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NASCAR Texas Preview

by Dave Grayson
Friday, November 04, 2011

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Denny Hamlin won last year's AAA Texas 500
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Chase For The Championship moves on to round number eight this Sunday at the Texas Motor Speedway. The winner of the AAA Texas 500 will get to observe the time honored tradition of firing those twin six shooters in victory lane. Considering the list of Chase hopefuls, and potential spoilers, on the entry list for this race, the Texas pistol packer could be just about anyone.

Without question, the focus of Sunday's AAA Texas 500 will be on NASCAR's Chase For The Championship. The arithmetic of the matter indicates that the top five drivers in the standings still have a chance at taking the Sprint Cup trophy home. The reality of the matter, though, states that the championship may turn out to become a points shootout between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.

The potential drama of a title run between these two drivers is already in place and the get into each other's heads trash talking has already begun. This is going to be fun racing fans.

THE LAS VEGAS BREAKDOWN

To get an idea regarding which driver is going to fire those pistols in the Texas Motor Speedway's victory lane, we once again turn to the professional number crunchers from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE), who has once again has presented us with something to think about.

Topping this week's WSE ranking, at 7 to 1 odds, is the trio of Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Edwards is on top of the current Chase standings by eight points. He survived potential points disasters at Talladega and Martinsville and will be the first to tell you he was lucky. The mile and a half format at Texas is more suitable for this driver and he has very good numbers there including a series high three wins, four top five finishes, five top tens and a very healthy average finish ratio, (AFR), of 10.0. Also bear in mind that the Roush Fenway Fords has some very strong numbers at Texas.

Also at 7 to 1 is Roush Fenway Racing Ford driver Matt Kenseth. Unfortunately this driver had a disaster of a day in Martinsville and has fallen to fifth in the standing, 36 points away from first, and his championship hopes are treading water. However, he could pick up some ground at Texas where he has outstanding numbers that includes two wins, nine top fives and a very healthy 9.0 AFR.

At sixth in the Chase standings, 43 points away, it appears that Jimmie Johnson's efforts to win a sixth, consecutive, championship is now gone. But that doesn't mean this driver is going to lay down and quit during the final three races of the season. He's a previous winner at Texas with seven top fives and a 9.9 AFR. Those numbers says consider placing a wager on him.

The WSE has drivers Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon rated at 9 to 1 odds for Texas. Stewart was a late bloomer this season and didn't find victory lane until the ten race Chase series started. But "Smoke" caught fire and, in seven Chase events, he's won three of them and that's what placed in second in the standings and eight points away. He's a previous winner at Texas with four top fives and a 13.2 AFR.

Following a disaster of a day in Martinsville last weekend, Kyle Busch now finds himself seventh in the standings and 56 points away. His Texas numbers really aren't that strong. He's still looking for his first win there and has a 16.2 AFR. But this is Kyle Busch we're talking about. If all of the needed elements falls into place at Texas, he's more than capable of winning this race. That's likely why the WSE has rated him so highly this week.

Meanwhile Jeff Gordon, now tenth in the standings and 76 points away, has seen his drive for five championship program disappear. But here's another driver that will not lay down and is expected to run strong at Texas where he's a previous winner. All three of these drivers in the 9 to 1 group are very good wager considerations.

At 10 to 1 odds is Kevin Harvick who, at third in the standings and 21 points away, is still very active in the championship profile. He's still looking for his first win at Texas but he does have three top fives and a healthy 12.9 AFR.

Denny Hamlin is ranked by the WSE at 12 to 1 to win at Texas. Hamlin's overall season has been somewhat of a disappointment, but his Texas numbers says consider him to be an excellent long shot wager. He's a two time winner there with five top fives and a very good 9.3 AFR.

Turning to the WSE's middle tier this week we have Clint Bowyer and previous Texas winner Greg Biffle at 15 to 1 odds.

Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne, a previous race winner, along with Kurt Busch, another race winner, are ranked at 20 to 1. If you're into long shot wagers, any one of this trio could be worthy of your consideration.

At 25 to 1 odds is the pride of the Junior Nation. Dale Earnhardt Jr is a previous winner at Texas and has a healthy 14.5 AFR.

Looking at the WSE's lower tier, previous race winner Ryan Newman leads this pack at 30 to 1 followed by David Ragan at 35 to 1. At 40 to 1 is the duo of previous race winner Mark Martin along with Juan Pablo Montoya. Finishing this week's list, at 50 to 1, is the quartet of Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr, Jeff Burton and David Reutimann.

If you do not see the name of your favorite driver on the WSE's Texas listing, that means they are automatically ranked in the "all others" category at 15 to 1 odds.

Here's the disclaimer: NASCAR wants us to remind you that these numbers should be viewed for informational and entertainment purposes. They neither encourage nor condone the placing of wager on their events.

Personally, I can't imagine betting on a NASCAR race. The tenuous, final lap, capabilities alone says that there really is no such thing as a safe bet in this sport. But if you're going to do it anyway, at least you have the numbers from the professionals at the WSE so you can make an informed decision.

THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The AAA Texas 500 is 334 laps/501 miles around the Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5 mile quad oval.

The race has 48 posted entries vying for the 43 starting positions. 13 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning they are not guaranteed a starting berth in the race because they are currently outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speeds to make the race.

Construction on the Texas Motor Speedway began in 1995 followed by the official opening in 1997.

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held there in April of 1997 and was won by Jeff Burton. Since that time the speedway has hosted 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup events which has sent 16 winners to victory lane. Carl Edwards has a series high three wins at Texas followed by Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton with two wins each. Edwards and Hamlin are the only drivers to sweep both Texas events in the same year. Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner while Matt Kenseth won the spring race at Texas last April.  Roush Fenway Racing leads the team wins there with eight followed by Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing with three each. Matt Kenseth has a series high eight top five finishes at Texas while Mark Martin leads the top ten category with 12.

Track position is always important at the Texas Motor Speedway and that places an emphasis on qualifying day. The track qualifying record, 196.235 MPH, was set by Brian Vickers in November of 2006. Only one race at Texas has been one from the pole position, Kasey Kahne in April of 2006, but 15 races have been won from starting positions within the top ten.

The mammoth Texas Motor Speedway is 58 feet wide with 24 degrees of banking in the turns but only five degrees of banking on the straights and the dog leg. The front stretch measures 2,250 feet long while the back stretch measures 1,330 feet. The pit road speed is 45 MPH. The pit window, according to Goodyear engineers, is 48 to 52 laps based on individual fuel mileage. The speedway can presently accommodate 191,122 fans.

The weather forecast for the greater Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area calls for sunny skies on Friday and Saturday with daytime highs ranging between 65 to 71 degrees. However, there is a slight, 20 percent, chance of thunder storms on Sunday race day. The Texas Motor Speedway has a fleet of six jet dryers that can completely dry the track in approximately two hours.

The AAA Texas 500 will be broadcast live by ESPN with the "Countdown" show beginning at 2 pm eastern time followed by the green flag at 3 pm et. The race re airs will be Monday, at 3 am et, on ESPN2 and on Wednesday, 12 pm et, on SPEED.

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