If everything’s bigger in Texas, then the Sprint Cup Series is bound to put on a fantastic show if the first five races of the season are any indication.
Last weekend it was Ryan Newman that took advantage of the green-white-checkered finish to capture his first win of 2010 and first in over two years. He comes to the Texas Motor Speedway as a past winner, 2003, looking to make it two in a row.
In order to do that he’ll have to contend with last year’s winner, and the man he passed for the win in Phoenix, Jeff Gordon. For the first time in his career Gordon went to victory lane at Texas last season, but hasn’t celebrated a win since then.
He’s becoming more and more frustrated as potential wins have slipped away.
His teammate on the other hand, Jimmie Johnson, isn’t frustrated. The Lowe’s driver already has three wins this year, but he didn’t perform up to standard at arguably his best track in Martinsville two weeks ago, and settled for third in Phoenix after leading the most laps on Saturday.
He too is looking to add a second Texas win, backing up his 2007 performance with another cowboy hat.
Don’t be surprised though if it comes down to who can beat the Roush-Fenway drivers. Teammates Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards, have a combined five wins between them heading into Sunday. Edwards and Biffle looked to be headed for a win last year before they both suffered timely pit road mistakes.
Mistakes aren’t what our Creatures are making. While no one picked Newman to take home the checkered flag in Phoenix, it was only one of two races that we didn’t have a correct pick. Let’s see who our Creatures believe will bring them a win in the Samsung 500.
Misan Akuya: Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth is the most consistent driver of 2010 with three top fives and six top tens. However, it could be four top fives and seven top tens if not for contact with Jeff Gordon at Martinsville. But Kenseth's average finish this year is eighth which leads all drivers and he’s the best driver at Texas with 15 starts, one win, seven top fives, and 10 top tens.
He also has an average finish of 9.27, which leads all drivers. Kenseth will probably start up front at Texas and dominate the race. He has been on the edge of wins this year so expect Kenseth to win and grab the point lead in the process.
James Broomhead: Jeff Gordon
No better pick than last season’s winner and driver that’s getting closer and closer to victory lane thus far this season.
Kelly Crandall: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth is one of the best drivers when it comes to Texas and he’s growing hungry for a win. After starting the year as one of the most consistent drivers in the series, there would be no better place to get that win than at the track where he’s always run up front. Add in the fact that his team is confident and his spotter Mike Calinoff saying, “We’ll be contending for the win in Texas.” NASCAR’s quietest driver is looking good to be the one firing the guns and wearing the cowboy hat in the Texas victory lane.
Billy Fellin: Matt Kenseth
Though I'm still reeling from Kasey Kahne going to Hendrick—he's my favorite driver and I'm still trying to deal with rooting for a Chevy—I'm sticking with my blue ovals here for Texas and picking Kenseth. He's been solid all season and stands second in points. He's won at Texas before and finished in the top 10 both times last season.
Adam Heasley: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I really believe he could have had a top five had the splitter not sent the team in the wrong direction last week. I'm also taking Junior in hopes no one picks him and I can maybe gain some points on my fellow creatures.
Christopher Leone: Tony Stewart
Of active drivers, Smoke is the fourth-best at Texas, with one win and 10 top-10s in 16 starts. The win came in the fall of 2006 when he led 278 of the race’s 339 laps. Smoke also has to be buoyed by teammate Ryan Newman’s win last weekend at Phoenix, a great step towards asserting that Stewart-Haas Racing won’t fall victim to a sophomore slump in 2010.
Kara Martin: Jeff Gordon
Gordon’s the defending race winner at Texas and a driver that is so hungry for a win I expect him to take a big bite out of Texas on Sunday.
Dustin Parks: Jeff Gordon
One year ago Gordon came here on a long losing skid and expected it to continue. What he got instead was one of the most unexpected wins of his career. He’s coming to Texas with an axe to grind as he’s lost the last two races due to a late restart.
But, it took a strong restart last year to win this race. Hendrick’s 1.5-mile package is strong and Gordon is overdue for victory.
The No. 24 will win it this week.
Patti Rodisch: Kyle Busch
If there was one driver who did not want to see a caution last Saturday night it was Kyle Busch, he was pulling away from the field. Now they head to TMS where Busch has run very well and has an average finish is 15.9. But with an average running position of 11.8, Busch will be near the front.
The high speed at Texas is the perfect place for Busch to finally win his first race of the season. He’s shown an improvement on the cars the last couple weeks, I think in Texas he will close the deal.
Sal Sigala Jr.: Jimmie Johnson
No reason other than sooner or later he will win another race.
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
In this race a year ago Jeff Gordon came to Texas with one mission: to conquer it. He qualified on the outside pole, dialed that car in and by far he had the most stout car in the field, propelling the No. 24 team to victory.
This season, it's been a bit of a different story. Arguably this group has improved week after week, putting Gordon in a position to contend for wins. While he's not sealed the deal when the money lap's on the line thus far, I look for that streak to end at Texas Motor Speedway to become the first driver to win the same event in consecutive years.
David Yeazell: Jeff Gordon
Gordon broke his winless streak here once before, so why not do it again.
Kara Martin (1,042 ) Jimmie Johnson finished third (1 )
Kelly Crandall (1,012 ) Jimmie Johnson finished third (0 )
Dustin Parks (980 ) Mark Martin finished fourth (1 )
Christopher Leone (978 ) Mark Martin finished fourth (1 )
David Yeazell (911 ) Jimmie Johnson finished third (0 )
Billy Fellin (899 ) Kurt Busch finished 35th (1 )
Sal Sigala Jr. (896 ) Jimmie Johnson finished third (0 )
James Broomhead (828 ) Kurt Busch finished 35th (1 )
Misan Akuya (791 ) Tony Stewart finished 23rd (0 )
Rob Tiongson (788 ) Brian Vickers finished 37th (0 )
Patti Rodisch (749 ) Mark Martin finished fourth (0 )
Adam Heasley (578 ) NO PICK SENT (0 )
Many are calling Texas the first true test of how the spoiler will affect the racing as it debuts on a 1.5-mile track after two weeks of seeing an intermediate and a short track. Drivers, though, don’t feel that it’s going to make a big difference, but we’re all going to find out together on Sunday.
While Texas has seen plenty of diverse winners over the years, including two first-time winners in Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the track has a fondness for Roush-Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. The two organizations have won 11 of the tracks 18 races and will be the ones to watch on Sunday.
Summary of Picks
Jeff Gordon – 5
Matt Kenseth – 3
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 1
Tony Stewart – 1
Kyle Busch – 1
Jimmie Johnson – 1