Each week, seven our our esteemed B/R NASCAR writers discuss their picks for the upcoming race. Each week, the writer receives the total number of points their selected driver gets.
At the end of the 26-race regular season, writers will receive 10 bonus points for each win they had during the season and the Chase field will be set, just as the Cup stars do it.
Back-to-back short tracks provided some excitement in NASCAR, but little changed in the Creature vs. Creature standings.
After a one-week hiatus from the top of the standings, S.M. Napier recaptured the lead after his pick of Denny Hamlin (second) finished two spots ahead of M.J. Buchanan's pick of Jeff Gordon (fourth).
Overall, the panel of writers had a very successful weekend, with all but one writer's picks finishing in the top eight.
Kelly Crandall won her first race of the year with Jimmie Johnson, but gained little ground on the competition.
Napier's pick of Hamlin finished second, allowing Crandall only a 10-point advantage over him.
My pick (Tony Stewart) came home third, and Buchanan's and LJ Burgess' pick (Gordon) finished fourth.
Adam Heasley went with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who brought home an eighth place finish, and David Phillips had the only selection outside of the top eight with Kyle Busch, who finished 24th.
With the win, Crandall joins Phillips, Napier, and Heasley with one win apiece. Of course, points will be reset heading into the Chase, with each win giving the writer a 10-point bonus. Anyone entering the Chase with zero wins, will start with zero points.
With 20 races to go, each writer still has plenty of time to rack up a few wins.
Here are our panel's picks:
This week's pick: Jimmie Johnson—Like the rest of my fellow writers, this week was another tough one to pick.
On one hand you have Johnson and the No. 48 team who have all the momentum coming into this weekend, and have won previously at this track.
On the other hand, you have all the Roushkateers who have dominated the track, leading all other teams with seven checkered flags at the 1.5-mile oval.
But, Roush Fenway has yet to impress me this year. Sure, Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 team won back-to-back races to start the season, but where have they been since then?
Edwards was the first logical choice for this weekend, but I'm with the others in worrying that there might be something amiss in the Roush engines this year that they have yet to fix.
So as much as I hate to say it, and I really don't want to root for him this Sunday, I think Johnson and the Lowe's Chevy are going to be visiting Victory Lane.
Johnson has a series-high Driver Rating of 104.7, an Average Running Position of 10.5 (fifth-best), 171 Fastest Laps Run (fourth-most) and the fastest Average Green Flag Speed of 172.797. And we all know when this team gets on a roll, they can win each and every weekend.
Last week's pick: Tony Stewart (finished third).
This week's pick: Carl Edwards—As a die-hard Jeff Gordon fan, nothing would please me more than to see him get his first win of the season and his first ever win at Texas.
But I just don't think that is a track where he and Steve quite have the handle on it yet.
So, I'm going to move to the Roush Fenway camp for this race. In spite of their struggles so far this season, Texas is a track where their teams traditionally excel.
My pick to win is Carl Edwards and I hope to see his six pack abs backflipping his way to the shoot out in Victory Lane!
Last week's pick: Jeff Gordon (finished fourth).
This week's pick: Kyle Busch—This kid and this team are reminding me of the early '90's AK Racing teams..."we're fast, real fast, faster than 'them' but...why aren't we winning every race?" Because it's hard.
I read an interview with Alan Kulwicki back in the day and he said something like, "It was difficult to reach 'fast' but it's even harder to 'win' now that we are fast." Welcome to the big leagues baby. Steve Adington reminds me of Paul Andrews at the same point in their careers, let's hope it's not one and out Steve.
The Money: Kyle Busch has 14 Cup wins at 13 tracks, none at Fort Worth. The No. 18 is due to take a race in Fort Worth more sooner than later. This go for broke team is holding all the cards in this Texas Hold 'em hand.
Last week's pick: Jeff Gordon (finished fourth).
This week's pick: Kurt Busch—This is probably the hardest choice I've made all season. I think I must have changed my mind like 10 times. But in the end, I'm going with a driver that in my opinion has the best mile and a half package right now: Kurt Busch.
Last week's pick: Jimmie Johnson (won the race).
This week's pick: Jeff Gordon—I've wrestled with my mind on if I wanted to take Kyle "immature" Busch, Carl Edwards, or Jeff Gordon.
Then I started thinking to myself that one of those guys is due for a win, and that driver is Jeff Gordon.
At Texas Motor Speedway Gordon has six top-fives, and eight top-10s, and after this race I think we are going to have to add a win to those stats too. So go get em Papa Gordon!
Last week's pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (finished eighth).
This week's pick: Clint Bowyer—Well being we're racing in Texas, I'm going to pick Clint Bowyer to win the Samsung 500.
He's the underdog that was written off by the media when he moved to the 33 from the 07 and he's proven everyone wrong. He's got an ace up his sleeve with his crew chief Shane Wilson, don't blink or you'll miss him slipping the ace out of his sleeve as pit strategy will help him claim his first win of the '09 season.
The thing to remember is, Wilson spent years winning championships in the Nationwide, and has now finally got a chance at Cup and he's going to make the best of this opportunity.
Get used to it, Bowyer and Wilson will be winning a lot of races together and championships.
Liked LJ's line about Kevin Harvick, almost picked him, but my gut tells me that this is the week Bowyer wins. Now I took along look at the Roush-Fenway Racing, but didn't gamble on them due to the engine deal.
Last week's pick: Denny Hamlin (finished second).
This week's pick: Clint Bowyer—Hello Creature's, my pick for this week is going to Clint Bowyer and the RCR bunch. I've actually been shocked no one's picked him before now.
Extra Lap: From the keyboard of LJ Burgess
Carl Edwards: This is the place for Edwards to break out of the pack. Cousin Carl needs a top-five here badly to stay relevant in '09 Cup Championship conversation. This year's start reminds me of the '07 roller-coaster ride Carl took.
The Money Trivia: Edwards DNF's around twice a season (none yet in '09) and he's a gimme in the top-five, a push for top 10's.
Jimmie Johnson: He has the only team better than Edwards' No. 99 in all aspects. Johnson has led laps in all but one race this year, Daytona, and that speaks volumes for the 'Dynamic Duo'. Even with just a solo win three races ago, Texas is always a No. 48 show with Johnson/Knaus finishing top-five/top 10, eight out of 11 contests.
The Money Caveat: The No. 48 has led only 77 laps in those 11 contests. Bet the top-five.
Clint Bowyer: The No. 33 is coming. As highly regarded as Bowyer is, he's still underrated in my book.
The only history that matters in Sprint Cup is your last three runs at any track and Bowyer is coming into Fort Worth on a roll. In the back of my mind I know the switch from the No. 07 to the No. 33 has given Bowyer the added impetus he needed to make the move to the top-five, maybe for the rest of his career.
[*] (Why is Casey Mears still in a Cup seat?)
The Cover Money: Clint Boyer will be battling Kyle Busch, Johnson, and Carl Edwards for the top dawg for the next five to 10 years.
Kevin Harvick: I just got a hunch on Happy's chances here. No facts or figures, I'm going on guts.
The "Hit Me": seventh hand, 16 showing...what the hell.
Matt Kenseth: Fading?
Texas can fix that for the No.17 this week. Could be top-five money.
Jamie McMurray: You bet your lucky stars that Jamie Mac will fall into a top 10 on Sunday...and he'll be just as surprised as you are.
Jeff Burton: A warrior at Texas but reliving the past glory will be tough unless the No. 31 pulls a top 16 qualifying effort.
Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman: Something's going on here and both of these guys know how to run at Texas. The only two drivers that I get negative vibes from have teamed up! It's just so damn tidy.
Jeff Gordon: It's either "Do or Die" in Texas for this stud team. If the No. 24 stubs its toe early in '09, it'll be in this race right here.
What ever happened to;
Martin Truex Jr.: Usually knows his way around TMS pretty well, only one bad finish in seven races. This is '09's "Make or Break" race for the No. 1.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Seven top 10s at TMS and he's led some laps lately. Another "Make or Break" race.
Mark Martin: The Rolling Stones of NASCAR. Why?
David Ragan: Where is my wünderkinder of the last two seasons?
Greg Biffle: It's 50+/- days into the '09 season and "The Biff" has wrecked three cars and blown an engine counting preseason, 'nuff said.
One more thing;
[*] Casey Mears: The Bay City Rollers of NASCAR. Why?
For more information about the writers making picks weekly, visit their B/R page by clicking on each writer's name.