In another Monday matinee, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series hit Texas Motor Speedway. This was the first race with new spoiler at a mile and half track. The teams also did not have a practice on Saturday, so they were hitting a very green race track.
Check out the winners and losers of the Samsung 500.
For Denny Hamlin he was not even a factor all day long. Playing hurt, Hamlin was there when it counted on the final restart and was able to hold off a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson.
Hamlin was did not lead until the very end. They struggled with handling on the car starting in the back of the field.
Steadily, they worked their way to the front of the pack when it counted. Hamlin’s second win in three weeks proves that all this talk about his knee was just that; talk.
It has been hit and miss for Hamlin at Talladega. He suffered a hard hit here in the fall race in 2009 and another poor finish last spring.
He has an average running position of 14.2 and has led laps at the Alabama track, but he can’t seem to be there when it counts.
His knee will be a non factor as you ride wide open at Talladega but can he follow up his win last weekend with a win on a restrictor plate track.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
In case you did not know it Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is sitting in the top 10 in points and led a good portion of the race on Monday. Yes, Earnhardt is showing glimpses of what he could do and he is showing up to the track each week with better and better cars.
On Monday he led 46 laps on Monday and found himself in the top five with less than 20 to go. With older tires he lost positions on the restart but really ran a very solid race. He finished eighth. It’s nice to see to Earnhardt running well and his cars getting better, faster as the race goes on.
Now we head to Talladega where he has found a lot of success. He finished second in last year’s race and really is one of the best at being there when it matters. His average finish is 20.7 but his average running position is 14.5.
Monday was an up and down day for Matt Kenseth. At one point he was one lap down and close to being lapped again. The late-race accident really gave this team new life and they found themselves in the top 10 and battling for the win.
Kenseth finished 20th after late race troubles but the finish was much better than it would have been.
They never really had the car dialed in the way Kenseth wanted or needed. Somewhat surprising seeing how Roush Fenway and the Fords have run very well at this track in the past.
This weekend, Kenseth heads to Talladega with an average finish of 17.1 at the track. He has an average running position of 15.3, Kenseth could be a factor on Sunday that is if he can survive the big one something he couldn’t do last spring.
The race on Monday for Brian Vickers was not exactly how he hoped it would go. In fact it was the exact opposite of how he wanted it to go.
After last week’s issues at Phoenix, Vickers was out of the top 12 and was looking to rebound this weekend. Well, there was a miscommunication.
Of the first three cautions on the day Vickers was the two of the first three. The first one was on lap 77, with a right rear going down.
He hit the wall hard and caused damage to the back of his car. Then on lap 100 he lost another tire and went straight to the garage.
Vickers did not need tire issues and really needed to finish the race and get as many points as possible. Instead he found himself in the garage.
Talladega is not a track coming into it you’re looking to just finish the race, but for Vickers he needs to stop the bleeding after consecutive poor finishes.
Vickers has found success here and in fact has a solid average finish of 16.3. With a drivers rating of 89.3, I think Vickers could be in the catbird seat coming to the white flag.
Sam Hornish Jr.
In recent weeks Sam Hornish Jr. has shown some muscle during qualifying. Only during the race Hornish quickly begins to fade and we saw that on Monday. He battled a very loose condition early and was never able to battle for the lead.
Hornish quickly dropped back as the green flag waved. He caused a caution when he spun out and hit pit road. Hornish just was never able to get his hands wrapped around the handling of the car all day long. He finished 19th.
Now we head to Talladega where your qualifying results only matter on pit road, Hornish is looking to find some success, with his best finish of 34th in three starts. Hornish needs to just finish the race and bring the car home in one piece, which won’t be easy.
For Jeff Gordon, he had this race won prior to the caution for David Reutimann engine issue. Gordon had once again the best car out there on Monday and once again a late caution hurt them.
Gordon was in a fighting mood on Monday, especially with his teammate Jimmie Johnson. The two made contact and both expressed their displeasure with each other over the radio. Gordon continued and took the lead back.
On lap 317, Gordon and Tony Stewart made contact and sent Gordon hard into the wall. His day was over as he finished 31st after leading over 100 laps. Gordon fans should be encouraged; this team is bringing fast, strong cars every week to the track.
Now we head to a track that at one point Gordon has owned in Talladega. His average finish is 20.5 and has not finished better than 19th since his last win in 2007. That’s not to say he has not ran up front, he has gotten caught up in wrecks with every finish.
If there was any track on the circuit that teams circle on the calendar it is Talladega. At this point in the season you know the equipment you have and you know how you stack up against your competitors.
For the drivers sitting in the top five in points, you can afford a bad finish, although it’s not what you want.
Everyone else really needs to survive this weekend especially if you are on the outside looking in on the top 12. I am not saying ride around all day but you have to be smart and make sure your there in the end.
My first dark horse pick for this weekend is Tony Stewart, who second to Gordon, has an average finish of 16.1 but he has led at least a lap in every race but one since 2005. Stewart knows how to save his equipment and be there when it counts.
My second dark horse is Paul Menard. Actually I picked him to win this race, not because this race is anyone’s to win. He has shown he is able to finish races at Talladega.
2010 has been a very different season for Menard and I think he is more than capable of winning this race on Sunday.
The Aaron’s 499 is Sunday at 1 ET on FOX.