TMS Media Relations | Oct 30, 2014
FORT WORTH, Texas (October 29, 2014) – Texas Motor Speedway has played host to the eighth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup nine previous times, but the 10th edition of the AAA Texas 500 fall classic will arrive with an added level of drama courtesy of the newly formatted Chase.
Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. CT, TV-ESPN) is the second of three races in the Eliminator 8 Round of the Chase and this weekend’s event will have the eight championship contender drivers focusing squarely on one thing – winning.
A victory by Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman or Carl Edwards in the AAA Texas 500 would automatically clinch one of the four championship berths at the Nov. 16 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The additional emphasis on winning to advance has instilled a win-at-all-costs mentality that has changed the dynamic of NASCAR’s postseason.
“I think the format has really changed the face of the sport just for the fact that it has added so much intensity to what we do as drivers and the chances that you have to take,” Harvick said. “Especially in this point in the year when you want to go and not make those enemies and not do the things you would normally do. Right now you just have to survive.”
The intensity of the Chase has unfolded during the first seven races of the 10-race format, including last weekend at Martinsville Speedway where contact between Harvick and Kenseth foiled the chances of both drivers to secure a victory. The contact, unintentionally initiated by Kenseth, left Harvick upset as it moved him in a precarious spot of the bottom of the championship standings.
Frustration and emotions have spilled over among championship drivers during the Chase, most notably Brad Keselowski tangling on and off the track with Kenseth as well as Denny Hamlin at Charlotte, and the format has drivers on edge each and every week.
“I can tell you a lot of people were really excited about all the drama,” Edwards said of the new Chase format. “It’s real. I don’t know if people outside the sport really understand that.
“When you see people get that wound up, I think it shows how much passion there is inside the sport. It’s obvious that this format has raised the level of intensity which all of us have to compete.”
The AAA Texas 500 has played host to some of the most memorable Chase moments since the format’s inception in 2004. Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski’s side-by-side race to the finish in 2012 and Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards 1-2 finish in 2011 are just some of the few that are etched in NASCAR history, but Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 is expected to exceed that intensity.
While drivers are willing to sacrifice crumpled race cars for victories, they also understand the limits that could cost them an opportunity to continue fighting for a championship.
“We got to go race,” Gordon said. “We got to race hard. We got to be smart and we got to go for it hard. That's the toughest thing about this thing; you got to go for it. You got to put everything out on the edge. If you go too far over the edge, you might be out. There's a very fine line there.”
While a victory is paramount, a strong finish at Texas also could be critical to advancing or for some surviving another week. Gordon currently is the points leader following his runner-up finish to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is followed closely by Newman (-3), Logano (-4), Kenseth (-5) and Hamlin (-7) before the gap widens to Edwards (-20), Keselowski (-31) and Harvick (-33).
Tickets for the AAA Texas 500 are available by calling the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.