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Five drivers to watch at Texas Motor Speedway

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Keep an eye on these drivers this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson

After his win at Martinsville secured his place in the Championship 4, one may think Johnson can afford to relax. But when you have Kevin Harvick and all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers still vying for their own Championship spot, keeping the hammer down is the only option – and a fifth consecutive Chase race win at Texas by Johnson would increase the pressure for all of them. Johnson leads all major categories at Texas, including wins (six), top fives (14), top 10s (20) and laps led (1,023).

Matt Kenseth

He is also coming into this weekend with momentum. Since finishing 11th at Texas in April, Kenseth has posted six consecutive top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks. He’s also led over 100 laps in two of the last three races – that includes the most recent race on a 1.5-miler at Kansas (116 of 267; finished ninth) and last week’s race at Martinsville (176 of 500; finished fourth).

Martin Truex Jr.

Among the top drivers on 1.5-mile tracks this season (two wins, 817 laps led, 8.2 average finish), Truex looked poised to win at Texas back in April when a late-race decision to stay out instead of pitting for fresh tires backfired. And in last year’s Chase race at Texas, a loose wheel and power steering issue knocked him from contention in the closing laps. He would seem to be due.

Carl Edwards

Kyle Busch may have won at Texas earlier this year, but it can be argued that either Truex or Carl Edwards should’ve won based on performance. In Edwards’ case, he dominated the middle stages of that race until a loose wheel forced him to pit, fall a lap down, and then come back for a seventh-place finish. That was his fourth consecutive top 10 there, but only a win will likely erase his 32-point gap to the cut line and send him on to Miami.

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski has also been stout on mile-and-a-halves this year with victories at Las Vegas and Kentucky, plus a 10.4 average finish across all nine races on this type of track. Considering what he’s been through at Texas recently – the 2014 pit road brawl with Jeff Gordon and his dominant performance last fall dashed by Jimmie Johnson – a win here would mean a good deal to him.

 

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson involved in minor fender bender while leaving Fontana

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Kyle Larson‘s spectacular weekend at Auto Club Speedway — winning both Saturday’s Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup event — left him feeling good.

But shortly upon exiting the facility, Larson and several others were involved in a fender-bender right outside the Speedway. Larson was a passenger, not the driver.

No one was injured, Larson tweeted.

But somehow, isn’t that strange fate?

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s Fontana win shows continued maturing as a driver

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Kyle Larson finally broke his streak of three straight runner-up finishes with his win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, the crew discussed his win as well as his maturation as a driver.