The Hottest NASCAR Stories Heading into Texas
When it comes to short-track attitude, Martinsville delivered. You wanted good racing? We got that. You wanted heated tempers? We got that, too. You wanted a tight points race? We've got that. You wanted a new face in Victory Lane? That happened not once, but twice.
Any way you look at it, we're nearing the end of the 2013 season, and things look to be heating up with three races left. Our next stop is the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where Jimmie Johnson looks to break the tie he has with Matt Kenseth for the points lead. Texas has been good to both men, so it will be a must-see race.
These are the biggest stories entering Texas.
Nationwide Points Battle Heating Up
With three races left in the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series, Austin Dillon leads Sam Hornish Jr. by eight points. Hornish, who has otherwise been having a very strong year, has hit a slump in what could be described as a very inopportune time in the year.
His last four finishes stand at fourth, 17th, 17th and third. That may not seem too bad, but Dillon has been there to capitalize with four finishes of second, sixth, sixth and second. He hasn't shown any signs of slowing up as well, so it is now a matter of Lady Luck for Hornish.
Dillon has been strong at Texas, where in three starts he has a lowest finish of sixth. He may be overdue for a mulligan, but Hornish hasn't done as well; in seven starts, he's managed only two top-10s. If he wants to make any ground on Dillon, he'll need many things to go his way.
Wallace Scores First Win
Darrell Wallace Jr. earned his first career win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday in only his 19th start. That may not seem like overly exciting news, as every winner in NASCAR has to get their first win at some point or another. However, Wallace was the first black driver to win a major NASCAR race in almost 50 years.
Wallace's victory was a victory for NASCAR, as they have been trying very hard to diversify their ranks with talented drivers from all races. Wallace's victory was inevitable, however. He has shown signs of success throughout the season as well as his brief Nationwide stint last year.
In four Nationwide starts in 2012, he earned three top-10s and one pole, with a worst finish of 12th at the fall Dover race. This year in the trucks he has one win, five top-fives and 11 top-10s with one pole. He currently sits seventh in points, so even without a win, it has been a good year for Wallace.
Gordon Wins 88th Race
While other big names continue to drop off in the Chase, Jeff Gordon continues to hang in there, within striking distance of the leaders. After winning at Martinsville on Sunday, he sits third in points, 27 points behind the leaders.
An afterthought for most of 2013, Gordon has been making the most of his Chase run this year considering that he almost didn't make it and wasn't added to the Chase field until a few days after race No. 26 at Richmond. He has only finished outside of the top 10 twice during the Chase with a worst finish of 15th at Loudon.
Texas has been kind to Gordon in the past, so he could gain even more ground on the leaders. It may be a slim chance, but don't count out the No. 24 team.
Harvick vs. the Dillon Brothers and Richard Childress
Man, this was big.
Late in the going while battling for second in the truck race Saturday at Martinsville, Ty Dillon proceeded to dump Kevin Harvick, taking himself out in the process. Following the incident, Dillon attempted to take Harvick out during the caution, prompting Harvick to retaliate by stopping in Dillon's pit box and preventing him from making a pit stop.
It gets better from there. After he exited his truck in the garage, he proceeded to blast Ty and his brother Austin as well as his Sprint Cup boss Richard Childress, saying that the reason he was leaving RCR was due to the preferential treatment the Dillons were receiving, as they are Childress' grandsons.
"(Dillon) just dumped me," Harvick told Fox Sports 1. "Exactly the reason why I'm leaving RCR because you've got those kids coming up and they've got no respect for what they do in this sport and they've had everything fed to them with a spoon. I cut him slack all day and, you know, he just dive-bombs me in there, dumps me. It's a shame you've got to get taken out by some rich kid like that."
Harvick later apologized for his remarks, but one can't help but wonder if he wasn't on to something in regards to the Dillon brothers.
Kenseth and Johnson Tied for Points Lead
Last week, I wrote that Matt Kenseth's hunt for the title was virtually over. Is it too late to retract that statement?
After Martinsville on Sunday, Kenseth is back in the points lead, tied with Jimmie Johnson with three races remaining. He posted a career day at Martinsville, leading 202 laps and finishing second to Jeff Gordon while Johnson led 123 laps and finished fifth.
Both teams are pretty evenly matched when it comes to performance measures this year, and both have managed to be within striking distance on the track. Kenseth may have an edge over Johnson, as he has recorded wins at all three of the following tracks (Texas, Phoenix, Homestead) while Johnson has only won at two (Texas, Phoenix). But he is the defending event winner at Texas next week, so we'll just have to see how both drivers fare.