- ‘Drive For Five’ Still Alive For Gordon Entering AAA Texas 500
- Texas Breakthrough A Must For Harvick’s Championship Hopes
- Is TMS Suited To Host Sprint Cup Series Finale In The Future?
- Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau To Sponsor Cup Ride Of Kyle Larson
FORT WORTH, Texas (Oct. 30, 2013) – For the first time in the history of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, two drivers are tied atop the championship standings with three races remaining in the season. Championship contenders Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) and Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota) are embroiled in the closest championship battle since the current points system was instituted by NASCAR in 1975.
The tie atop the standings with three races remaining also marks the closest points battle in the history of the Chase, besting last year’s two-point margin that Johnson held over eventual champion Brad Keselowski. Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, historically the most pivotal race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, will once again provide a shootout at a track where both drivers have statistically dominated during their championship careers.
Texas Motor Speedway has statistically been Kenseth’s most dominant track in the series where he has made more than three starts. Kenseth is the career leader at Texas Motor Speedway in Sprint Cup competition for laps led (772), top-five finishes (12) and finishing average (8.5).
His stats are buoyed by two Sprint Cup Series victories at “The Great American Speedway!” with his most recent victory coming in the 2011 Samsung Mobile 500. The other came in the same spring event in 2002. Kenseth has finished among the top 10 in 11 of the previous 13 races at Texas Motor Speedway and has finished in the top 10 in seven of his eight AAA Texas 500 appearances.
“I feel decent about all the races coming up,” Kenseth said of this weekend’s AAA Texas 500. “You never know what’s going to happen. Every week is different. All the tracks are very unique. It’s a great race track. I’ve always loved coming here and looking forward to it.”
Johnson, the defending winner of the AAA Texas 500, also has garnered success at Texas Motor Speedway and is right on the heels of Kenseth in the record books. Texas Motor Speedway is Johnson’s ninth-best track statistically where he has made more than three starts, but many would envy his success on this 1.5-mile oval.
He ranks second for top-five finishes (9), starting average (8.75) and finishing average (9.10), and is tied with Kenseth for most top-10 finishes (15). Both of Johnson’s Texas victories have come in the eighth race in the Chase, winning the 2007 Dickies 500 and 2011 AAA Texas 500. Johnson also owns five runner-up finishes overall at Texas, which are the most by a Sprint Cup Series driver.
“It does bring confidence,” Johnson said of his past success at Texas. “It makes the weeks leading into that race easier and less stressful. You still have to go get on the track and get it done. You still have to work through the practice sessions and find speed. There will be challenges thrown at you regardless of past history at a track.
“And in the race there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and get in trouble that you got to be on your toes with. In all honesty, it makes the week leading up – Monday through Friday morning – much more enjoyable, but then the pressure starts up as if you haven’t run good here before. It kind of all goes out the window.”
Kenseth, in the midst of a banner season with a career-high seven wins in his first year of competition with Joe Gibbs Racing, remains upbeat about his opportunity in capturing his first championship under the Chase format.
“I feel like when my team is at its best and we do everything right, I feel like we can race anybody at these next three tracks,” said Kenseth, who won his Cup championship in 2003 prior to the Chase era. “I feel good about that. Anything can happen, but man, we’re in it and we’re going to three really good tracks, so hopefully we can perform here the next three weeks and have a race.”
For Johnson, a winner of five consecutive Sprint Cup Series championships under the Chase format (2006-10), he has experience on his side. Having been in this position before, he appreciates the battle he is in with Kenseth.
“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end,” Johnson said. “The way that I would want to go racing for a championship, and I know that’s exactly what the fans want to see. We’ll keep digging hard.”
AAA Texas 500 frontstretch tickets, beginning as low as $49, are available by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com or by calling the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500.
Jeff Gordon’s victory this past Sunday at Martinsville Speedway snapped a 32-race winless streak and in the process continued his resurgence toward a possible fifth Sprint Cup Series championship. His victory allowed him to close to 27 points of co-leaders Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth heading into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
His victory at Martinsville, his first of the season, was just the momentum that Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet) and his Hendrick Motorsports team needed in what has been a roller-coaster season. Gordon, who was one of 10 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series contenders who tested at Texas Motor Speedway during a three-day test session last week, is looking to carry his momentum to the Lone Star State.
“Until we’re mathematically out of it, we’re in it,” Gordon said following his win. “This was certainly a big moment, big day for us, and like I said, we tested at Texas. I’m excited about Texas. I think it’s a great track for us.”
In 25 career starts at Texas Motor Speedway, he owns 11 top-10 finishes, including eight among the top five, and earned a victory in the 2009 Samsung 500 to snap a personal 47-race winless streak. He has been a strong qualifier, ranking fifth all time with a 12.36 starting average and one of five drivers with a track-best two poles (fall races of 2008 and ’09).
Gordon’s late-season march can be attributed by NASCAR’s unprecedented move to include him in the Chase. After originally missing out on the Chase by one point, NASCAR awarded Gordon the 13th position in the traditional 12-driver Chase field after deeming that Michael Waltrip Racing intended to manipulate the outcome of the race at Richmond International Raceway.
Since his inclusion in the Chase, he has been on a meteoric rise in the standings. Gordon has moved from 13th to third as a result of five top-10 finishes during the first seven races of the Chase.
“I’m hoping to go to Texas and get a little bit closer and then we’ll have this conversation again,” Gordon said when asked about the pressure of his championship run. “For us, the best thing we can do is just go out there and try to win and get closer and closer and have a chance at Homestead (during the season finale). That really was my goal going into the Chase.”
While Johnson and Kenseth have the pressure of the Chase spotlight, Gordon has little to worry about other than winning, which suits him in his quest to win his first Sprint Cup Series championship under the Chase format.
“The nice thing is that we’re not doing the points racing right now, we’re just going out and just trying to go out and win races and not think about protecting anything,” Gordon said. “You know, it’s just go and give it everything we’ve got.”
Happy To Breakthrough
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet) has his share of Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hats from his trips to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. However, his six combined wins at “The Great American Speedway!” have come in all but the Sprint Cup Series – five in the Nationwide Series (2001, ’05-fall, ’06-fall, ’07-fall, ’12-fall) and one in the truck series (2011-fall) .
Harvick remains winless in 21 career Sprint Cup Series races at TMS, a streak that he looks to snap on Sunday during the AAA Texas 500. His best Texas finish came in the 2006 edition of this Chase race when he was third.
“This has been a great track for us in the Nationwide and truck series’,” Harvick said. “As owners and drivers, we have won a lot of races on this particular race track, just never been able to park our No. 29 (Richard Childress Racing) car here in Victory Lane on a race weekend. That’s definitely a goal. We enjoy racing here and hopefully we can do that this time around.”
Harvick, just 28 points back of co-leaders Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth and one behind third-place Jeff Gordon, has just two top-10 finishes in his five previous starts and has three top-five finishes in 21 career Sprint Cup Series appearances at Texas.
A test session last week at Texas Motor Speedway proved crucial to helping Harvick and his Richard Childress Racing team make a push for his first Sprint Cup championship. Harvick was able to gain some valuable track time and believes it will benefit him during the AAA Texas 500 weekend.
“Every practice, every lap, everything is magnified. Everything is a little bit more on edge with all the guys because everyone knows that everything matters. You make a mistake and it’s magnified a lot more. Being behind like we are, you need to perform at the highest level and make something happen as far as performance goes. We can do it; it’s just a matter of making it happen.”
Texas Motor Speedway has historically provided some of NASCAR’s most dramatic Chase for the Sprint Cup moments. The AAA Texas 500 – the eighth race in the Chase since joining the NASCAR schedule in 2005 – has served as the backdrop for memorable championship moments, most recently Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski’s side-by-side battle during last year’s event.
Texas Motor Speedway has held the distinction of traditionally hosting the largest crowd and awarding the largest purse during the 10-race Chase since being part of the format beginning in 2005. The drama that has unfolded at Texas Motor Speedway has made it a key stop in the Chase and with its knack of providing a flair for the dramatic, a move to culminate the Sprint Cup Series season in the Lone Star State intrigues NASCAR Sprint Cup Series superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I think it would be exciting,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “This is a great market here for us. We always seem to get great support from this area. The fans have really latched on to the race track and made it their own. I think it would be awesome if the season ended here. It’s tough to pick the perfect track at the end of the year, but Texas is definitely on that list.”
Visit Dallas At 200 Miles Per Hour
The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau will have the fastest billboard in the Metroplex this weekend as the independent, non-profit organization that promotes Dallas as a meeting, convention and leisure destination will be sponsoring the No. 51 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry of driver Kyle Larson for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Larson will be driving the No. 51 “Visit Dallas” Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing in his third career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He made his debut Oct. 12 at Charlotte and competed this past weekend at Martinsville. Larson also will be competing in the Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge in the No. 32 entry for Turner Scott Motorsports. He currently is ninth in the Nationwide Series championship during his rookie campaign.
"Getting to compete in the Sprint Cup Series has been a great learning experience for me," said Larson, who will move fulltime to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. "I'm looking forward to driving the No. 51 Visit Dallas Chevy SS at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Hopefully, we can avoid any issues, complete all the laps and get the finish that we deserve."
The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau Dallas will be promoting the ninth-largest city in the nation and one that is part of the fourth-largest metropolitan area with his livery on the car. Each year, more than 30 million people visit the area, making the surrounding metropolitan area the top visitor destination in Texas.
"Big things happen in Dallas and Texas Motor Speedway is one of the many sports venues in our region that make Dallas the ultimate sports destination," Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau Chief Marketing Officer Noelle LeVeaux said. "The opportunity to brand Kyle Larson's car for the AAA Texas 500 will show the television viewing audience and the tens of thousands of fans at TMS that Dallas is doing things big. We want to pique people's interest and encourage them to come see what Dallas is all about."
"It's really exciting to be partnering with the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau for the race at Texas Motor Speedway," added Harry Scott Jr., owner of Phoenix Racing. "Texas Motor Speedway does such a great job putting on the races and the surrounding area of Dallas is always one of our favorite places to visit, so it's great to be spotlighting this city and showcasing a new sponsor in our sport. Kyle is going to do a great job representing them and Phoenix Racing."
2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch will host the second annual “Busch Whacked” mud run/obstacle course event Thursday from 6:30–10 p.m. at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. Busch will be joined by fellow Sprint Cup Series drivers Kasey Kahne and JJ Yeley, Nationwide Series driver Brian Scott and Sprint Cup Series team owner Tommy Baldwin among the hundreds of participants. The event will benefit the Armed Forces Foundation and Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter. Entry fee for competitors is $35 and they can sign up by visiting www.buschwhacked.com. …NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Texas Motor Speedway have set a trend. The previous five winners have all started inside the top five, including the previous two winners – Kyle Busch (2013 NRA 500 winner) and Jimmie Johnson (2012 AAA Texas 500 champ) – who started on the pole. In 25 Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway, the winner has started in the top five 16 times with that translating into a 64 percent chance at victory for those drivers starting up front. … Chase contenders routinely have found their way to Victory Lane during the AAA Texas 500. Since Texas Motor Speedway was added to the final 10 races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2005, only once has a driver outside the Chase spoiled the party. Tony Stewart was victorious during the 2006 Dickies 500, the only year he has missed the Chase prior to this season.