The NASCAR season is almost over, and this Sunday the chase for the Sprint Cup will be heading to Texas.
Ten drivers will be in the running on Sunday, and after drivers pushed to the front last week at Martinsville, the chase standings changed.
Jimmie Johnson was able to take the lead, but he only holds it by two points.
Denny Hamlin had car problems and saw his chase hopes end as he dropped two places and now sits too far back to mount a comeback.
Clint Bowyer managed to move up another spot, and still looks like a title contender.
A lot changed at Martinsville, but now as the Sprint Cup series season comes even closer to ending, drivers will be looking to go for the win this Sunday at the AAA Texas 500.
Will the standings change this Sunday at Texas as well?
As drivers try to gain points, and make a final run at the championship, and others just look to get in one more win before the season is over, anything can happen at Texas.
Here are 10 drivers who will be in the running at the AAA Texas 500.
Matt Kenseth's record at Texas has been fantastic to say the least.
Out of the 20 times Kenseth has raced at Texas, he has only finished outside of the top 10 six times. He has won this race twice and finished in fifth in April.
His record at Texas speaks for itself, but Kenseth has also been successful so far in the chase. While he sits too far back to make any real noise now, he's won two chase races and will clearly be going for the win this week as well.
Unlike other drivers who might only choose to settle for third or fourth in order to still try to win the championship, Kenseth should be expected to go for the win because he has nothing to lose at this point in the season.
The Roush-Fenway crew will all be successful this weekend at Texas. Kenseth, though, should run the best out of all of them. He has run the best out of the three, winning the most races this season for Roush-Fenway.
Kenseth is also extremely good at 1.5-mile tracks, and continues to impress as the season comes to an end.
He struggled at Martinsville after his win at Kansas, but expect Kenseth to be back on track this week and in the running on Sunday.
Greg Biffle has run well at Texas over the last several years. He has two career wins at Texas, one of which was the April race this season.
Biffle is one driver who is clearly sitting outside of winning the championship. Even though he is too far back in points, he should never be counted out of winning here at Texas.
Especially since he has nothing to lose.
Like the other two Roush-Fenway drivers, Biffle has had success at Texas, and is also a solid driver on 1.5-mile tracks.
He may not have had much success in the chase so far, but given his recent victory at the Texas speedway, Biffle knows what it takes to win here and should be expected to be in the running on Sunday.
Texas had one of the longest green-flag stretches ever at the track when Biffle won: 293 laps caution free to end the race.
If Texas has another long green-flag stretch, expect Biffle to take advantage as he tries to push to the front.
"I just dug deep. I knew I had to do it and kept trying and trying and trying," Biffle said after his April win over at ESPN.com. "I knew the team would forgive me if I wrecked it trying to beat him (Johnson) so I just gave it all I had."
His team won't mind if Biffle ends up wrecking while trying to go for the win this Sunday.
While Edwards has had a rough year, the Roush-Fenway drivers all have had success at the 1.5-mile Texas track.
Edwards has three wins at Texas, two in 2008 and one in 2005. With his past success at Texas, expect him to try to go for it all on Sunday.
At this point in the season, Edwards has yet to win a race. Blame it on bad luck, or just the struggles of the No. 99 team, but regardless, Carl and the No. 99 team are still trying to get a win with just three races left in the season.
Edwards was quoted over at aol.sportingnews.com by Bob Pockrass as saying:
"What I'm doing right now at this point of the year, considering that we haven't achieved what we wanted to, I'm just trying to be the best I can be so when we get things right, I can capitalize on them."
It's hard to say Edwards will be in the running on Sunday because of how much he has struggled this year. Still, he is one of the non-chase drivers who has run up front with the chase drivers at several tracks in the chase.
With his success at Texas, Edwards has a big chance to be up front toward the end of the Texas race on Sunday.
Kasey Kahne is sitting fourth in the standings, and only 29 points behind the leader Jimmie Johnson. Kahne is one driver that hasn't been talked about too much, but he is slowly making his way up the chase standings.
Time is running out for Kahne, and if he hopes to make it further up the standings, he needs to finish up front at the Texas race.
Texas was the first time Kahne broke the top 10 this season, and out of the last five races at Texas, Kahne has finished in the top 10 three times.
Expect him to be in the running on Sunday, like he has been throughout the chase.
Kahne was quoted over at Motorsport.com by Jack Durbin as saying:
We got our first top-10 of the year at Texas, and it started a great streak for the team. I always love coming to this track. It’s fast with a lot of room to move around and race. I think that really fits my style and gives us a good chance to win.
Texas is the track where Kahne will need to put it all on the line. With a teammate like Jimmie Johnson who has had a lot of success at 1.5-mile tracks, expect Kahne to run a similar setup as the No. 48 team, and expect him to have similar success here on Sunday.
Tony Stewart has had a rough season so far in the chase. He failed to do anything at Martinsville, and has yet to actually win a race in the chase.
Still, he was close to victory at Talladega, before he caused a massive crash, and has had instances where he has come close to victory.
Texas should be another track where Smoke makes his way to the front.
He won this race last year in the chase, and won here in 2006 as well. His finishes at Texas have been a mix bag, he’s has some solid top-10 finishes and also has finished back in 34th.
Smoke was quoted over at Motorsport.com via Jack Durbin as saying:
You have to be comfortable or you’re not going to go fast. The more comfortable I am, the faster we go. This track, the grooves have moved around, especially in the last couple of years. We’ve seen the track get wider and it’s made it to where you can move around on the racetrack and where you can run the top side or the bottom side.
At this point in the chase Tony has nothing to lose. He isn't going for a top-five or a top-10. Smoke is going to go all in and try to win the race on Sunday.
Every week since his win at Charlotte, Clint Bowyer has continued to be impressive and has continued to move up the standings.
With Denny Hamlin suffering some major bad luck at Martinsville, Bowyer was able to move up the chase standings one spot to third place, and sits 26 points behind Jimmie Johnson. He finished fifth last week and was running up front for most of the race.
Expect the same thing out of Bowyer at Texas.
Bowyer has had some top-10 finishes at this track and last year finished in second place. Now with the chase almost ending, and Bowyer sitting in a top spot, expect a solid performance out of him yet again, as he continues to try to pass the competition.
Clint and the No. 15 team were one group that fans might not have expected to make it this far in the chase. In fact, before that win at Charlotte, Johnson, Hamlin, and Keselowski were looking like the ones who would battle it out in the end.
Bowyer's crew chief, Brian Pattie was quoted over at Motorsport.com via Jack Durbin as saying:
I told the guys coming back from Martinsville the other night – if you would have told us as we were sitting at dinner one of the nights at Disney that we’d be sitting third in points within shouting distance of the lead with three races to go – what would you have said? I really wasn’t looking at that.
Now everyone is looking at Bowyer and the No. 15 team as real title contenders. Going into Texas, expect Bowyer to be in the running on Sunday.
Denny Hamlin saw his chase hopes fade when his No. 11 car suffered from engine problems at Martinsville and had to head to the garage early. Hamlin ended up finishing in 33rd, and dropped two spots in the chase standings.
He is too far down to make a comeback now, especially with three races left.
Hamlin was quoted over at NASCAR.com via Andrew Shaine as saying:
What can you do? We broke a bolt on a master switch, and it ended our Chase chances. We'll try to turn the table and get a lot of wins. ... I've been in these Chases for seven years, and I've had my fair share of electrical issues and motor issues and things like that. All I can do is just drive my heart out, and if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. We'll have our time, it's just our time is not now.
As far as Texas goes, Hamlin has won at this track twice, and has had several top-10 finishes. He runs well at Texas and should be one of the drivers who is in the running to win on Sunday.
With his bad luck at Martinsville, Hamlin won't need to worry about finishing in a good position to maintain his standing in the chase.
Hamlin and the 11 team can simply go for the win at Texas, and that might be just what Hamlin needs to get another win this season.
After a poor finish at Martinsville, look for Hamlin to try to turn his bad luck around at Texas.
Gordon has done solid at Texas over the last several years. He has one win here, back in 2009, and several top-10 finishes.
Texas has also been a place where Gordon has struggled. He has finished 31st and 37th at this motor speedway.
Gordon was quoted over at Motorsport.com as saying, via Jack Durbin:
Texas has been "hit or miss" for me. I love the facility, and the track has matured over the years. The groove has really widened out compared to the first few races here.
It's become one of my favorite tracks.
It's tough to say how well Gordon will actually perform this Sunday. Going into the chase, Gordon looked like he could be a favorite to shake things up. Instead, He struggled at tracks where he needed to have a good finish and now sits too far back in points to really do anything.
Still, like other drivers on this list, Gordon has nothing to lose moving into Sunday.
"A lot has changed since April, and the setups are constantly evolving," said Gordon over at Motorsport.com, via Jack Durbin . "But I'm looking forward to this weekend's race because of how we ran in that race and because of what we've learned since then."
He finished fourth here in the April race, and if Gordon and the No. 24 team really learned and improved at this track since last time, Gordon is one driver who will be in the running.
Keselowski ended up dropping a spot in the chase, and now sits two points behind Johnson.
Moving forward into Texas, Keselowski will need to race to the front if he hopes to regain his lead and move back into first place.
It won’t be easy for the Blue Deuce, since he hasn't even managed to crack the top 10 at this track, but his track record at 1.5-mile tracks recently has improved.
If the No. 2 team can stick to their fuel mileage game at Texas, then Keselowski has a good chance to make it to the front.
Crew chief Paul Wolfe was quoted over at Motorsport.com as saying, via Jack Durbin:
We want to qualify better, that will never change, but this is a track where it’s not a hindrance if you start mid-pack. If you have a good racecar, you can get to the front. I believe we should have a fast Miller Lite Dodge on Sunday.
Will Brad and the No. 2 team be able to overcome the five-time champ? It won’t be easy by any means, but Keselowski knows how hard the task is ahead of him.
“When you have a team like we have on the Miller Lite Dodge, it’s easy to stay calm in the face of adversity," said Keselowski over at Motorsport.com, via Jack Durbin. "We all have each other’s back. We like our role in this Chase. While we aren’t being overlooked by any means, there are many who think that we are still too young of a team to seriously challenge the 48 team."
The task ahead of Keselowski will be tough, but plan for the Blue Deuce to be in the running if he wants to continue to be a strong championship contender.
Jimmie Johnson has only won at Texas Motor Speedway once, back in 2007, but has been good at this track throughout his career.
He's has ended up in the top 10 in most of his visits to this track.
Add his solid performance here with the fact that Johnson needs to win this race in order to keep his points lead and improve on it over Keselowski, and it should be no surprise that Johnson will be one of the drivers in the running on Sunday.
Plus, he has momentum from his win at Martinsville. Johnson will be in the running at the AAA Texas 500 and should be one of the drivers who dominates here on Sunday.
Johnson was quoted over at Motorsport.com as saying, via Jack Durbin:
I expect us to be really strong this weekend at Texas. I love that race track. We were very good there in the spring. Our 1.5-mile stuff has been really fast. I’m thinking we are going to be really strong.
Given Johnson's record at 1.5-mile tracks, he should be expected to be one of the drivers who will be in the front for most of the race.
With the chase being so close, Johnson will need to perform at his highest level if he hopes to remain in first when the Texas race is over.