Texas Motor Speedway is one of three 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The two others, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, share the same length and corner banking. The wear of the racing surface on each track is unique, which causes the speeds to vary somewhat. Still, the similar configuration that these sites share makes for great comparisons when assembling your lineup for each of the five races these venues will host in total.
Owners facing prequalifying deadlines will get the benefit of two Friday practices session prior to qualifying on Saturday. Checking these results is a huge benefit in order to see what drivers have unloaded with an early edge and are most likely to score a prime starting position.
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Length: 1.5 mile
Turns 1-4: 24 degrees
Quad-oval: 18 degrees
Front stretch: 5 degrees
Back stretch: 5 degrees
Drivers to keep an eye on
Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
In the races held at Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas this season, Edwards has registered three top-five finishes with an average running position of at least eighth in all four. At Fort Worth, the current points leader owns three wins, highlighted by a dominating 2008 sweep. Currently clinging to an eight point advantage in the standings, Edwards has an excellent opportunity to create some distance with only three races to go. Among all drivers, his career average running position of 12th at Texas is fifth best but this year's cookie-cutter prowess make Edwards an elite start here.
Tony Stewart | No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
Prior to the start of the Chase, Stewart appeared unlikely to win a race for the first time in his Cup career. Three victories later, Smoke is now in striking distance for a third championship, second under the Chase format. Ranging from good to mediocre for much of the regular season, Stewart has only two finishes outside of the top 10 in the Chase and just one outside the top 15. On 1.5-mile cookie cutters this season, Stewart owns a third-place result at Atlanta and finished 17th or better in all four events. Clearly saving the best for last, Stewart is peaking when it matters most.
Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
No driver has been better on 1.5-mile cookie cutters this season than Kenseth. In the four races, his average running position has been good for best or second best among the field in each and every event. Kenseth recently won the fall race at Charlotte and also captured the checkered flag in the first Texas race, leading 169 of 334 laps. Since 2006, Kenseth has finished fifth or better in seven of the last 11 at Texas with four runner-up performances and nine top-10s. With Edwards, his Roush teammate, sure to garner a lot of attention the real deal could be the No. 17.
Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Since finishing 15th at Texas in April, Hamlin rattled off top-10s in all three races on 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks this season. That's not to suggest Texas is a weakness for him. In fact, Hamlin swept here in 2010 after finishing as the runner-up in the fall of 2009. After a miserable start to the Chase, he's seen his finish improve with each of the seven postseason starts held thus far. Over the last three, Hamlin has all top-10 finishes and is coming off a fifth-place result at Martinsville Speedway.
Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Back in April, Bowyer finished a career best second at Texas with a sizzling average running position of third, never running lower than 10th at any point in the race. He went on to finish 15th in the first Charlotte race but crashed at Atlanta and struggled in the return to Charlotte. Since 2008, Bowyer has collected two top-fives and five top-10s in seven starts at Texas. His career average running position at Texas is 12.9, eighth among all drivers. While Bowyer's performances have been erratic this season, he typically qualifies well here and should start with a good position.
A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Immortals/Best Buy Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
After finishing 15th at Texas in April earlier this year, Allmendinger scored a fifth-place result at Charlotte and top-10s at both Atlanta and Charlotte. Also impressive, his average running position has been no worse than 15th in those four races. While he's only registered a single top-10 at Texas in seven career starts, the Dinger has been running well on 1.5-mile cookie-cutters tracks this season. Among middle-tier drivers, Allmendinger is among the better selections.
Marcos Ambrose | No. 9 DeWalt Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
In three of the four races held on 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks this season, Ambrose finished in the fifth or sixth position on three occasions. While the Australian only finished 21st at Atlanta, he placed 11th and 10th, respectively, at the site in 2010. While Ambrose is typically only called upon by managers for road course races, he's shown rapid improvement on intermediates. Those looking for a value should tab the Tasmanian.
David Ragan | No. 6 UPS My Choice Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Despite winning his first career Cup race and showing signs of progress, Ragan faces an uncertain future at Roush. With two cars fully sponsored and Kenseth, a former champion, still in search of corporate backing, the No. 6 operation will likely be scaled down to a part-time operation or closed all together. Ragan captured the pole here at April and finished seventh. At Charlotte, he finished as the runner-up in the first stop and 11th for the encore. If nothing else, Texas offers an opportunity to showcase Ragan's services for future employment.
Temper your expectations
Mark Martin | No. 5 Carquest/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
From 2008 through 2010, Martin finished 12th or better in sixth straight starts at Texas with five top-10s and a pair of top-fives. However, he's struggled mightily at similar venues this season. Martin's best finish of 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks is 17th at Atlanta. He finished outside of the top 30 in the three other starts with two DNFs due to crash. Now heading to Michael Waltrip Racing next season, Martin is simply biding his time after a miserable finale at HMS.
Paul Menard | No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
After finishing a career-best fifth at Texas in April, Menard has been a disappointment on 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks. The following three races saw him finish outside of the top 15 with only one on the lead lap. While Menard finished 10th in this event a year ago, he has only five combined top-10s in 30 career starts between Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas. After an impressive start to the season and later winning his first career Cup race, Menard has only two top-15 finishes over the last 12 starts.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.