NASCAR Weekend Preview — Texas


After the off weekend for Easter Sunday this past weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series return to the track on the asphalt of Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  The NSCS race, The Duck Commander 500, will be run on Saturday evening and will cover just over 500 miles (334 laps) under the lights. Jimmie Johnson is your defending winner and also holds the record for most wins at the track with four.

We all remember what went down the last time the Cup circuit came to Texas.  Track president Eddie Gossage did not give the track the nickname “No Limits” for no reason.  Brad Keselowski (who has won at seven of the next eight tracks on the schedule, the only one he is winless at being Texas Motor Speedway) and Jeff Gordon engaged in a shoving match, which turned into an all out brawl between the two teams.  Eventual champion Kevin Harvick got into the action, shoving Keselowski into the mess and thus, the term “Harvicking” was created.  The internet went nuts with memes and social media about the whole fight and “Harvicking”. Gordon and Keselowski will start 12th and third respectively, with Harvick starting in second (27.875, 193.772 MPH).

But what was overshadowed was that the aforementioned Jimmie Johnson got the win.  And nobody would be shocked if he did the same this weekend.  Another storyline coming into this weekend is Kyle Larson, who is coming back after two weeks off after he fainted during an autograph session at Martinsville and didn’t race the next day.  He finished fifth and seventh last season in the spring and fall respectively at Texas and will start in ninth place when the green flag drops on Saturday evening.

The pole winner is somebody who has been bad fast since he was back on track at Phoenix a few weeks ago.  That’s right, Kurt Busch.  He narrowly beat out his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Harvick for the top starting spot with a lap of 193.847 MPH (27.857 seconds).  It’s his second pole of the season (Auto Club on April 22), his first pole at Texas and it’s also Harvick’s first career front row start at the track.

Busch talked about how the track changing with the shade, temperature and tire temps played a huge factor in when Crew Chief Tony Gibson sent out Busch.  Harvick also pointed out that eight of the top twelve cars have Hendrick engine affiliations.

Kasey Kahne (fourth), Johnson (fifth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (25th), along with Gordon, all qualified pretty well. Richard Childress Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Paul Menard will start seventh and eighth respectively, with Austin Dillon rolling off 14th.  Some other notable qualifying runs include Tony Stewart in 11th, Danica Patrick in 21st, Martin Truex Jr. 15th and Casey Mears 20th.  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, coming off a win two weeks ago at the paperclip, will start 18th with his teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards starting in 17th and 16th, respectively.  David Ragan will start in 30th in the No. 18 car for another week in place of the injured Kyle Busch, who is still rehabbing from his injuries suffered at Daytona.

Can Kurt Busch finally get over the hump and get a win?  What about someone else from the SHR stable getting a win besides Harvick?  Or how about Martin Truex Jr. taking his small one-car operation to victory lane for the first time since 2012?

Drivers with the names like Busch, Harvick, Hamlin, Johnson and Gordon will all be favorites according to Vegas, as well as people in the NASCAR garage.  But what about a dark horse pick?  Maybe a guy that have been mentioned already, like Kyle Larson or Martin Truex Jr. What about Kasey Kahne? Who isn’t really considered a wild card, but was fastest in final practice and is pretty overdue for a win. Or a real wild card pick, like Casey Mears.  He has four top tens in his career at Texas and has one top ten finish so far this season.  But he has been knocking on the door of many more top tens and is just outside the cutoff line for the Chase as of now.

One memory that many have from TMS is when Michael McDowell crashed violently into the turn one safety barrier during his qualifying run a few years back in the No. 00 car for Michael Waltrip Racing.  Thankfully, he was alright.  But the high speeds of Texas can make for some intense racing and some hard crashes at inopportune times for some big names.  Just ask Jimmie Johnson back in 2012.

This weekend’s race can be seen on FOX on Saturday evening with coverage beginning at 6:00 pm with RaceDay on Fox Sports 1.  The race will go green just after 7:45 pm.

Now, it’s what you’ve all been waiting for: prediction time.

I think that Kurt Busch will lead from green to checkered flag, grabbing his first win of the season and first in more than over one year for SHR and his No. 41 team.  They have shown that they can run fast during the races, and I think this is the weekend where they finally put it all together for 500 miles and end up in victory lane.