Dropping The Hammer: A Preview Of the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
It's hard to believe that the Texas Motor Speedway has been on the NASCAR circuit for the past 12 years.
The 1.5-mile facility has been quite the fixture in the sport for its high speed action that either lends itself to exciting competition or drawn out, single-file racing that puts the fans to a Sunday slumber.
After some exciting short-track racing from Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, the Sprint Cup aces head down to Fort Worth, TX, at Bruton Smith's Lone Star arena.
Previously plagued by narrow lanes, which created a bevy of wrecked sheet metal, the track has matured with side-by-side racing a plenty in the races.
However, that type of racing action seems to only occur behind the leaders, where it seems the separation between those with the right set-up on their cars versus those who are just a tick off the race pace is minutes.
Those discrepancies are just enough to create the disparity that has become a common place at the intermediate tracks.
Even with the Car of Tomorrow body styles and chassis, aerodynamics is still an important factor in contending for the win at Texas.
If you want to be fast, in addition to tire management and superior fuel mileage, teams have to massage and work on the geometry of the shocks of the cars to coalesce with the bodies of the car.
Texas Motor Speedway has been particularly friendly to those driving under the Ford banner, as the Blue Oval brigade have won nine of the 16 total races run at this SMI facility, with most of those of wins coming from Roush Fenway Racing.
Chevrolet has five victories, with Rick Hendrick's drivers Terry Labonte and Jimmie Johnson taking honors in 1999 and 2007 respectively.
Meanwhile, the Dodge drivers have fared decent at this track, with one win a piece from Ryan Newman in 2003 and Kasey Kahne in the 2006 edition of the Samsung 500.
Early favorites heading into this Sunday's 12th annual 500-miler at the Fort Worth asphalt stadium have to include the Roush contingency of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth.
Edwards and Jeff Burton, who previously drove for Roush from 1996 through the third quarter of 2004, are the only multiple winner at Texas.
Burton won the inaugural 500 miler in 1997 and repeated his debut victory in the Cup Series ten years later.
Meanwhile, Edwards has wong three times in Texas over the course of his career, including a season sweep in 2008.
Biffle absolutely dominated the 2005 edition of the spring race, leading 219 of the 334 laps en route to a dominating victory over Jamie McMurray, who previously drove for Chip Ganassi's team.
Why does Jack Roush's team have the edge at Texas Motor Speedway? Well, over the past decade, Roush's efforts into being a dominant force in NASCAR has been focusing on performances at the intermediate tracks.
Of the 36 races run in the course of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, 10 events on the schedule are run at 1.5-mile facilities that share common characteristics even if there are variations in corner banking or speeds.
Roush Fenway's philosophy at these tracks is having a general baseline set-up and approach with their drivers, team, and crew members in addition to the basics of the car that make them so fast and superior over the powerhouse teams in the sport.
Sunday's race at Texas may just be the medicine that Kenseth and his team may need for a 2009 season that looks to have a "seasonal cold."
Kenseth has been in a bit of a slump since taking the first two races of the 2009 season, with an engine problem that saw him finish 43rd at Las Vegas, 12th at Atlanta, 33rd at Bristol, and 23rd at Martinsville.
As a result of their plagued inconsistency, the No. 17 Dewalt Ford team has slid from first to 12th in points in a matter of six races.
However, Kenseth and his team cannot be counted out at Texas, as they have previously won at this track in 2002.
A win on Sunday may be in order for Kenseth, who may just pull a surprise victory as he did at Daytona.
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