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Friday, April 15, 2005
Stock Car Challenge Notebook: Samsung/Radio Shack 500


By Kevin Rounce
ESPN Games Fantasy Edge

Coming off two consecutive short-track races, the Nextel Cup Series heads to the state of Texas, where everything is bigger – including the racing speeds. Texas, a sister track to Atlanta Motor Speedway, will produce speeds approaching and often surpassing 200 mph. The first practice was Friday, and here are some of the highlights.

Ryan Newman topped the speed charts with a lap of 193.9 mph.
• Last year's runner-up, Kasey Kahne, finished fifth.
• Last week's winner, Jeff Gordon, finished 20th, and last year's Texas winner, Elliott Sadler, finished seventh.

Start 'Em
Carl Edwards (16.8): Earlier this year, Edwards won at Atlanta, which is a track nearly identical to this one. He will be hard-pressed to win a second race this early in his rookie year, but he should be competitive and bounce back from a rough couple of weeks on the short tracks.

Ricky Rudd (16.2): He had a strong run at Martinsville, and this team believes it should have been competitive at Atlanta. Rudd finished first practice fourth, and he has three top-10 finishes at Texas in its history.

Mark Martin (22.2): Texas has never produced a repeat winner, but Martin has a great history at this track, with one win and four top-10 finishes. Martin finished fourth at Atlanta back in March and should run well at Texas, so he might be the first repeat champion at the track.

Avoid 'Em
Bobby Labonte (16.3): Here's a driver who does well at Atlanta but cannot be recommended for this race. Labonte has struggled this year and has a rough history at Texas. He averages a 19th-place finish and, with his difficulties in 2005, is likely to find more trouble this weekend.

Joe Nemechek (17.7): "Front Row Joe" has had a rough go of it this season, and his fortunes likely will not improve at Texas. In seven races at the speedway, Nemechek has only one top-10 finish and sports an average finish of 27th. This track will not help him turn things around.

Michael Waltrip (17.5): Waltrip has really had to fight through some difficulties this season. He had arguably the best car at Daytona, and it failed to finish the race. More car failures occurred the next few weeks. Waltrip has only two top-10 finishes at Texas.

THE PIT BOX

We answer your fantasy racing questions here every week! Click here to send your question to Scott Engel or here to e-mail Kevin Rounce. You must include your full name, city and state.

Rob Penney, Miramar, FL: Jeff Gordon has never won at Texas Motor Speedway. Can he break the drought this weekend?

Rounce: Gordon has run very well at this track but has yet to win. In his last four races, he has finished in the top 5, and he's coming off a big win at Martinsville. He is not my favorite for this weekend, but I expect him to have a strong run.