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