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Staff picks for today’s Sprint Cup race at Texas

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The middle race of the Round 8 has no clear favorite based on the picks of NBC Sports’ writers.

Here are today’s picks:

Nate Ryan (@nateryan)

Brad Keselowski

He led 312 of 334 laps last year before having his championship round hopes crushed by Jimmie Johnson. He finally breaks through today for a Texas win and some consolation for already being eliminated.

Dustin Long (@dustinlong)

Kevin Harvick

He won’t need to win at Phoenix to advance to the championship round. He’ll score his first Cup win at Texas.

Daniel McFadin (@danielmcfadin)

Joey Logano

The Team Penske driver gets his second win at Texas in two years to join Jimmie Johnson in the championship race.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Carl Edwards

Edwards is one of the best at Texas: In 23 starts there, he has three wins, seven top fives and 12 top 10s. He could be the first Joe Gibbs Racing driver to make the final round.

Kelly Crandall (@KellyCrandall)

Jimmie Johnson

Not only is he coming off a big win at Martinsville, but he’s been unbeaten at Texas in the fall race since 2012.

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.