended his day. 

“I really wanted that clock,” he said, referring to the traditional Martinsville grandfather clock trophy. “That was the first time in a while we had a legitimate shot to win it. I don’t know if we could have competed with the No. 78 (Martin Truex), but the guys brought me a rocket. At least we know we can bring a good car to Martinsville, which will definitely come into play next year if we can race to the final round of the playoffs.” 

Texas is the 30th event during which the Smithfield livery will adorn Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its eighth season with Almirola and its second with SHR. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.

Fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access in following “Aric ‘Beyond the 10’” by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Tune in this weekend for full access to Almirola’s playoff media day, NASCAR Burnout Boulevard and the Vegas race weekend. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

As the season comes to a close, Almirola sits 14th in the standings with 2,159 points, two behind 13th-place Kurt Busch.

Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What is the most difficult thing to get right or figure out at Texas Motor Speedway?

“I think the most difficult thing at Texas is that it’s repaved and they changed the banking in turns one and two, and it’s just the speed you carry through the banked corner of turns three and four, and then you have to get slowed down for the flat turns one and two. That has made it very challenging. Then, the exit of turn two is very flat, so you’re carrying some speed there and the car just doesn’t have a lot of grip because there isn’t any banking.” 

Why is it important to run well at Texas? 

“Well it’s important to run well everywhere, but Texas is a big one because it comes early in the season and late. You have the chance to lock into the playoffs early and, when you come back in the playoffs, you’re confident that you have a good shot to advance to the championship race. It’s a good feeling when you get that kind of confidence.”

Kevin Harvick is 7/1 to win 2019 AAA Texas 500

Going for the Hat Trick

Kevin Harvick has won the past two fall Texas races.
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 29, 2019) – A win in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth would lock Kevin Harvick in among the final four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff competitors and the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway two weeks hence.

Sounds daunting, but Harvick has won the last two fall races at Texas to lock himself into the previous two championship races.

To borrow a term from Don Cherry and Ron MacLean from the legendary show Hockey Night in Canada, Harvick is looking for the hat trick at Texas. In 2017, Harvick started third and led 38 laps en route to victory, and then came back in 2018 and dominated by leading 177 laps en route to taking the checkered flag first.

Those were Harvick’s first two career wins at Texas to go with his 10 top-threes, 21 top-10s, and he’s led a total of 495 laps in his 33 career Cup Series starts there.

His average Texas start is 16.2, his average finish is 10.7 and he has a lap-completion rate of 97.0 percent – 10,682 of the 11,008 laps available. Harvick has finished in the top-10 in 10 consecutive races at Texas. Six of those have been in the top-three, with the two wins.

Harvick’s car will have a bit of a different look at Texas as he’ll be driving the No. 4 Busch Beer Ducks Unlimited Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

The partnership between Busch and Ducks Unlimited builds on Anheuser-Busch’s longstanding commitment to creating a cleaner and more sustainable world for future generations. The company works closely with partners like Ducks Unlimited to ensure their commitments and programs drive meaningful change for the environment and contribute to a shared objective of a better world.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, the organization works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.

For every lap Harvick leads Sunday at Texas, Busch is going to donate $1,000 to Ducks Unlimited, up to $25,000.

The No. 4 team always supports Busch Beer and companies like Ducks Unlimited – and are hoping to put them in victory lane – and advance to the championship race in Homestead.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ducks Unlimited Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

Is it more difficult to win a championship now with this format?

“I think it’s just hard to get there. It’s not really the same. It’s definitely different, whether it’s harder or easier you could probably debate that. If you look at the old-style points, it’s a pretty good points battle if you did it how it was 15 years ago, but it’s just hard to get to Homestead and put it all together through the nine weeks leading up to that. That’s the most difficult part.”

Did you learn anything about restarts at Kansas that will help at Texas?

“We’ve learned a lot about restarts all year. Restarts are the name of the game to get yourself in a position with the way you have to race. Every week, every restart is important as you go to any racetrack.”

How has the dynamic of restarts changed?

“I’m classically trained over the last 20-some years in NASCAR racing, so my days of short-track classically trained are over. You try to be as aggressive as you can and the restarts are different than they used to be, just because you have to be so aggressive on them.”\

The playoffs are made for clutch moments. What does it mean to be clutch and what moment do you think defines that?

“Clutch moments – there’s nothing like them. It’s one thing to dominate a race all day and win – that’s great. But, making a last-lap pass, an end-of-the-race pass or winning on a day when you’re not supposed to, there is just no better feeling than getting out of the car and looking at those guys. Having the rest of the field asking how was he able to win today. Those are the types of moments that I love to be a part of. We’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of those. That’s the adrenaline rush that comes with what we do. There is no better feeling than those particular moments.”

Clint Bowyer is 60/1 to win 2019 AAA Texas 500

Aiming for One Spot Better in Texas This Time

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 28, 2019) – Improving one position is Clint Bowyer’s goal Sunday when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where Bowyer piloted his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Ford Mustang to a second-place finish on March 31 – the most recent Cup Series race on the ultra-fast, 1.5-mile oval.

After enjoying one of their most successful races by sweeping four of the top eight places, Bowyer and his SHR teammates return to Texas this weekend armed with Mobil 1 technology and a lot of positive thinking.

“Can you imagine if we were to win in Texas?” asked Bowyer, who celebrated with fans in the grandstands after winning at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March 2018. “We would make Texas the wildest victory lane you have ever seen. Throw in Mobil 1 and Rush Truck Centers folks and (track president) Eddie (Gossage) and all his people at Texas Motor Speedway, I guarantee it would be one of the best victory lane celebrations NASCAR fans have seen this season.”

Bowyer has plenty of incentive at Texas. It would mark his 11th career Cup Series victory and first at Texas, as well as his first of 2019. A two-time winner in 2018, Bowyer owns seven top-five finishes this season but has fallen short of a personal and team goal of visiting victory lane. He’s also battling to remain in the top-10 in the season standings after finishing 34th at Martinsville last Sunday, when a cut tire and broken track bar ended his race early. That left him to 11th in points, 36 markers out of 10th place in the standings. Bowyer has ended the season in the top-10 five times in his Cup Series career.

“Finishing in the top-10 is important to us,” he said. “We have worked really hard this year and the guys on our No. 14 crew, as well as everyone at SHR, Ford and Roush-Yates Engines, have put a lot of time and effort into getting us faster. I’m confident we’ll be in the top-10. We just have to close out these last three races.”

Bowyer should be one of the favorites at Texas. He owns four top-five finishes in his career at the Speedway Motorsports-owned facility.

In March, he started 25th and led laps 80 through 82. He gave up the lead with four laps left in the first stage to finish 15th. He started third in the second stage but fell back to 10th battling with a loose racecar before finishing 11th. He started the final stage 12th and climbed to fifth by lap 200 and second by lap 224. Bowyer couldn’t catch eventual winner Denny Hamlin in the closing laps and finished just 2.743 seconds back. Bowyer’s second-place result equaled his previous best finish at Texas – second in April 2011.

“Our car wasn’t lightning fast all day long but, as they started slip-sliding around and struggling, we’d kind of prevail on those long runs,” said Bowyer, whose good friend Blake Shelton watched the race from his pits. “I expect you’ll see a similar type of race this weekend.”

The March 31 race in Texas saw SHR place all four of its Ford Mustangs in the top eight. As an organization, it marked one of SHR’s most impressive performances as Daniel Suarez finished third, Aric Almirola seventh and Kevin Harvick eighth to go with Bowyer’s runner-up finish.
One of the many factors that played into success that afternoon was Mobil 1 lubricants in all SHR Ford Mustangs. Bowyer will not only have Mobil 1 inside his No. 14 Mustang but on its hood this weekend in Texas as his car carries the decals of Mobil 1 and Rush Truck Centers. 

More than 40 years ago, Mobil 1 motor oil entered the marketplace, making it the first globally available, full-synthetic automotive motor oil. Though it was originally released to safely enhance fuel efficiency, later formulations of Mobil 1 motor oil offered outstanding wear protection over the widest range of temperatures.

Now, more than four decades later, Mobil 1 remains the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand. It has pushed forward the boundaries of automotive lubricant technology, evolving and improving to keep engines running like new, mile after mile, since 1974. From its vital role in the world of motorsports to its many scientific breakthroughs, Mobil 1 motor oil has a rich story with plenty of twists and turns.

In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series. It also provides primary sponsorships on the Mustangs of Bowyer and Harvick at SHR during various Cup Series races throughout the year. The Mobil 1 brand also serves as an associate sponsor for all four SHR drivers at all other races. Since 2011, ExxonMobil has been providing lubricant technology support to the SHR team, which helped drivers Tony Stewart and Harvick earn series championships for SHR in 2011 and 2014.

Bowyer, Harvick, Almirola and Suarez hope to once again demonstrate the Mobil 1 and SHR advantage at Texas this weekend, like they did in March. If he does, the first to greet him in victory lane would be Rusty Rush and friends from the San Antonio-based Rush Truck Centers, whose decals will also be on the No. 14 at Texas.

Rush Truck Centers has been the primary partner on the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived in 2017 and has been with the SHR organization since 2010. The San Antonio-based company with more than 120 locations and 7,000 employees has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states.

“I always like going to Texas,” Bowyer said. “It is a lot of fun. Hardest thing there is balancing a little fun and your job. Everything is more fun in Texas.”

Especially if he can finish one spot better.

Clint Bowyer, Driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your goals in racing?
“I want to win races. I want to a championship. It’s always been that way. Once you win a race at this level, the next goal is a championship. It’s as simple as that. You start off every year to win your first race, and then as many as you can, and compete for a championship. We’ve been a part of years where I’ve been part of that conversation and I’ve had years where I haven’t and, for me, over the years it’s hard to pinpoint without pointing fingers or anything else other than just looking at yourself in the mirror. I mean, sometimes there were reasons and sometimes there weren’t and I should have performed better. I’m with a manufacturer that’s dedicated to that goal (winning races and championships). I’m with an organization that’s dedicated to that goal and certainly a race team, so that’s the goal. I love this sport. It’s fun. I love you guys. Everybody works their butt off to bring in the show. Call us whatever, but that’s our job and to come in and set up shop, put on a show and tear it down and go to the next one and I like that life.”

Can you be more aggressive with drivers still in the playoffs since they have more to lose?
“Whether I was in it or out of it or anything in between, you’re full force. You’re coming here to win the race no different than anybody. It doesn’t matter if we were racing, that’s the unique thing about the predicament we have with our playoff system. It’s not like the NFL, where you go home and it’s just two teams putting on a show. There are 40 of us still out there putting on a show and, that being said, I’m at one of my best racetracks. Whether I’m in the playoffs or out of the playoffs or anything in between, I feel like I have a shot at winning at this place.”

Does Mobil 1 provide you and SHR an advantage?
“I know you hear drivers talk about the importance of corporate partners all the time and that’s true, but at SHR, they are a key to our success on the track. Mobil 1 is such a source of technology under the hood and it’s a real advantage for us. Our success illustrates the technological advantages Mobil 1 is giving us on the track every single week.”

How important is San Antonio’s Rush Truck Centers to you?
“Rush is one of my strongest supporters. Rusty (Rush) and his folks have been wonderful to me. They have become some of my closest friends in the world. We want to get the word out that Rush, as well as the entire trucking industry, needs technicians. Rush Truck Centers is a leader in the trucking industry and the largest commercial dealership network in North America. They want to train these folks and give them good jobs. I’ve been around a lot of them in the last few years and it’s a hell of a career.”

Monday, October 28, 2019

Odds to win 2019 AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

Denny Hamlin won the March 31 race at Texas.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2019 - 3:15 PM ET

Kyle BUSCH 5/1
Martin TRUEX JR 5/1
Chase ELLIOTT 7/1
Denny HAMLIN 7/1
Kevin HARVICK 7/1
Joey LOGANO 7/1
Kyle LARSON 7/1
Ryan BLANEY 12/1
Kurt BUSCH 25/1
Erik JONES 25/1
William BYRON 25/1
Alex BOWMAN 30/1
Jimmie JOHNSON 40/1
Clint BOWYER 60/1
Aric ALMIROLA 80/1
Daniel SUAREZ 80/1
Austin DILLON 300/1
Ricky STENHOUSE JR 300/1
Ryan NEWMAN 300/1
Paul MENARD 500/1
Chris BUESCHER 500/1
Matt DiBENEDETTO 500/1
Daniel HEMRIC 1000/1
Ryan PREECE 1000/1
Darrell WALLACE JR 1000/1
Michael McDOWELL 1000/1
Ty DILLON 1000/1
David RAGAN 1000/1
Corey LAJOIE 5000/1
Landon CASSILL 5000/1
FIELD (all others) 500/1

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Martin Truex Jr. wins at Martinsville for first time

Truex now has series-leading 7 wins on the season.


 Martin Truex Jr. Wins First Data 500 and Punches Ticket to Miami
“To get the grandfather clock is pretty special.” – Martin Truex Jr. on his performance
 “The most laps lead since 1992 when Kyle Petty put up 484 laps at Rockingham.” – Rick Allen on Martin Truex Jr. leading 464 laps
 “Two out of the last three years, the Martinsville winner has won the championship.”  Rick Allen
“The fans at Martinsville come here and expect this chaos-type atmosphere, and it delivers time and time again.” – Steve Letarte on post-race fracas
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Oct. 27, 2019 – NBC Sports continued its coverage of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Sunday afternoon with an action-packed First Data 500 from Martinsville Speedway on NBCSN. Martin Truex Jr. won the first race of the Round of 8, his 7th of the season, and secured a spot in the Championship 4.
NBC Sports’ Rick Allen called the action alongside Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte. 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton and racing legend and two-time Daytona 500-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr provided commentary from a second booth. Marty Snider, Kelli StavastParker Kligerman, Rutledge Wood, and Dave Burns reported from pit road and the grandstands.
Krista Voda hosted Sunday’s pre-race coverage alongside analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett. Pre-race coverage on NBC included Behind the Driver feature with Virginia native, Denny Hamlin, and his father, Dennis.
1Martin Truex Jr.19
2William Byron24
3Brad Keselowski2
4Denny Hamlin11
5Ryan Blaney12
Martinsville also included a post-race fracas involving drivers Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBCSN:
Snider to Martin Truex Jr.: “Welcome to Miami!”
Martin Truex Jr. on the win: “To get a grandfather clock is pretty special.”
Letarte on Martinsville winner: “Two out of the last three years, the Martinsville winner has won the championship.”
Earnhardt Jr. on on-track aggression: “I expected what we’re going to see. There’s so much pressure at the short track, aggression. I wish we could bottle it up and sell it.”
Petty on post-race fight: “I’m going to call it a shoving match. I’m not going to call it a fight. Don’t put your hands on me.”
Letarte on post-race fight: “The action on the racetrack has always been heated, but now it seems to carry over – the frustration of the year, the pressure of the playoffs, what’s on the line. You heard the fans. The fans at Martinsville come here and expect this chaos-type atmosphere, and it delivers time and time again.”
Allen on post-race fight: “We know that when you come to Martinsville, it’s close quarters, tempers are high, but then you take the tempers and escalate it because of the playoffs. We know that a Championship 4 is on the line.”
Logano on post-race fight: “It ruined our day, our shot to win for sure…it’s frustrating there’s a lot of passion out there.”
Allen on post-race fight: “It’s close quarters. Tempers are high. But, tempers are escalated because of the playoffs.”
Hamlin on Logano’s response: “Like Joey does, he does a little push and runs away”
Allen on Martin Truex Jr. laps lead: “449 and counting! The most laps lead since 1992 when Kyle Petty put up 484 laps at Rockingham.”
Letarte on the big picture: “When you have a championship season, or at least have a shot at a championship in Miami, you’re looking back at races that people don’t remember, but you do as a crew chief or a driver. It’s not the ones you won, sometimes it’s the ones you salvage.”
Aric Almirola to Kyle Busch after crash in final stage: “We’ve got three more weeks, and I’m going to make it hell for him.”
Burton on the #47 car in the crash in the final stage: “He didn’t do anything wrong, that’s just Martinsville!”
Burton on pit crew changes: “You want the best pit crew you can get. But, you went to battle when the year started with your guys. You got here together, it’s a tough call.”
Ryan Blaney to Marty Snider on entire pit crew change: “I know those guys, I know their families, I know their kids. For me, I understand the business side of it, but the personal side of it is tough.”
Allen on Martin Truex Jr 312 laps in: “He won Stage 1 and Stage 2, he’s trying to sweep again. Martin Truex Jr looking for his third short-track win this season.”
Earnhardt Jr. 275 laps in: “At some point, you have to get aggressive. When does that switch happen? When will Harvick start to use that front bumper? Starting to run out of patience with the guys racing around him.”
Letarte on Kyle Larson staying out at the end of Stage 2: “A+ call by Chad Johnson. 9 points, 9 points. When we leave Phoenix in two weeks and the 42 car makes it on points, go back to Martinsville and the 9 points at the end of Stage 2.”
Allen on Stage 2 last lap: “Side by side through 3 and 4, Martin Truex Jr. fights for it and he’ll win stage 2!”
Burton on Bowyer and Blaney pass in Stage 2: “That’s just Martinsville racing.”
Todd Gordon (#22 crew chief) to Marty Snider “This is the second most important race of the year because you can punch your ticket to Miami.”
Burton on non-playoff drivers: “You don’t want to be the guy that takes away the opportunity to win a championship away from somebody. But, at the same time you want to win, it’s a very difficult position to be in.”
Hamlin on Martinsville: “You can’t make mistakes if you want to win this race.”

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Martinsville Betting Preview: 2019 First Data 500

The Round of 8 begins Sunday at Martinsville.
Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway’s flat half-mile paperclip kicks off the Round of 8 in NASCAR’s Playoffs, the first of three races in the round. The eight eligible drivers can get the automatic berth into the Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17 by winning one of the next three races or scoring the most points. Do poorly at Martinsville to start the round and it’s likely that driver will be one of the four chopped following the Phoenix race in three weeks.

Let’s take a look at each of the candidate's chances at Martinsville and I’ve included the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook’s updated championship odds next to each driver’s name along with how many points they start the round with.

1. Kyle Busch 3/1 (4,046 points) - “I really look forward to this round,’’ Busch said. “I feel like it’s our best round. We run well at all three of those places and we’ve won a few at Texas, we won Martinsville twice and Phoenix has been getting better for us too, winning the last two races there. We just need to continue to execute and do a good job and make sure that we mind our Ps and Qs.’’

It would be the shock of the playoffs if Busch didn’t make the Championship 4 because he’s been so good on all three tracks. The 2015 Cup Champion comes into the Martinsville race with eight straight top-five finishes there, including both of his only Cup wins (2016, 2017). He’s led 1,424 laps between 28 starts which include 16 top-five finishes. This is why the Superbook has him posted as the heavy 5-to-2 favorite to win Sunday. Just for good measure, he’s also got two Truck Series wins at Martinsville, the last coming in April.

2. Martin Truex Jr. 7/2 (4,042) - The 2017 Cup Champion has never won at Martinsville, but he’s come really close in the last few years after struggling there for the first two-thirds of his career. He’s been eighth or better in his last four starts there and had a career-best runner-up during the playoffs during his championship run.

“We know what we need to do,’’ Truex said. “Now it’s just a matter of going out and doing it. I know (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) and the guys have a good plan every week, so I’m confident we can do that. We have been fast, ran up front and led laps at all of these tracks in this round. All eight (playoff) guys would love to go into Martinsville this week and win the race to move on. That’s our goal, but we also feel good about the other tracks too.’’

The thing that makes Truex attractive this week (6/1 odds to win) is how well he’s run with this week’s race package with engines producing 750 horsepower. He’s won four of the 12 races using it which includes winning on his first career short-track -- he swept the season at Richmond.

3. Denny Hamlin 4/1 (4,037) - The Virginian has the best Martinsville resume among all playoff drivers which includes five wins, 14 top-fives, and 1,536 laps led. He’s listed a 9-to-2 to win this week which sounds like a good deal despite not winning there since 2016. He comes in with some serious momentum after winning his fifth race of the season last week.

“It was a great victory for us,” Hamlin said. “Hats off to the entire team, especially Chris Gabehart making all the right calls on those late cautions. Now we’re dialed in and focused on Martinsville and the Round of 8. Martinsville is going to be very pivotal. We’ve always seen great battles there. I feel like it’s the greatest race in the playoffs other than Homestead.”

Beyond momentum, home cooking, and past history -- includes two Truck Series wins, the best reason to support him this week is 10 top-five finishes using this week’s race package. He was fifth in the March 24 Martinsville race.

Read More Here....Top-5 Finish Prediction on