Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Night time is right time in Texas ... and picks

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series moves into Texas for its first scheduled night race of the season (Daytona eventually became a night race) at 7:30 Saturday on FOX. There's no doubt that racing at night affects the surface and how the cars handle. Texas is a fast track, so the teams able to make adjustments depending on the temperature of track will likely find success.
There's no doubt that the Roushkateers have found their share of success at Texas. Roush cars have won eight times in the Lone Star State, including the last night race there last spring. So there will likely be a theme in the picks this week, but there are also a few who could interrupt the Roush/Ford party, too.
So, here we go:
Matt Kenseth - Yes, he won the last night race here last year and has been generally strong this spring. He also won under the lights on the fast track at Daytona, so it's hard not to pick him here where he has an average finish of 8.7.
Greg Biffle - He's hanging on to the points lead, six ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He needs a strong showing at Texas and it's quite possible for him. He has one win there and six top fives. But his average finish is 17.2, so it's kind of an all or nothing deal for him as he also has four DNFs.
Tony Stewart - He won the fall race at Texas and has two wins this season. He, along with a few others, are just 12 points out of the series points lead. It's difficult not to pick him these days.
Denny Hamlin - He's got two wins at Texas and five top fives in his 13 starts there. And with Darian Grubb as he crew chief, this is a team that will be able to make key in-race adjustments.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's got to get a win sometime and Texas has been good to him. He has one win in 19 starts and has been competitive this season. He actually may be ready to break through and end that 135-race winless streak.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda - Carl Edwards. He's had plenty of success at Texas, with three wins and a runnerup finish to Stewart in the fall race last year. And while this season has not been a disaster (see Kasey Kahne as exhibit A for that), he still has not led a lap, which is a bit alarming for someone who's accustomed to running up front. So, I couldn't pull the trigger on Edwards wearing the six-shooters in Victory Lane this week.

Here's a review of the picks from two weeks ago at Martinsville and how they finished.
Tony Stewart - 7th. Never was a serious contender to win and late wreck by others helped his finish.
Denny Hamlin - 6th. He was in the mix for a while, but didn't have as fast of car as Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.
Jimmie Johnson - 12th. He very well could have won the race as he was battling Gordon in the final laps before the big wreck took him out of the picture. Not as disastrous of a finish as it could have been for him.
Kevin Harvick - 19th. He was somewhat strong early, leading 21 laps, but clearly didn't make the adjustments to stay with the frontrunners.
Brian Vickers - 18th. He had looked so good on the concrete at Bristol, finishing fifth, but it didn't translate into a contending kind of day on the mixed surface at Martinsville.
Here's a look at my stats after six races and 30 picks.

1 win
7 top fives
6 top 10s

Grade for the week: B minus. Had it not been for the late yellow, Johnson would have won or finished second. Harvick was the big disappointment here.

One Last Thing: When looking the numbers after six races this season, there's one driver's that do not make sense. Jeff Gordon is leading the Sprint Cup Series with 337 laps led, and in percentage of laps led at 17.5. He also has the most quality passes (under green in the top 15) at 82.5 percent. However because of a string of bad luck, he is without a victory and sits 21st in the point standings. However, Gordon led 329 of those laps at Martinsville last week. So, while the numbers don't lie, they don't always tell the whole truth either.
Until next time

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