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Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: AAA Texas 500

By Eric McClung
Edited by Nicholas Minnix

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 configurations at these sites make for great comparisons when assembling your lineup for each of the five races in total these venues will host.

Practice sessions: Friday, Nov. 1, at 12:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday, Nov. 2, at 11 a.m. ET, 2 p.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, Nov. 1, at 4:40 p.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, Nov. 3, at 3 p.m. EDT
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Shape: Quad-oval
Length: 1.5 mile
Laps: 334
Turns 1-4: 24 degrees
Quad-oval: 18 degrees
Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Backstretch: 5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Home Depot "Let's Do This" Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior's Texas record misleading

A 12th-place finish earlier this season at Texas snapped a streak of five consecutive top-fives for Kenseth at the site. However, he still put down an impressive average running position of seventh and spent 96.7 percent of the race running in the top 15, compared to just 55.5 percent during last year's Chase even despite placing fourth.

Kenseth is coming off a runner-up performance at Martinsville Speedway, his fourth podium finish of the Chase. That includes a third-place finish at the similarly configured track at Charlotte after qualifying in 20th.

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Since 2010 Johnson has recorded an average running position of 13th or better in all seven Texas events while finishing outside the top 10 just once. Last year he was outright dominant in both competitions, with a runner-up performance in the spring after leading 156 laps. He would then win from the pole in the fall setting the pace for another 168 circuits.

Johnson recently finished fourth at Charlotte and fifth last week at Martinsville.

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Gordon's average running position at Texas has been 10th or better in four straight even though he wasn't able to secure the finish to match in the last two.

Gordon has made the most of being awarded a spot in the Chase by NASCAR officials and has now recorded 10 consecutive top-15s, with three top-fives in the last five. He's up to third in the championship standings thanks to a victory at Martinsville. With only three races to go, Gordon will need disaster to strike both Kenseth and his teammate Johnson, but expect the No. 24 to stay in position to take advantage of any missteps.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Snickers Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch got back to his winning ways at Texas earlier this season by capturing the April race from the pole with a race-high 171 laps led. He was also the only driver to spend all 334 laps running in the top 15. In fact, Rowdy never dropped any lower than ninth at any point in the race. Busch was also sharp in this race a year ago, leading 80 laps and finishing third after qualifying in the same position.

Busch ran well at Martsinville for much of the day but faded late to miss out on his sixth top-five of the Chase.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M "Hire Our Heros" Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Over the last 10 Texas races, Biffle has recorded one victory, in the spring of 2012, and hasn't fallen outside the top 10. After years of strong qualifying efforts at Texas, the Biff slipped to 35th on the grid back in April but still managed his seventh top-five during the aforementioned span.

Biffle hasn't been as strong during the Chase but hasn't finished worse than 16th. He's heading to one of his better tracks with momentum, coming off a top-10 at Martinsville.

Kasey Kahne | No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Kahne has recorded an average running position of 12th or better in four straight Texas appearances. He won at the site back in 2006 but owns an otherwise sketchy history at the site until recently.

Outside a runner-up performance at Charlotte, where he led 138 laps, it's been a forgettable Chase for Kahne. However, these 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks are where Kahne is it his best, despite some uneven history at Texas.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Over the last four Texas races, Truex has compiled three finishes of eighth or better. He's also qualified fifth or better in three straight. Earlier in the season Truex led 142 laps and finished in second after the first Texas showdown.

Truex has managed only two top-10s in the Chase so far but could prove to be a value if he looks good in practice.

Aric Almirola | No. 43 Farmland Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

After placing 15th in this race a year ago, Almirola returned to Texas this spring to qualify on the second row and finish seventh.

Almirola didn't have a chance in the Charlotte Chase race due to an early incident but finished 10th at Kansas Speedway and 13th at Chicago Speedway, both 1.5-mile tracks albeit with different banking, earlier in the Chase. If you are looking for answers in the lower tier, Almirola is a driver to target.

Temper your expectations

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 AMP Energy Gold/7-Eleven | Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

At first glance, Earnhardt might look like a good play at Texas. Since 2010 he's scored five top-10s in seven races. The results are pretty sound, but he managed an average running position better than 10th only once during that span.

Earnhardt is riding a streak of six consecutive top-15s this season but could be overvalued on a track where he's been a little more lucky than good.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Edwards has finished eighth or better, with three podium finishes, in the last five Texas races. However, he spent less than 60 percent of his laps running in the top 15 in each of the last three.

Despite some good runs in the Chase, Edwards hasn't led multiple laps in a postseason race yet and looks to be running a step or two behind the truly elite drivers.


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