FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Top 5 with Jimmie Johnson Talk Race 7 in Fast Texas

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIApril 10, 2013

A team member pushes the No. 48 Chevrolet on pit road in Daytona before a practice run.  Credit: Dwight Drumo
A team member pushes the No. 48 Chevrolet on pit road in Daytona before a practice run. Credit: Dwight Drumo

NASCAR takes to racing under the lights this Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas. The 1.5-mile oval track with 24-degree banking sits on a Texas-sized property of about 1,500 acres and has abundant seating for 122,377.

Fans without tickets can enjoy all 334 laps, about 500 miles, of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing on Fox at 7:30 p.m.

Since its first race on April 6, 1997, the speedway has attracted large crowds to its fast track. Fans planning to be there in person or watching on TV can prepare for the excitement by reading select comments taken from drivers who know what to expect from the race.

The top five NSCS drivers—Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski , Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne—shared their thoughts before the green flag waves in Texas.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)

Point leader Johnson is known for his diligence and superior driving skills. His No. 48 team, lead by crew chief Chad Knaus, back him up with precision.

“We ran really well at Vegas, and California didn't go as well as we wanted, but it's a much different racetrack than what we have at Texas,” Johnson said. “I would say that Texas and Vegas are closer together than Texas and California. We'll go there and see. We're still learning this car on the big tracks. Fontana we were certainly trying some things, and smarter leaving there, and I know that these guys will work hard and give me a great car this coming race.”

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)

Even though the offseason for NASCAR drivers and teams is short, it’s often difficult to carry the momentum from one year to the next. With the new Gen-6 car, that reality became even more difficult, but Keselowski and team have been able to follow their 2012 NSCS championship with a good start in 2013.

“With the way we ran at Las Vegas and Auto Club, I’m cautiously-optimistic about our chances this weekend at Texas,” Keselowski said. “The asphalt has aged and is very bumpy—like Vegas—but Texas is a completely different animal. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to roll out a brand-new chassis this weekend. I thought we started figuring Texas out last year, so we’ll see if what we learned will translate to the new car. Obviously we started the season well and I don’t see a reason we won’t have speed in the Miller Lite Ford on Saturday.

“I love the way NASCAR mixes in some races on Saturday nights throughout the season. The electricity around the sport just seems to ramp up when you are racing under the lights. We all enjoy having a Sunday off every now and then.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)

Earnhardt Jr. and his team slipped from the lead this week after the bumping and banging at Martinsville limited any good results. Earnhardt is moving on to the next race.

“I enjoy racing at Texas,” he said. “It’s a mile and a half, like a lot of tracks we run on in the series, but this track has got some oddities to it that make it different than most of the other 1.5-mile tracks. The exits, to Turn 2 especially, are a real challenge. And the bumps and stuff are pretty challenging on the bottom of both corners. The entry to [Turn] 1 is always a lot of fun. It’s really fast and just trying to get the car through the middle is a challenge there. Texas is a unique place.”

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)

The efforts of Busch and team have often taken them to victory lane. Yet, even with frequent wins, Busch still struggles to earn a championship. He is off to a good start this year.

“Texas is a really fast mile-and-a-half racetrack. Charlotte has been fast the last few years and Texas has always kind of been that way,” Busch said. “The asphalt is getting a little bit older but, for as old as the asphalt is, it’s still really fast for a few laps and it’s still kind of a pain, sometimes, because it is so aero-dependent that when you do run the bottom it’s hard to pass. You’ve got to be able to move around a little bit and run the middle, run the top and show some ability to go all over the racetrack. We’re getting closer each and every time, it feels like. Sometimes not so much—you kind of go forward and then you go backward and then you kind of come back forward some. Hopefully, Texas will be good to us this time around, also, and we can get a win with our Interstate Batteries Camry like at Fontana.”

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)

Kahne, with crew chief and friend Kenny Francis, has experienced more consistency since moving to Hendrick Motorsports. With one win already this year, this combination may make for a solid run for the championship.

“Every day I wake up and know that I'm part of Hendrick Motorsports and it feels good," Kahne said. “Then to get a win early in the season in such a competitive series and do it in the No. 5 car, I feel really good about that. It's great to get those post-win calls from Mr. [Hendrick], and when he's excited and happy that we were able to pull it off and put an entire race together and win, it makes it all pretty exciting and fun.”

Whatever the outcome, stock cars will roar and barbeque will sizzle in Texas.

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.


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