Creature vs. Creature Writers Pool: Picks for the AAA Texas 500
What was thought to be the race to really shake up the standings did not exactly turn out as planned. Talladega did tighten up the point standings, but not as expected.
Sure, Jimmie Johnson increased his points from six to 14 over Denny Hamlin, but at the same time Kevin Harvick closed within 38 points. It also wasn't exactly the chaotic race as was expected.
Now that Talladega is in the rear-view mirror, NASCAR heads to the Lone Star State.
The saying is everything is bigger in Texas, and if this race lives up to last year, the points will change immensely. It was this race in 2009 where Johnson got involved in a wreck on lap 3, but somehow still managed to hold onto his Chase lead. If that were to happen this year, it's a guarantee that the points lead will change.
Earlier this year, Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag just two weeks after having ACL surgery, which many believed would hinder his championship hunt.
That has not been the case, and he's returning to Texas to attempt to make a sweep of the races at the 1.5-mile tri-oval.
Last year, it was Kurt Busch taking the win from brother Kyle, who ran out of fuel seven laps from the end.
Both brothers are looking for another win this season, so look out for the blue deuce and the M&M's Toyota.
No creatures picked up a win from Talladega thanks to Clint Bowyer, but Texas is going to be a hard one to choose. Here's who the writers believe will take the checkered flag in the AAA Texas 500.
Misan Ayuka: Kyle Busch
Busch has been good at Texas. Four top fives, five top tens, 446 laps led and an average finish of 14.73. He finished third there in the spring and ran second at Charlotte, which is similar to Texas.
The M&Ms could be burnouts at the Texas infield again like it did in 2004, only this time with Busch behind the wheel.
Kyle Brandt: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent at posting time.
James Broomhead: Kevin Harvick
Harvick is Mr. Consistency, and that's why he's still in the running for a title no one could have predicted back in February.
Billy Fellin: Kurt Busch
I think Busch has a good chance to bounce back at Texas, though he is on the outside looking in on the Johnson-Hamlin-Harvick party.
Christopher Leone: Tony Stewart
Somehow, I have managed to avoid him thus far during the Chase. Perhaps that’s been a good call. He’s had terrible luck in the Chase ever since the final two laps of the Loudon event. He has little momentum to build off of from the past few races as he lingers in the bottom half of Chase points.
But Smoke’s Texas results tell a decidedly different story. His peak years at the track came in 2005 and 2006, and he led double-digit laps in every event, winning the fall 2006 race.
He showed some muscle this spring by leading 74 laps from the pole before a late race crash eliminated any hopes of victory.
Kara Martin: Kurt Busch
Last week's thought and pick certainly did me no good at all—Thanks Junior.
So it's back to random picks for me!
Dustin Parks: Denny Hamlin
Here's my reasoning: Hamlin is already happy that the Chase is as close as it is with just 38 points separating the top three. That is motivation to keep running strong and to ultimately pounce on the leaders.
He is thus far the only driver to sweep races at one track, which happened at Martinsville. He enters a track where he's won earlier this year and averages a 9.6 finish. That is better than both Johnson (10.1) and Harvick (12.9).
Hamlin's time is running out, so I'm going with the No. 11 to be first on Sunday.
Rob Tiongson: Kyle Busch
After seeing how he fared at Charlotte, I think he's due for a Lone Star State victory at the famed North Carolina's sister track near the heart of Texas on Sunday.
Sure, a title's out of the question and JGR's focus is on Denny Hamlin snookering a Cup away from Jimmie Johnson, but I do think a win is still in the bags for the No. 18 team.
Alan Wade: Mark Martin
Mark has had pretty good results at Texas. In 19 starts, he has 11 top one runs, and placed sixth in the spring race. While the No. 5 team finally seems to be turning it around, it's a little too late for anything but a disappointing season.
Here's hoping the No. 5 team finds victory lane this time around.
STANDINGS FOLLOWING TALLADEGA:
Rob Tiongson (6,169) Kevin Harvick finished second (3)
Dustin Parks (6,086) Kevin Harvick finished second (5)
Misan Ayuka (6,014) Kurt Busch finished 30th (4)
Christopher Leone (5,984) Kurt Busch finished 30th (5)
Kara Martin (5,962) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 39th (3)
James Broomhead (5,916) Jamie McMurray finished 36th (4)
Billy Fellin (5,900) Kevin Harvick finished second (5)
Alan Wade (5,900) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 39th (3)
Kyle Brandt (5,727) Kevin Harvick finished second (2)
It is all about who can cowboy up, take the reins on this wild horse and tame Texas. This track has a history of being a site for some of the strangest occurrences in NASCAR, like water seeping through the seams and wrecks before anyone can complete a lap.
Will the same thing happen this year?
We won't know until Sunday. Coverage from Texas begins at 1 p.m. on ESPN.
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