After a two-week break, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns with a Saturday night race down in Fort Worth as the drivers gather for the Samsung 500. At TheSportsNotebook, a NASCAR race means it’s time to pick up the phone to call my brother Bill, our racing junkie in waiting, to preview the action on Saturday night.
“It’s a cookie-cutter track similar to Atlanta and Lowe’s Motor Speedway,” Bill told me, as he made his trucking run to the East Coast. “It’s going to be a fast track, not super spread out, but not real tight either.” By “tight”, Bill refers to a situation like two weeks ago in Martinsville, where to the amateur eye of this writer, it appeared that the cars were almost one on top of the other, and Ryan Newman edged out A.J. Allmendinger. “Texas isn’t a spread out as Daytona where you can four-wide without any problems, but drivers will be able to go three-wide,” Bill advised, noting is more than what they were able to do at Martinsville and has the consequence of creating a wide-open race where pole position is reduced in importance.
Newman’s win marked the third in four tries for the Stewart-Haase Racing Team. Namesake Tony Stewart delivered the two other wins. Last year’s Sprint Cup champ is the only driver to have two victories under his belt and although some inconsistencies have left him out of the lead at this early point in the season, he’s a strong third and gaining steam with each passing week.
Greg Biffle remains in the lead, as he has for several weeks now, and he’s still looking for his first win of the year. Biffle’s four Top 10 finishes in the first six races are matched only by Dale Earnhardt Jr., a close second in the overall standings and unheralded Martin Truex, who is one of seven drivers within 25 points of Biffle for the top spot. Of Biffle’s four Top 10s, three have been in the Top 5, and that’s matched only by Junior and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth. The latter driver is part of a four-way tie for third with Stewart, Truex and Kevin Harvick.
The Texas Motor Speedway is host to two races a year, and Stewart brought home a win in 2011. Lest we think that he has some kind of hold on this track though, this was his only win in the 10 races held since 2007. Denny Hamlin delivered the 1-2 punch here in 2010, and Carl Edwards did the same in 2007. No one else has won more than once.
Speaking of Edwards, his tough season is something we’ll look at more in the weeks ahead. With 179 points he’s in 11th place and well off the pace. This is after tying Stewart for the overall lead a year ago and losing the championship on a tiebreaker. Edwards appears to be hit by the same phenomena that’s caused losers of the Super Bowl to struggle in the ensuring NFL season.