There’s an old saying that everything is bigger in Texas and that includes the race speeds this weekend.
Heading into Saturday night’s Samsung Mobile 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway, expect the speeds going into turn one to be well above 200 miles per hour, with front stretch speeds close to 210-211 mph.
Urging these machines with such tremendous speeds, one would presume that “big” engines would prevail. No engine has seemed to perform better in these 200 mph tracks over the past few years like Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, and based off the first practice speed sheets, that holds true.
Four of the top 10 fastest on the charts were powered by EGR power plants, and of those four, two were in the top four. Among those speedsters were Ganassi teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray, who posted the third and fourth fastest speeds respectively.
However, the top spot belonged to David Ragan, who posted a time of 29.061 seconds, or a speed of 185.816 mph. With that time, he earned himself the last qualifying spot of the top 35 in owner’s points, proving pivotal in getting an optimal qualifying spot with the cooler twilight conditions.
Ragan scored his first pole position at Texas Motor Speedway with a time of 28.448 seconds or a lap speed of 189.82 mph, which was a nice pick up from practice. His pole is also the first for owner Jack Roush at Texas Motor Speedway.
The No. 6 UPS Freight Ford wasn’t the only powerful FR9 fueled rocket to be pulling off the grid in a top spot.
Carl Edwards will be joining Ragan on the front row, capping off a successful qualifying effort for the Ford racing brigade.
Five of the top nine starters have the powerful Roush Yates FR9 motor under the hood, which continues to be one of the big stories of this young season. When you factor that with how well the Roush drivers do at Texas Motor Speedway, it gives plenty of options as to who could wind up in Victory Lane.
Yet, the options don’t stop with just those who have the FR9 or the strong EGR power plants. There are some other drivers with the Bowtie Brigade that run very well at Texas.
While he hasn’t performed well as of late at this facility, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has some pretty impressive stats over the years, including his first Sprint Cup win back in 2000.
Sitting tied for second with two-time Texas winner Denny Hamlin in average finishes over the past eight races (9.5) is ’98 race winner Mark Martin.
Also in the mix is Jeff Gordon, who has a win in April 2009 and three top-10 finishes in his last eight starts. However, Gordon’s pitfall is that he also has three DNFs in that same period.
Of course, we can’t forget “ole 5 times” otherwise known as Jimmie Johnson, who has that November 2007 victory to boot. Returning to the sight of the infamous pit crew shuffle last fall, the No. 48 Kobalt/Lowe’s Chevrolet team has motivation to put together a solid performance Saturday night.
The other engine story this year has been that of the problematic motors that Joe Gibbs Racing has encountered. Not only have they dealt with blown motors, but with bad fuel mileage.
Even through all that, Kyle Busch has a win and only two finishes out of the top-five, and one of those is a “lowly” eight place finish. Busch’s only blemish this year was a 38th place finish at the similarly configured 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
So it looks like there are plenty of choices for who should be grabbing that checkered flag. Fans, who’s it going to be?
While it would be a great story for Junior to snap his 99-race winless streak at the place that he earned his first win, it will not be him, so sorry Junior Nation.
“The Closer” aka Kevin Harvick is another “sexy pick” (well for female fantasy owners!) this week, but three wins in a row is extremely hard to accomplish in today’s NASCAR.
While Harvick is certainly capable of doing that, he will not be making another late pass for the win this week either.
You could pick any of the Roush cars and the smart money would be on Matt Kenseth. In his last eight races at Texas, Kenseth has seven top-10s, no DNFs, and an average finish of 6.5, which leads all active drivers.
While his unusually high starting position of fourth would only seem to add reason for him to be the best choice for crossing the finish line first and ending his own long winless streak, I think that all the bad luck that whole Roush team has experienced will continue.
Thus, Kenseth will not make a trip to Victory Lane, if logic prevails and if one went by the book. Providing this doesn’t turn into a long run/fuel mileage race, I see the hottest driver of the season, Kyle Busch, getting his first Texas win in a Cup car.
Busch knows how to get around there with five Nationwide wins and an average finish of 2.2 in the last nine NNS races at Texas. As long as he doesn’t “give one away” this week, Rowdy will be shootin’ off some guns Saturday night, Interstate Batteries style.