I’m sure you’ve heard that Tony Stewart did something this weekend that he hasn’t done in Nascar Cup racing since 2005 and that was qualify on pole (and this only his eleventh pole since he started in NSCS.) Whether his winning the pole translates into strong performance and victory remains to be seen, but it does show Stewart/Haas Racing is ready to continue flexing their muscle like they did in 2009 with strong performances from both the No. 14 and No. 39 teams.
A couple of things stand out to this fan and need to be considered for the race this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. First, I’m not so sure that qualifying on pole means too much of anything except a good pit selection and second, (as has been the case more than once this year,) even leading the most laps doesn’t prove anything either. Just looking back at last week shows us three people that led over one hundred laps and still didn’t win, in fact, one of the strongest cars on the day, finished eighth.
I don’t think we can overlook the fact that this weekend is the first race using the spoiler on the C.O.T. on a mile and half track. This is the one track that everyone has been looking toward to see if there is a big difference in the way the cars handle in packs as opposed to previous testing and recent racing and practicing. The big question is whether we return to the aero push problem of old or whether racing will be similar to the more recent wing days now that NASCAR is returning to the spoiler on the rear deck of the cars. That’s not to say that there weren’t problems associated with running the wings, (like how being out in clean air seemed to be an advantage and that it was harder to work through traffic further back in the pack.) Without a doubt, the next two weeks should tell us all whole lot more about the change to the spoiler from the wing and how the cars will react in packs and whether or not passing will be difficult on the mile and a half and above tracks.
From this fans view, Texas is one of those tracks that no one has mastered on a regular basis. Oh sure, there have been some strong performances but no one team has dominated the rest of the field like at some other tracks, especially on regular basis.
I find this weekend very interesting and I do think that just about anyone in the top thirty five can win. Watching the practices and the qualifying shows that all the cars, especially those in the top thirty five, are consistently running lap times that are very close together. That means the race on Sunday could either be a runaway or a very dramatic finish at the end depending on if there is a caution or two in the last twenty or thirty laps or multiple green-white-checkered finishes.
If the history at Texas Motor Speedway tells us anything, it is very obvious that it generally doesn’t matter who leads the most laps, or who is leading before the last caution because it is a place that anyone can win at; that means that anyone on any team, from the worst to the best, could end up in victory lane.
So, am I avoiding picking a winner this weekend? No, of course not (and I’ll get to that shortly.) I’m just saying that judging from what I’ve observed so far in practices this weekend, it all depends on who gets, or makes, the break at the end of the race. It could be an old veteran or a relative newcomer; it doesn’t really matter about much else. What does matter is who is out front when the checkered flag falls and that could be a great call from a crew chief or a slick move on the part of a driver; it just remains to be seen how it all pans out.
Although the Roush teams are looking stronger all the time, I’m not so sure this will be their weekend to shine. Even the RCR teams are running strong, but failing to finish in the top spots and I have my doubts about them taking the trip to victory lane. I am more inclined to think Joe Gibbs or Michael Waltrip teams over those two, at least for this weekend, but when it comes right down to it, it is awfully hard to argue against the strength of the Hendrick or Hendrick associated teams.
It is my opinion, if it isn’t someone totally unexpected, the winner will come from either Stewart/Haas Racing or one of the main Hendrick teams.
Even though they hardly ever run good at Texas, I just think Jeff Gordon and Steve Letarte are due to take a win or two in the very near future and I think this weekend could be first of several on the year. They may not be the fastest, but they have been right there ready win at the end lately and could have had three victories on the year if a couple of things have gone more their way. I’m picking Jeff Gordon to win this weekend and I see all of the Hendrick teams finishing strong and in the top 12-15…
(Shoot, Dale Jr could surprise us all this weekend, but, that would be a whole other story, wouldn’t it…)
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 17, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com