Race: AAA Texas 400
Date: Sunday November 3, 2013
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Time: 3 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Martinsville was another wild race. We approached nearly 20 cautions before Jeff Gordon took the checkers for his first win of the 2013 season and one that boosted him into 3rd place in the points. Starting 13th in the points at the beginning of the Chase, Gordon has made the biggest moves and is proving that he’s a force to be reckoned with. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth can’t seem to get away from each other. Kenseth, surprisingly, dominated the race. He fell short to Gordon’s experience at Martinsville. Johnson came home a respectable 4th place but didn’t do quite as well as he has wished. After Martinsville, those 2 guys are tied for the points lead. It doesn’t get much closer than that!
This weekend, we are headed to a track the both Johnson and Kenseth have success at. Texas Motor Speedway is a far cry from the paper-clip oval of Martinsville. Texas boasts a 1.5-mile quad-oval with 2250 feet of frontstretch and 1330 feet of backstretch. The corners are banked at 24 degrees with a small 5 degree banking on the straights. That’s definitely a lot different from the short stragihts and flat corners of Martinsville!
The thing about Texas is that Johnson thought he could extend his lead coming to this track. Unfortunately, Kenseth made an unprecedented run at a track that he’s supposed to be bad at. That doesn’t help out the rest of the championship contenders. It certainly doesn’t help when Kenseth is headed to one of his better tracks. What’s interesting, though, is that Johnson won the November 2012 race here from the pole. Kyle Busch won the April 2013 race here from the pole as well. Another interesting note is that Kenseth holds the most top 5s and top 10s here. The most important factors to this track are track position, track position, and track position. Clearly, it matters where you qualify and where you run in the field throughout the race. Unlike tracks like Martinsville, where drivers can plow through the field pretty quickly, Texas is a place where they need to start up front and stay up front. Pit strategy is going to be key in maintaining track position. The crews are going to have a lot on their shoulders this weekend with only 3 races left in the season.
If we take a look at our potential winners this weekend, it could obviously go to Johnson or Kenseth. However, I think that we have to through a little more credibility at Kenseth this weekend based purely on his stats here. This is a great track for him and I would assume that he’s going to keep it that way. Kenseth has a lot to lose, as does Johnson, so I look for him to run a smart race and stay out of trouble. Look for him to qualify up from and stay there all day. Here’s a rundown of your potential winners this weekend.
My Pick to Win: Matt Kenseth
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Austin Dillon
Dillon has an average finish of 23rd for his races this year in the Sprint Cup. That’s not too shabby for a first-timer running part-time in the Cup Series while competing for a championship in the Nationwide Series. He’s also got the best record out of all the C list drivers despite most of them running a full schedule. Carl Edwards is a good pick for this track too. He’s solid on intermediate tracks and has really come up through the field in the last few weeks. Edwards seems to be trying to finish the season on a more solid note than he started. This weekend definitely showed that, and also showed that these guys are making a final push as the season winds up on us. The points were jumbled around quite a bit as well.
Here are your current top 13 after last week’s race:
1. Matt Kenseth
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Kyle Busch
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Greg Biffle
9. Kurt Busch
10. Carl Edwards
11. Joey Logano
12. Ryan Newman
13. Kasey Kahne
With only 3 races left this season, these guys are giving it all they’ve got. It’s cool to watch the races because the fans can definitely see the difference between the drivers running for a championship versus the other guys. There were many opportunities for Jimmie Johnson, for example, to get in a wreck on Sunday and take out other drivers who were in his way, but he withheld that temper and drove a smart race to ensure a solid finish. Then there are the guys who just plow over everyone because it just doesn’t matter. Texas will be more of the same. Stay tuned for this weekend’s race as we head into the closing laps of the season!