Race: AAA Texas 500
Date: Sunday November 4, 2012
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Time: 2 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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So, Sandy held out long enough to let the drivers race at Martinsville. It appears that Jimmie Johnson and Co. are back in championship form as they drove to victory at the Tums Fast Relief 500. Denny Hamlin ran strong and really was the class of the field until he had a malfunction with the master switch and his car kept powering off. He ended up several laps down despite having a very strong car.
This weekend, we are heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500. This is going to be a good track for several drivers. Jimmie Johnson will do well here, as will fellow Chaser Brad Keselowski. This is going to be an interesting race because these 2 drivers are still very much battling each other with just 3 races to go before the champion is crowned.
Texas is a 1.5 mile quad-oval with 24 degree banking in the turns and 5 degrees on the straights. The frontstretch is 2250 feet while the backstretch is much smaller at 1330 feet. This is a much different scenario than Martinsville, which is such a small track. The tempers that you saw at Martinsville likely won’t be as inflamed at a place like Texas. There’s more room for the drivers to get away from each other. That’s not to say that there won’t still be some issues, but you definitely won’t see as many arguments as you see at a short track. Texas lends itself to long green flag runs where track position is important, with tires as an equal in maintaining that position. One of the biggest issues at these intermediates tracks, though, remains fuel mileage. It will likely come down to who has the best strategy in terms of making it to the end on fuel.
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When we look at the history of this track, you may realize that this is a very strong track for the Roush team. Those guys including Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are historically very strong here. Denny Hamlin also has a fair share of wins here. Current points leader, Jimmie Johnson, only has 1 win and that is way back from 2007. That being said, I really think that we are going to have to watch the Roush team. With a few of those drivers still somewhat in contention, you can’t count them out for a win. Matt Kenseth is going to be the one to watch in my opinion. I think that his teammate Greg Biffle will also give him a run for his money. Now, we can’t count Jimmie Johnson out, but he’s going to have to do a lot of chasing to get around the Roush cars and even Denny Hamlin. Pending any mechanical failures, I think that Denny will want to make up for a win that slipped through his fingers at Martinsville. Here are your potential winners for this weekend:
Pick to Win: Matt Kenseth
Middle of the Road Pick: Jamie McMurray
Dark Horse Pick: Aric Almirola
Aric Almirola is getting more and more impressive. He stayed in the top 5 for the better half of the race on Sunday and came home with a 4th place finish. He was very strong all day and didn’t let anyone take advantage of him. Kenseth, in my opinion, is still going to be the one to watch though. With 11 top 5 finishes, you just can’t overlook him.
The points are in an interesting situation. We have 2 guys up front really battling. With only 3 races to go, it’s hard to say that anyone else is really in contention with Keselowski and Johnson, but it’s possible. The top 2 drivers are only separated by 2 points. The third place driver, Clint Bowyer, is 26 points behind Johnson. Here’s the current top 12 after Martinsville:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Kasey Kahne
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Greg Biffle
10. Tony Stewart
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It’s hard to say what is going to happen this weekend as far as points go. Keselowski was convinced that Martinsville was his biggest challenge in the Chase and he proved that he can come out with a top 10 at one of his most difficult tracks. Texas is one of those tracks where both Keselowski and Johnson are relatively the same at. We will have to wait and see what Texas brings to these guys as we head into one of the last races of the season!