Race: Samsung Mobile 500
Date: Saturday April 14th, 2012
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Time: 7 pm ET
Welcome back, race fans! It seems like a one week hiatus is entirely too long. It’s nice to be back. Our last race at Martinsville was quite the eventful one, ending with 2 attempts at a green-white-checker. Surprisingly, Ryan Newman ended up taking the win although the Hendrick cars of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were the class of the field all day. Those 2 drivers ended up wrecking out at the very end on a restart. Such is the racing at Martinsville!
This weekend, we are resuming the season at Texas Motor Speedway. This is a fun track to watch, and mirrors the true intermediate style speedway of Las Vegas. Texas is a 1.5 mile quad-oval with 24 degree banking in the turns and 5 degree banking in the straights. The frontstretch is 2250 feet, and the backstretch comes in shorter at 1330 feet. There is a lot of speed on this track, but it is a little more difficult to run because of the difference in the lengths of the backstretch and frontstretch. We see a little more brake usage because drivers are coming into turn 3 with a shorter amount of time to slow down. This means that tires are going to be a point of strategy as well.
One of the biggest things that the drivers have to be aware of here is track position. It is easy to get lapped, but it is hard to get that lap back. Getting up front and staying up front is going to be key here.
When it comes to the strongest drivers at Texas, I am looking at Tony Stewart. He is the defending champ of the Fall race here and seems to be on a roll. I think that he’s going to pull into victory lane this weekend. Jimmie Johnson is another one to watch. He was the class of the field at Martinsville and has a good record here at Texas. A final driver to watch for at the front of the pack is Matt Kenseth. All of the Roush drivers are strong here, but Kenseth seems to have a particular affinity for this track. Here is a rundown of my picks for this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Tony Stewart
Middle of the Road Pick: Ryan Newman
Dark Horse Prediction: Aric Almirola
If anyone other than Stewart has an advantage here, it should be teammate Ryan Newman. Newman is coming off a win at Martinsville and seems to be picking up some momentum this season. Maybe Rocket Man can do more than just take a pole. In the case of Aric Almirola, he is coming off an 8th place finish at Martinsville. His name is getting used more often because he is creeping his way up the standings. Look for him to have another consistent finish.
Here’s a look at your current top 10 in the points after Martinsville:
1. Greg Biffle
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Tony Stewart
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Ryan Newman
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Jimmie Johnson
Jr. is just 6 points out of the lead in the POINTS standings! Yes, that’s right. Dale Earnhardt Jr. could be the points leader after Texas. This seems to be unprecedented! Honestly, I’m not a Jr. fan, but I love to see him do well. Congratulations to his entire team for having such a strong season so far. Tony Stewart is holding down 3rd place, just 12 points behind Biffle. Notoriously missing from the top 10 is Jeff Gordon. He is in a disappointing 21st position right now due to completely crazy circumstances including equipment issues and multiple wrecks. Kyle Busch is also missing. Both of those drivers need strong finishes this weekend.
Stay tuned for the first night race of the season. It’s going to be a good one as these boys battle it out under the lights!