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NASCAR Texas Preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, November 05, 2009

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Can Jeff Gordon repeat his spring race win at TMS?
NASCAR's Sprint Cup teams journeys to Fort Worth Texas this weekend for race number eight in the Chase For The Championship. Just like the last few Chase events, the Dickie's 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway will again examine the question can anyone slow down the Jimmie Johnson's championship train? Don't be looking for any Chase miracles by the time this race is over.

THE CHASE BREAKDOWN

The last thing NASCAR wants to see is Jimmie Johnson clinch his history making fourth consecutive championship before the Chase, and season, finale in Florida November 22nd. Realistically that's probably what's going to happen.

Johnson goes into the Texas race 184 points ahead of team mate Mark Martin and 192 points ahead team mate, and team co-owner, Jeff Gordon.

Like any American national sport in the championship mode there are the presence of magic numbers. Johnson's magic number seems to be 402 points. If he accumulates that many points over the final three races he will earn that fourth title irregardless what late season action Martin can generate. That includes Martin winning all three of the final races.

In a best case scenario hypothetical let's say Martin does indeed win the remaining three races while collecting maximum points including the bonus for most laps led in each race. Martin would collect a maximum total of 585 points and finish the season with 6,649 points.

Going into this Sunday's race at Texas, Johnson already has accumulated 6,248 points. That's 401 points below Martin's best case season ending scenario. To prevent a possible three race win streak by Martin from stealing the championship on the last day of the year, Johnson needs to make sure he collects 402 points during the course of those final trio of events. That computes to an average of 134 points from each of the three remaining races. That means he has to finish tenth or better in each race to prevent Martin from running the table on him.

Now let's return to reality. Is it possible for Martin to run the table and win those final three races? It's not impossible but it's not likely. Is it likely that Johnson is going to finish tenth or better during these final trio of events? You can bet the farm on it. This is especially true in light of the previous stats Johnson has accumulated at Texas and Phoenix.

There appears to be yet another history making scenario that applies to this year's Chase. With Johnson, Martin and Gordon at one-two-three in the standings then it's possible that Rick Hendrick could become the first team owner to sweep the top three positions in a NASCAR championship.

However, drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart could play the role of spoilers in this historic scenario. Montoya is fourth in the standings just 47 points behind Gordon. Stewart, whose self owned team has an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports, is fifth in the ranking and 87 points away from third.

Here's another interesting NASCAR championship note. If the Chase format had never been invented, and NASCAR was still using the old points system, Jimmie Johnson would still be the points leader but would only have a seven point advantage over Tony Stewart and a 72 point lead over Jeff Gordon.

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THE STORY BREAKDOWN

During the course of the Texas Motor Speedway weekend there's going to be several story lines that will be tracked by the racing media. Topping that list will be the one story that has already turned into a feeding frenzy: Danica.

It was revealed earlier this week that Indy Racing League star Danica Patrick is extremely close to signing a two year contract with J R Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr in association with Rick Hendrick, to make her NASCAR debut next year. Patrick is expected to drive a part time schedule in the team's #5 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series that will gradually allow her to make a transition to NASCAR. This will be in addition to her full time IRL schedule. She's under contract to Andretti Green Racing for the next three years.

Get ready for it racing fans. This is one story that will trump just about everything in the NASCAR news for the next several days.

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On the subject of Dale Earnhardt Jr, he will be introduced to a very special fan this weekend via special arrangements by the Make A Wish Foundation the organization famous for granting special wishes to seriously ill children.

Tragically, four year old Bryce Tory is suffering from a congenital heart defect and his wish is to meet his all time favorite racing driver. The Texas base Tri Counties Chapter of Make A Wish has arranged to fly Bryce and his parents from their Simi Valley-California home to Fort Worth to make that special introduction happen.

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Keep a close eye on Kyle Busch during the Texas weekend because you may witness his latest entry to the NASCAR record books. Busch will be looking to be the first driver to sweep three races in NASCAR's three national touring series on the same weekend. He's entered in Friday's Camping World Truck Series race, Saturday's Nationwide Series race and Sunday's Sprint Cup event.

This historic feat is no where near as impossible as it may sound. Busch came very close to winning the three races last February at the Auto Club Speedway in California. He won the truck and Nationwide series race on Saturday and finished second in the Cup event the following afternoon.

His Texas Motor Speedway stats are actually very strong. On the Cup side he' still seeking his first win in Texas but has logged three top six finishes in four starts and has led 207 laps. His Texas stats in the Nationwide Series are astounding where he's won the last three consecutive series races. He still seeking his first truck series win at Texas but has finished second there three times in his last four starts.

In still more Busch news, Sunday's Dickie's 500 will be his first race with new crew chief Dave Rogers who replaced crew chief Steve Addington following last week's at Talladega. With all due respects to the accomplishments of Rogers at Joe Gibbs Racing, this is a personnel move that many observers are not understanding.

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Richard Petty Motorsports driver A J Allmendinger will be switching from Dodge to Ford for the final three races of the season. This is advance work for 2010 when the team will run Ford full time following their soon to be completed merger with Yates Racing. The team fielded a Ford Fusion last Sunday at Talladega, with driver Elliot Sadler, with some very encouraging results.

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Also reported in recent days was the announcement that Brad Keselowski will be officially taking over the Roger Penske Racing #12 Dodge this weekend for the final three races replacing David Stremme. Keselowski was already named as the driver of the ride beginning in 2010. Apparently Penske felt this was an opportunity to get a head start on next season.

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An announcement is expected very soon that says Jamie McMurray will be officially named as the new driver of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing's #1 Chevrolet for 2010 replacing the soon to be departed Martin Truex Jr.

But there are some rather interesting undercurrents to this story. First off, the contracts between McMurray and EGR as well as contracts between EGR and primary sponsor Bass Pro Shops has been completed for quite some time now yet they still remain unsigned. One possible hold up is rumored to be the sponsor who was hoping the team would select a new driver that matches the great outdoors nature of their retail stores. Truex, an avid fisherman, fit that image and Bass Pro Shops reportedly really likes him. While there isn't anything McMurray wouldn't be willing to do to promote a sponsor, the great outdoors man image just isn't there.

The current contract between Bass Pro Shops and EGR is reportedly up at the end of the 2010 season. There has been rumors that states they would love to align themselves with Ryan Newman someone they consider to be the perfect combination of race driver and outdoors man.

Making this story even more interesting are reports claiming that former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte is still considered to be a serious candidate for filling the EGR vacancy.

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THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN

The numbers experts from "Las Vegas Insider Dot Com", to no real surprise, has Jimmie Johnson on top of their list to win Sunday at the Texas World Speedway. They're backing that belief with 5 to 2 odds based on the fact that Johnson is a previous race winner there and also has logged nine top ten finishes.

Right behind him is team mate Jeff Gordon at 4 to 1 odds. Gordon won the first Texas race of the season last April, has seven top finishes and nine top tens.

Other notable rankings from "Las Vegas Insider" include previous race winner Tony Stewart at 6 to 1, Mark Martin, another previous winner, is ranked at 7 to 1 with Chase contender Juan Pablo Montoya coming in at 8 to 1.

A very interesting wager might be Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards at 10 to 1 odds. Edwards is the defending race winner and leads all active drivers with three wins at the Texas World Speedway. Also bear in mind that Ford leads the manufacturers ranking with nine wins at Texas.

For you Junior Nation fans who are wondering your driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr, is ranked at 35 to 1 odds despite the fact that there seems to be a sense of rejuvenation with this team combined with the fact that he's a previous race winner at Texas.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Dickie's 500 is 334 laps around the Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5 mile quad oval.

The track has 24 degrees of banking in the turns and five degrees of banking on the straightaways and the track's dog leg.

There has been 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup events at the speedway since its opening in 1997. The first race was won by Jeff Burton.

Races at Texas are famous for close finishes. In five of the last six events the margin of victory was under one second.

The race has 47 entries vying for the 43 starting positions. 12 of those entries are on the "go or go home" list meaning they are outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points and must earn a starting berth based on their qualifying speed.

The Dickie's 500 will be aired live by ABC beginning at 230 pm eastern time. Race re airs can be seen on Monday morning, 330 am eastern, on ESPN2, Monday afternoon, 1pm eastern, on ESPN Classic and again on Wednesday afternoon, 12 pm eastern, on Speed.

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