Dallas Motorsports: Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch hopes to build off earlier TMS win

November, 1, 2013
One thing Kyle Busch will get this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway is lots of track time. The driver is competing in tonight's truck race, followed by the Nationwide race Saturday and the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday.

But before he even climbs into his truck, Busch has plenty of confidence at TMS. He won the Sprint Cup race in the spring, the first race at TMS with the new Gen-6 car. He won the Nationwide race less than 24 hours earlier.

"It certainly went well for us here earlier this year, and we made it a lot of fun," Busch said. "We want to try to have a repeat performance."

Busch won the Sprint Cup's NRA 500 by leading a race-high 171 laps and won the race from the pole. He was up front all weekend.

Busch believes running all three series gives him an advantage in that he gets to see the track in race conditions a few times before Sunday. Busch sits 36 points behind Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth but is fifth in the standings. He knows he's a long shot to winning the title.

"If you have bad luck with the front two then that's going to bring five guys back into it, I feel like," Busch said. But he later added: "I bet you the front two don't."

What to watch: AAA Texas 500

October, 31, 2013
NASCAR's playoffs, the Chase for the Sprint Cup, enters the final three races full of drama. In fact, the Chase has never been this close this late in the season, with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth tied for the points lead. And there are others -- like Jeff Gordon (27 points behind), Kyle Busch (36 back) and even a few more -- still hopeful of making a comeback and snatching the trophy away.

Let's take a look at a few things to watch this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Qualifying takes place Friday, the Nationwide Series runs Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN is the AAA Texas 500 Sprint Cup Series race):

Top two contenders like Texas: There really isn't a big advantage for Johnson or Kenseth in Texas. Both have run well at TMS.

Kenseth is the career leader at TMS in Sprint Cup races laps led with 772, top-5 finishes with 12 and finishing average at 8.5. He has two wins at the track, including the spring of 2011. He's finished in the top 10 in seven of his eight appearances in the fall race.

Johnson will be defending his victory from 2012 and has two additional wins at the speedway. He also has five runner-ups at TMS, the most by a Cup driver.

Experience counts: Both Johnson and Kenseth have championships on their résumés. But Kenseth's came in 2003, before NASCAR switched to the Chase format. And Johnson has put together one of the most dominating stretches the sport has ever seen, winning five straight titles from 2006 to 2010. He understands this format and what has to be done. So if there's an experience edge, it goes to Johnson.

Don't forget about me: Gordon earned the checkered flag at Martinsville last week, inching him closer to the rear bumper of Johnson and Kenseth. He sits 27 points behind and comes to TMS with confidence. After the final race of the regular season, it didn't appear that Gordon was going to even be in the Chase. But NASCAR gave Gordon a 13th spot when it determined that Michael Waltrip Racing was unfairly trying to influence the outcome of the Richmond race.

Gordon took advantage, finishing in the top 10 in five of the first seven Chase races to make his climb. He's vying for a fifth championship and will do so at a track where he's bounced back from some early disappointments. Gordon ended a 47-race winless streak with a victory at TMS in 2009 and has 11 top-10 finishes in 25 career starts.

Local driver tries to defend championship: James Buescher, the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, is back at TMS (one of the tracks where he learned to race) and hoping to get himself back in championship contention. He sits 51 points behind leader Matt Crafton and has never won at TMS in the Truck Series.

Drivers to watch: NRA 500 at TMS

April, 12, 2013

With ESPN Stats & Information riding shotgun, here's who you should keep a close eye on during Saturday night's NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:

Jimmie Johnson: "Five-Time" has outdone the entire field in some aspects over the past 10 Sprint Cup events. In that time, he has four of the 10 wins and has won three times from the pole, something no other driver has done even once. He also has three starts where he's earned maximum points, which is more than the rest of the field combined. Johnson led more laps at TMS (324) in 2012 -- more than 3.5 times any other driver. After last week's win at Martinsville, Johnson now has 12 multi-win seasons during his career, which ranks behind only Richard Petty (18), Jeff Gordon (14) and Cale Yarborough (13).

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage joins Galloway & Company to discuss the NRA sponsorship and who he's picking to win Saturday's Sprint Cup race.

Listen Listen
And don't look for that dominance to end on the 1.5-mile track at TMS. Johnson loves the distance, earning more career wins on 1.5-mile tracks (17 in 113 starts) than any other driver in NASCAR history. Jeff Gordon (16/161) and Tony Stewart (15/133) are on his heels, however.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Since the start of the 2012 season, Dale Jr. has really stepped it up. His average finish over his last 40 races has been 10.4 -- more than eight spots better than the 2009-11 seasons (18.8 average finish). And he's very comfortable at TMS, where he earned his first career victory. Earnhardt has four straight top-10 finishes at TMS and five overall since the start of the 2010 Sprint Cup season. For his career, he's got 12 top-10 finishes in 21 races. Not too shabby.

Roush Fenway Racing (Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards): RFR is no stranger when it comes to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. The team has nine Cup wins at TMS, more than double the next-best effort (4, by Hendrick Motorsports drivers). Greg Biffle, who won the spring race in 2012, and Carl Edwards will again be behind the wheel in Jack Roush cars on Saturday night, so keep an eye on them. In the last five races here (spanning 18 starts), RFR drivers have two wins, 11 top-5 finishes and 15 top 10s. They've also led 38.7 percent of laps run at TMS.

Edwards is the winningest Cup driver at TMS, having fired the pistols three times in Victory Lane. He also has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts here, with an average finish of 7.3. Biffle, meanwhile, has one win and hasn't finished outside the top 10 in his last nine races at TMS -- an average finish of 5.7. That includes six top-5s.

Danica Patrick: You have to keep on eye on Danica, whose eighth-place finish during the 2012 Nationwide Series race at TMS is the second-best result of her NASCAR career. And don't forget she's coming off an impressive 12th in the Cup race at Martinsville last week. Patrick seems very comfortable running under the green at TMS, where she passed a personal-best 107 cars en route to a 24th place finish last November.

Brad Keselowski: You have to think a visit to Victory Lane is just around the corner for the reigning Cup champion. Keselowski has yet to win this season, but has an average finish of 7.2 thus far this season. That's ahead of the personal-best pace he set last season, as he had an average finish of 10.1 -- with five wins -- en route to the Sprint Cup championship.

Kyle Busch: After the worst season of his career, Busch still is a threat to win behind the wheel of any car, as his success across all three of NASCAR's series proves. After taking the checkered flag just once last season, Busch has gotten back to his winning ways in 2013 -- getting four wins in just 12 races. Over the last six seasons, Busch has 88 victories in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.

Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is always a threat at TMS, having won twice on the 1.5-mile track. But it's not the checkered flags that impresses most. It's the career average finish here (8.3) that boggles the mind. He's got 12 top 5s, 15 top 10s and has led 772 laps at TMS.

Jeff Gordon: Saturday's start will the 696th in a row for Gordon, who will move within one of Rusty Wallace for second on the all-time NASCAR Iron Man list. Ricky Rudd holds the record at 788.

Tony Stewart: "Smoke" has always been a TMS favorite, but he's run into tough times so far this season with an average finish of 21.2 and only 154 quality passes, which ranks 22nd among Cup drivers. That being said, you can't count Stewart out as he's visited Victory Lane in each of the last 14 seasons, which is tied for seventh all-time behind Richard Petty's 18 seasons with a win. With a checkered flag in 2013, he'll join Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt on that list, and he'd also tie Herb Thomas for 13th all-time with 48 career victories.

Danger always lurking around the corner at TMS

April, 11, 2013

Danger can strike at any time in any area of the track at Texas Motor Speedway.

There have been 89 accidents in 24 races at TMS (3.7 per race) with almost a quarter occurring on the backstretch since 1997, where 23.6 percent of incidents occur. Turn 2 has been the next busiest area for the tow trucks, where 20.2 percent of accidents have happened.

Other areas: Turn 4 (19.1 percent), Frontstretch (16.9), Turn 1 (13.5) and -- finally -- Turn 3 (6.7).

Where's the best place to be? Running at the front of the field, of course. Since average running position was first added into accident data in 2008, Texas Motor Speedway has the second-lowest wreck percentage -- 2.4 percent -- by cars running in the Top 5. Phoenix is the safest track for cars in the top five (1 percent).

Who was the unlucky driver? Tony Stewart was running second when he wrecked in the 2010 spring race.

And if you're a fan of fireworks, you might not have to wait until the checkered flag flies and the postrace festivities begin. TMS has a history of explosive moments.

  • November 2009: Jimmie Johnson was pursuing his fourth straight Cup title as the series headed to Texas, but it ran into a snag when Sam Hornish Jr. got loose and made contact with the 48. Johnson nearly saved the car before colliding with Hornish again, and he sustained heavy damage. Johnson was very critical of Hornish after the race.

  • April 2010: Jimmie Johnson made contact with teammate Jeff Gordon, and Gordon shared his thoughts over the radio. They also made contact the very next week at Talladega.

  • November 2010: Jeff Burton inexplicably put Jeff Gordon into the wall well after a caution had come out. After Gordon climbed out of his car, he walked all the way down the backstretch and shoved Burton. Burton shoved back as the two shouted at each other.

  • November 2010: Kyle Busch was tabbed for speeding on a pit stop, and in frustration, he gave a one-finger salute -- and then a two-middle finger salute -- to a NASCAR official while being held on pit road. He was attempting to stay ahead of the pace car after a wreck.
  • Stats & Info: NRA 500 at TMS

    April, 10, 2013
    PM CT

    Playing the numbers game for the NRA 500, to be held at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night:

  • Jimmie Johnson is back in the points lead after a dominant Martinsville victory. It’s his 12th straight multi-win season -- the fourth-longest streak in Sprint Cup Series history. It’s also the fourth time he’s won at least twice in the first six races of the season. The other three times he did it, he went on to win the title. Johnson could add a third win at Texas, a track at which he led 324 laps last season -- nearly half the laps of the two races held there (669).

  • Johnson took the points lead away from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished outside the top 10 for the first time this season. Earnhardt will look to bounce back at Texas, site of his first career win in 2000 and a track where he’s had five top 10s in the last six races, coming back from a slump.

    From 2000-06, Dale Jr. had top 10s in seven of his nine races for an average finish of 10.2. Over the next three seasons, through 2009, he failed to crack the top 10 in six races for an average finish of 21.2. Since then, however, he's averaged an 11th place finish in his last six races.

  • No team has a better record at TMS than Roush Fenway Racing, which has won nine of the 24 races -- more than twice as many as any other team. In the last five races at TMS, Roush Fenway drivers have led 646 laps (38.7 percnet) and have gone on to 11 top 5s and 15 top 10s in 18 starts, and they've won the last two spring races with Matt Kenseth (no longer with the team) and Greg Biffle.

  • Kenseth is no longer with Roush Fenway Racing, but he’ll look to bring his Texas expertise to Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth is the all-time TMS leader in top 5s (12), top 10s (15), laps led (772) and average finish (8.3). He’s just one win behind former teammate Carl Edwards, who has three.

  • Danica Patrick was a pleasant surprise at Martinsville, finishing 12th in her first visit there. She’s struggled this season on larger tracks, but TMS could be a place where she maintains momentum. Last year in the spring Nationwide Series race, she finished a NNS season-best eighth. And in her only Sprint Cup start at the track, she passed a career-high 107 cars under the green flag.

    Who stars in the Lone Star State?

  • Greg Biffle: Nine straight top-10 finishes at Texas; longest streak in track history (defending spring race winner).
  • Jimmie Johnson: Finished second and first at Texas last season (five top 10s in last six races).
  • Matt Kenseth: Five straight top-5 finishes at Texas (won spring 2011 race).
  • Carl Edwards: Three Sprint Cup Series wins at Texas (leads all drivers).
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Four straight top 10s at Texas (1st career NSCS win came at Texas in 2000).

    Who's just feeling alone?

  • Brad Keselowski: Has finished 14th or worse in eight of nine career Texas races (2nd last fall; 36th last spring).
  • Mark Martin: Has wrecked out of two of last four TMS races.
  • Ryan Newman: Has finished outside top 10 in last nine TMS races.
  • Brian Vickers: Has never finished better than 12th at Texas (14 starts).
  • Kyle Busch: Has finished outside top 10 in three of last four races at TMS.
  • Have at it, boys? Not this time for Kyle Busch

    November, 5, 2011
    AM CT

    After deliberately wrecking Camping World Truck Series points leader Ron Hornday during a caution just 15 laps into Friday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR has come down hard on Kyle Busch.

    Busch, a participant in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup, has been suspended from the Nationwide Series race on Saturday AND for the Sprint Cup race on Sunday.

    "After a good deal conversation and discussion, NASCAR decided to maintain the parked position for the balance of the weekend," Helton said during a news conference Saturday morning. "Kyle will not be participating today and tomorrow in Texas."

    For more on the story, click here.

    Busch has long been a polarizing figure in NASCAR, with fans either loving or hating the brash driver of the M&M's No. 18. So, after NASCAR's famed declaration of "Have at it, boys," do you agree with the sport's decision to park Busch for the weekend?

    Click here to comment.

    Pressure is on as Chase heats up

    October, 11, 2011
    PM CT
    The intensity in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup grew even higher Sunday at Kansas as Jimmie Johnson earned his second win of the season and Carl Edwards took the series lead by one point over Kevin Harvick. But it seems like there’s only one thing on the public’s mind: “We’re tired of Johnson winning championships.”

    While I understand Johnson and this sport seems like a broken record (excuse the pun), I’d like to remind everyone of the unique season we’ve seen.

    First let’s consider the repeat Cinderella story. Prior to this season, never before had NASCAR seen first-time winners in the Daytona 500, Southern 500 and Brickyard 400 in one year. In fact, even just the Daytona 500 and Southern 500 had never seen first-time winners in the same season. That’s good stuff.

    Next I want to bring up the heated competition. Yes, I’m talking about feuds and controversy. Fireworks erupting between Harvick and Kyle Busch at Darlington, Johnson and Kurt Busch at Richmond and Pocono, Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya at Darlington, and Greg Biffle and Boris Said at Watkins Glen.

    “He is the most unprofessional little scaredy cat I've ever seen in my life,” Said said about Biffle. “He wouldn't even fight me like a man after. So if someone texts me his address, I'll go see him Wednesday at his house and show him what he really needs.”

    Talk about drama. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

    Then you’ve got drivers like Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. making remarkable comebacks, clinching a spot in the Chase and actually being in contention to win the title. And let’s not forget Jeff Gordon earning his 85th victory, passing Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third place on the all-time wins list.

    It’s been a very competitive year, and this could turn out to be a magical season. It reminds me of 1992 when Alan Kulwicki, an underdog, recorded one of the greatest championship comebacks in NASCAR history, rebounding from a 278-point deficit with six races remaining. Kulwicki edged Bill Elliott by 10 points to become the series champion -- the closest championship margin at the time.

    Now we’re down to six races and nine guys still have a legitimate shot, but somebody’s feelings are about to get hurt. There’s no room for mistakes now. You can’t leave anything on the table. Get ready NASCAR nation, because the pressure’s on.

    Analyzing the Chase field: Watch the top 6

    September, 12, 2011
    PM CT

    After Saturday’s race at Richmond, the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field has been set. So who’s going to be crowned champion this season? Even though 12 drivers compete in the Chase, you have to look hard at the top six.

    1. Kyle Busch – The most talented driver in the series. He’s got outstanding equipment and a very competitive edge. He’s matured in his eight-year career, but has he matured enough?

    2. Kevin Harvick – With four wins this season, including Saturday night at Richmond, he’s got incredible momentum. The last two years he has loitered at the top of the standings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the championship.

    3. Jeff Gordon – Someone you definitely need to keep an eye on. His post-race interview Saturday night may have been a giveaway that he knows something we don’t. He was uncharacteristically enthusiastic. He may know his team either has a technical advantage or a great sense of momentum. He’s a popular pick of the pundits to win his fifth championship.

    4. Matt Kenseth – My dark horse candidate. Kenseth always seems to poke his nose into contention when it’s money time. He’s got amazing talent in knowing how to go the distance, whether it’s 500 laps or 10 races.

    5. Carl Edwards – A tough competitor. He’s been atop the standings all season and is very smart with a race car. He could win his first championship and would be a very popular champion.

    6. Jimmie Johnson – Knows how to play the Chase better than anybody. “Five-Time” could easily become “Six-Time.” He’s extremely focused on the championship and chasing down Earnhardt and the King’s seven NASCAR Sprint Cup titles. To quote the great Rick Flair, “To be the man, you gotta’ beat the man.” And nobody’s beaten JJ in five years. Will somebody this year?

    I’m not ruling out the remaining six drivers – Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. These guys are very unpredictable. Don’t be surprised to see Keselowski or Hamlin come out of nowhere and win this thing.

    We’ve got 10 races to go starting with Chicago this weekend, including the AAA Texas 500 here at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 4th. We’ll see how it plays out.

    Kyle Busch puts Toyota in Victory Lane at Michigan

    August, 23, 2011
    AM CT

    For Kyle Busch, winning the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday was monumental in more ways than one.

    Yes, he earned his first win at Michigan. Yes, he clinched his berth in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Yes, he became the first four-time Cup winner this season. But what was on his mind after that green/white-checkered finish? He put a Toyota in Victory Lane at the track closest to the city of the Big Three.

    “You know, it’s so awesome to finally win here at Michigan and get Toyota to Victory Lane here at Michigan,” Busch said. “It feels good being so close to Detroit and everything. This was a flawless Camry and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing -- all these guys on this team; the guys at JGR engine room -- gave me a great motor today.”

    Jimmie Johnson was trying to carry the flag for Detroit, racing his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet hard, but Busch edged him by .568 seconds. That kept Johnson winless at Michigan International Speedway -- one of five tracks currently on the circuit where he hasn’t earned a victory.

    The old maxim still holds true that what wins on Sunday sells on Monday. And for Toyota, Busch is its most valuable salesperson. Now the question is, will Busch break Johnson’s streak of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships and give Toyota its first NASCAR Sprint Cup title? Busch currently leads the standings by 10 points over Johnson.

    “I’ve worked with Kyle as a teammate in the past,” Johnson said. “I understand his passion for racing. I certainly know he’s not afraid to stand on the gas and can really drive the car to its full potential week in and week out.

    “I said this about him a while ago: Once he figured out how to win races, he’d win a lot. He certainly had done that. His big test is for a championship. Once he understands that and figures that out, I think he’ll win lots of those, too.”

    Everyone has their eye on Busch this season. Even Darrell Waltrip, who has raced with legends like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, had this to say Monday via Twitter: “I've either raced against or watched the greatest drivers that's ever been in NASCAR, Kyle Busch is the most talented driver I've ever seen.”

    Darrell was one of the greats, too. That comment says a lot.

    Busch’s dominance on the race track this season has marked him a favorite to win the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

    Kasey Kahne's R&R: Risky racing, and that's OK

    July, 25, 2011
    PM CT

    The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was off last weekend, and for a lot of drivers it was time for a little R&R. One driver went to Spain. Another to France. Jeff Gordon went on a charitable trip to the Congo.

    But not Kasey Kahne

    Kahne loaded up his sprint car racing team for some World of Outlaws action at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Action is exactly what he got. He was running in the second heat race Friday night -- the opening night of the Summer Nationals -- when another driver began sliding up the track inside of him. The two made contact and Kahne went tumbling over the guardrail.

    Actually, he went over the catch fence, completely out of the speedway. (See video above)

    It was quite a spectacular crash. Luckily, Kahne walked away unhurt. He tweeted later: "Got wiped out in my heat race tonight. Haven't flipped like that in a long time!"

    Talk about risky business. And not just for Kahne, but also others invested in him. I wonder how Rick Hendrick feels about that. Here’s Hendrick investing millions of dollars into Kahne’s Sprint Cup career, and the driver was exposing himself to potential injuries.

    My opinion? Bless him. I admire Kahne and drivers like Carl Edwards and those who race at Eldora with Tony Stewart every year. They're race car drivers who love to race. My favorite event is the Slinger Nationals in Wisconsin, which Kyle Busch won last year. If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain. How cool is that?

    At some point, they are going to get hurt. That’s racing. Is that worth being locked in a closet? I don’t think so, and I hope their owners never come down on them for participating in these events outside of their Sprint Cup careers.

    I worked with Bobby Allison for years, and he was that kind of racer. He raced 50-60 races a year and his worst crash actually happened in 1976 at a short track in Elko, Minn. He hit a concrete abutment and the front of the car was completely pushed in. The motor caved into the firewall and the steering column was shoved into his face, leaving him with multiple serious injuries. He was in intensive care for five days.

    The following week, Allison still managed to qualify and run one lap to get his points at Nashville. After all, he was in a battle for the Winston Cup championship. He painfully managed to finish the season in fourth place.

    There is a lot more money at stake these days, so I wouldn’t doubt that investors in the sport see these drivers a risk. But what do you do? These are the guys who are growing the sport. If you take away the risk, you risk slowing the progression of the sport.

    So have at it, boys! Race your heart out.

    NASCAR's fingerprints all over post-race scene

    May, 10, 2011
    AM CT

    The wild ending of Saturday night's race in Darlington has written another chapter in the sport's controversial history, and NASCAR fingerprints are all over is one.

    As a result, NASCAR should not punish the two drivers involved: Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.

    The two spun at the end of the race and a steamed Harvick hunted down Busch after Regan Smith took the checkered flag. The two played a brief game of chicken on the front straight and then headed to pit road. Harvick blocked Busch's entrance to pit road. It took quite some time for Harvick to unhook his seat belts, remove the steering wheel, replace the steering wheel, remove it again, struggle to get out of the car with his HANS device on and finally climb out of the car. Then Busch dropped the clutch and pushed Harvick's unmanned car, which rolled into the pit wall.

    So why the long play-by-play explanation?

    To demonstrate that NASCAR had plenty of time to get one or more of their pit road officials, the pace car with NASCAR officials on board or any number of emergency vehicles stationed around the speedway to intervene.

    But they didn't.

    That call has to come from the NASCAR control tower.

    So you have to take NASCAR at its word.

    Boys, have at it.

    Sprint Cup season already at fever pitch

    May, 3, 2011
    AM CT

    We're three months into the NASCAR Sprint Cup season and certain things remain the same and certain things are, well, shocking. Unprecedented. And interesting.

    Which is exactly what NASCAR wanted when they jacked around with the point system back in the offseason.

    Carl Edwards is on top of the point standings. No surprise considering how strong he finished the 2010 season.

    Quietly, Jimmie Johnson is second. The only surprise here is how a guy that has won an unprecedented five straight championships races under the radar? But he has, winning only once this year.

    Kyle Busch finally seems to be reaching the level everyone expected of him, as he sits third. Many believe the young Busch is the most talented driver in the sport. He's won lots of races in his brief career, but immature outbursts have marred the consistent performances needed to win titles. Perhaps he has matured to a championship level.

    Perhaps most stunning: Dale Earnhardt Jr., is solid in fourth. This turnaround could be the story of the year.

    Unless, of course, you discount the poor performance of Jeff Gordon, who has contended for the championship every season of his long career. He currently stands 19th but has one win. It's hard to imagine a championship race at the end of the year without Gordon, but it appears highly unlikely that he can make up the difference.

    Denny Hamlin entered into the 2011 season with high hopes. Those hopes have dimmed to his current 13th in the point standings.

    A.J. Allmendinger is a shocking 10th in the current points. Almendinger is a very talented driver, and Richard Petty Motorsports continues to show quantum leaps of improvement. But this is a position drivers in position 11-20 are eyeing as an opportunity.

    Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman also reside in the top 10. All of them could win the title once The Chase begins.

    Lots of racing to go until we settle in for the final 10-race slugfest to determine the champ, but this thing is interesting.

    Scout's Eye: Samsung Mobile 500 at TMS

    April, 8, 2011
    AM CT

    As much as I enjoy the National Football League and covering the Dallas Cowboys for 103.3 FM ESPN and ESPNDallas.com, my true passion is auto racing, and especially Nascar. This weekend the Sprint Cup Series makes its first of two visits to the Great American Speedway and the running of the Samsung Mobile 500.

    For the first time, the race will be competed under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway. Since speedway president Eddie Gossage was able to secure a second race date for Texas, the November race has started in the daylight but finished at night. Never has an entire race been run under the lights, and it will be interesting to see the different setups these crews use to dial their cars in.

    Texas Motor Speedway is already one of the fastest tracks in the Sprint Cup Series and when the racing is done during the day, the track becomes hot and slick, making it even tougher to navigate. Under the lights, the grip and speeds will increase to serious levels. Crews do not have any real notes to go off of but might look to other mile-and-a-half tracks that run races at night -- such as Charlotte and Chicago -- for setups.

    Something to also watch in Texas is the long green flag runs. If we see this type of action with fewer cautions, how will crews be able to make time for adjustments under green flag conditions?

    Top 5 Drivers to Watch:

    Carl Edwards
    Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireCarl Edwards
    1. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Fed Ex Office/March of Dimes

    Hamlin swept the two Sprint Cup races at TMS in 2010. In 11 career starts at TMS, he has two wins and eight top-10 finishes. Hamlin started 29th and 30th in the field in his victories, a tribute to the strength of his team. Something to note: Joe Gibbs Racing has struggled with some engine issues. Word in the garage is they feel they've solved the problem, but it's something to watch.

    2. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Scotts Turf Builder

    Edwards comes into the race second in the Sprint Cup Series points standings. In six starts this year, he has a win and four top-10 finishes. Edwards is a three-time winner at TMS, and like Hamlin did in 2010, he swept the season races in 2008. Edwards is in the top 5 of total laps led at the speedway and is a master when it comes to stretching fuel mileage to finish a race. Something to note: In two of last three races at TMS, Edwards has suffered a DNF.

    3. Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Crown Royal Black

    Kenseth is the teammate of Carl Edwards at Roush Fenway Racing. He is ninth in the Sprint Cup Series but has not had the consistency of his teammate early this season. But when he passes through the tunnel at TMS, no matter how up and down his season has been, he will be a factor in that upcoming race. In 17 career races at TMS, Kenseth has a win and 11 top-10s. Not known as one of the better drivers when it comes to qualifying, Kenseth won the 2001 event when he was able to pilot his Ford from the 31st starting position -- the deepest a winner at TMS has ever started from. Something to note: Kenseth has finished in the top 10 every time he has started in the top 10 here.

    Jimmie Johnson
    Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJimmie Johnson
    4. Jimmie Johnson. No. 48 Lowe’s

    Jimmie Johnson is the model of consistency. The five-time defending Sprint Cup champion has made 15 starts at TMS, winning once with 11 top-10 finishes. Johnson has never started outside the 18th spot and had a string of six races in a row where he never started outside the top 8. Johnson has suffered only one DNF at TMS, and that was in the Spring race of 2007. It was in the fall race at TMS in 2010 where Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus sent a message to his team after several poor pit stops by switching his crew out for members of Jeff Gordon’s team during the middle of the race after Gordon had crashed out. Johnson went on to finish ninth in that day. Something to note: In eight of Johnson’s 15 starts at TMS, he has failed to lead a single lap. When he won the fall race in 2007, he only led nine laps.

    5. Mark Martin, No. 5 Go Daddy.com

    Mark Martin knows how to get around Texas Motor Speedway. Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte are the only other drivers to compete in all Sprint Cup Series races run at this facility. In 20 career starts, Martin has one victory and 12 top-10s. In his last four races at TMS, he has finished no worse than sixth. Martin is at his absolute best at the finish of races. In 2011, of a possible 1,987 laps, he has yet to miss a lap. Martin is first in the Sprint Cup Series in that stat, one lap ahead of Kyle Busch. Something to note: Martin has finished 18 straight races at TMS. The only race that he received a DNF was his first one in 1997. He found himself in teh winner's circle the following spring.

    Others to watch: Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart

    Kyle Busch sweeps weekend at Bristol

    March, 21, 2011
    AM CT
    Kyle Busch pulled away from Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson down the stretch Sunday to complete a sweep of the weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. After winning the second-tier Nationwide Series race Saturday, it was Busch's fifth consecutive victory at Bristol dating back to a three-race sweep last August.

    He's now won five Cup races at Bristol, which ties him with older brother Kurt in NASCAR's top series, and has 11 victories spanning the three national series.

    Busch, who drives a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, dedicated the win to the manufacturer and its employees in Japan still trying to recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

    Christmas wish list for auto racing

    December, 23, 2010
    AM CT
    Jimmie Johnson & Drew BreesUS PresswireJimmie Johnson was a runner-up to Drew Brees in the AP Male Athlete of the Year voting. May local fans and media take notice.

    All I want for Christmas is ...

    • More "Have at it, boys!" Good call, NASCAR!
    • A better economy so fans can attend more races and companies can sponsor more cars, races, etc.
    • [+] EnlargeKevin Harvick
      AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinKevin Harvick was atop the points standings for most of the season. May a title come his way.

    • Peace on earth at Richard Petty Motorsports. The team with A.J. Allmendinger showed real progress and was on the verge of a breakthrough when money problems for principal owner George Gillette forced the team to operate on a week-to-week basis. Give them their resources and let them go -- this team can win.
    • A tape recording of the comments during Jeff Gordon's and Jeff Burton's ambulance ride from Turn 2 to the HCA Infield Hospital here at Texas. Wonder what was said and by whom?
    • A solid IndyCar ride at de Ferran/Dragon Racing for Tony Kanaan. He is clearly the best driver at Andretti Motorsport, but it's obvious how he became odd man out to the other two drivers, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick.
    • For the local media to realize how big a deal the racers are. The Associated Press named Jimmie Johnson the runner-up to Drew Brees for their 2010 Athlete of the Year. The names Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Romo, Ian Kinsler or any of the local athletes did not come up on the list. Pay attention, locals. This thought process is one of the reasons why circulation/viewership/listenership is down. Obviously, the media in the rest of the country gets it.
    • A championship for Kevin Harvick. He led the points standings virtually the entire season and he is a throwback type of driver who appeals to fans.
    • Speaking of throwback drivers, Clint Bowyer may be the guy to hang on to all the fans of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. His ability, mannerisms and working-man persona is going to be very popular with the fans.
    • That Kyle Busch keeps on being Kyle Busch. Somebody has to wear the black hat, and it fits perfectly on Busch's head. He is likely the most talented driver in American motorsports. But the fact that all he cares about is winning makes him very appealing to me. And the subject of boos from many fans.
    • [+] EnlargeBruce Springsteen
      Vince Bucci/Getty ImagesMay the Boss conveniently find his way to TMS sometime during race weekend.

    • An IndyCar win for Danica Patrick. Time is running out for Danica. She has to put some points on the board or be considered a novelty. She has all the talent in the world.
    • Same for Dale Jr. Time may have just about run out for "Little E." He really needs to win and contend in 2011. And at least act like he wants to be here.
    • Photo finishes at all races. And races so close that it takes a couple of days to determine the winner of all the races in Texas! No Limits, baby!
    • For a NASCAR Sprint Cup car to look like, well, a stock car. I want to see Chevys and Fords and Dodges and Toyotas. I don't want to see cars that all look alike except for the decals on the nose. Come on, NASCAR!
    • Bruce Springsteen to play the pre-race show at one of the races here at Texas Motor Speedway.
    • More success, and perhaps another championship, for Tony Stewart. He may be the guy with the most real race fans in the sport.
    • Lots more wins for Jeff Gordon. He's not through but we all want to see Jeff win. I bet this time there won't be a single "boo!" High time!
    • More Americans driving Indy Cars. Come on team owners ... this is the fastest way back to relevance.
    • Fewer penalties and fines from NASCAR and IndyCar. Let the racers settle it themselves. Fans don't want you involved in the outcome of races.
    • More backflips for Carl Edwards.
    • Another opportunity in the Cup series for Elliott Sadler. This guy has "star" written all over him.
    • More seat time for Brad Keselowski. Just like a young Dale Earnhardt Sr., a young Ernie Irvan, a young Kyle Busch and others before him, he's bouncing off of cars and walls everywhere as he learns. He will make it. And he will be exciting!
    • The end to start-and-park teams in NASCAR.
    • Respect for Jimmie Johnson. Five straight championships may be the definition of motor racing perfection. It will never be accomplished again.
    • [+] EnlargeCarl Edwards
      Christian Petersen/NASCAR/Getty ImagesMay Carl Edwards ... wait for it ...

    • That you get to know Brittany, Stephanie and Becky -- The Great American Sweethearts -- in 2010. They aren't just beautiful, they personify the "No Limits" attitude, love racing and love meeting race fans. We could not have found three better people to serve in that role.
    • More appreciation from the local fans for what the IndyCar drivers do here at Texas Motor Speedway. They run almost 220 mph, wheel-to-wheel and in packs. The precision is amazing. One little bobble and there is trouble. And if the IndyCar officials will leave them alone, they put on the best races in the world.
    • No more trial balloons from NASCAR in which they say fans are interested in shorter races, fewer races, fewer days in the race weekend, etc. These are just trendy little rumors NASCAR leaks to the media because they are tired of being on the road. Hello! NASCAR ... this is about the fans! Not your personal wishes. If you don't want to travel, there are other jobs in this world.
    • Greater appreciation for Kurt Busch. The former Cup series champion is the epitome of a professional. And he's got loads of talent!
    • Success for Kasey Kahne. He's popular with the young ladies and the cougars, too!
    • Appreciation for the accomplishments of Michael Waltrip Racing. David Reutimann is a solid contender week after week.
    • A "No Limits" Christmas and New Year for you and all your loved ones!