[media-credit name=”texasmotorspeedway.com” align=”alignright” width=”199″][/media-credit]We head to the Lone Star State for tonight’s Samsung Mobile 500 for the first scheduled race under the lights during this 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Its wide, its fast, and there will be plenty of drama when the green flag flies later this evening. This is just the second mile-and-a-half track of the season, and is guaranteed to pull me away from the NHL playoffs tonight.
Texas has been one of my favorite tracks for a while now, I’m not sure if its the speed, the flames and six-shooters in Victory Lane, the simple thought that ‘Everything’s Bigger in Texas’ – (a track that comfortably seats over 190,000). If you recall last fall’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway , the race was promoted as a old west showdown between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart. This weekend will not be much different except that it will be a duel between two teams, Roush Fenway Racing (8 wins in 22 Cup races at Texas) and Michael Waltrip Racing.
Last Week’s Recap
I had a great time celebrating Easter back in Syracuse, Mom made some great ham, showed my brothers and SpeedwayMedia.com editor Ed Coombs how to catch fish…
Back to racing.
It was two-weeks ago that we visited Martinsville Speedway for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500, and it was a dandy of a race on April Fools Day. My Dark Horse pick two weeks ago was a long shot after NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying, but Kurt Busch was up for the challenge of winning the race from 40th. Well, Busch’s day ended after a slue of problems with the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet including a pair of blown right-front tires. Busch’s No. 51 was shown way down towards the bottom of the scoring pylon in 33rd, netting me yet another finish outside the top 30.
It was a much better day for my Winner Pick two weeks ago, leading a race-high 328 laps and completely dominating the 500-lap battle at Martinsville Speedway. It was David Reutimann that squashed my hope of picking up my first win of the season two weeks ago at Martinsville. When his car came to rest on the backstretch with just three laps to go, he brought out the caution that would make the final restart of the race a five-car fiasco. My Winner Pick had the lead on the final restart, partly because him and his teammate Jimmie Johnson opted not to come to pit road under the final caution for fresh tires. Jeff Gordon had dominated all day, and when the field took the green flag on the race’s final restart, he was punted by Clint Bowyer, who was shoved by race-winner Ryan Newman. It was a result of fresh tires vs. old tires, and the old tires lost. Gordon finished 14th.
Besides a couple Hendrick chassis, its a MWR versus Roush Fenway battle this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Roush Fenway drivers Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle are sandwiched between pole-sitter Martin Truex and Mark Martin in the top-4 starting spots, setting the stage for the two-team battle under the lights tonight.
I think its Matt Kenseth who will fire the six-shooters tonight in Fort Worth. He is the defending winner of the Samsung Mobile 500, his second Cup win at Texas coming this time last year. His average finish of 8.7 at Texas is the best out of all the drivers taking the green tonight, and he’s also got two NASCAR Nationwide Series victories under his belt at Texas.
Kenseth will start on the outside of the front row tonight, and is excited for his chances of putting the cowboy hat on in Victory Lane, “I don’t really know why, but it has been a pretty good track for us in the past. We have had a lot of good runs and finishes here. Whenever you come back to a track you’ve had success at, then I think you probably always look forward to coming back to it maybe a little bit more. As far as mile-and-a-half tracks, we have only been to Vegas (this season) and I thought we performed really well there.“
Dark Horse Pick
Since Roush Fenway claimed my Winner Pick this week, Michael Waltrip Racing will take my Dark Horse this week, although this pick is a stretch of a Dark Horse.
He’s starting 4th tonight in just his 5th start of the 2012 season, but he will be piloting a rocket ship in the form of a Toyota Camry. Mark Martin is running a limited schedule this season in the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, so when he does make it behind the wheel, he’s got to make the most out of it.
He fired the six-shooters in Victory Lane at Texas back in 1998, but struggled severely in the two races in the Lone Star State last year with 36th and 19th place finishes. Texas has been fairly kind to him with 7 top-5’s and 12 top-10’s, and enjoys the ‘Hometown’ feel Texas has for him, “Texas Motor Speedway is about 450 miles from my hometown of Batesville, Arkansas. I’ve had a stronger fan following there than anywhere else. Sure I listen in driver introductions when the fans cheer or boo, but I really notice the fans in general throughout the weekend. They are pretty vocal. Since it isn’t that far from Batesville it’s one of the places where my fans go. Texas and Kansas are probably the two places where I see or hear from most of my fans. That’s always a great feeling.”
Tonight will be fun and I look forward to what the Lone Start State’s first race of 2012 has to offer. Until Next Time…You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!