Commentary

Samsung 500 Preview

Updated: April 3, 2008, 1:29 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Each Tuesday, Mark Garrow sets the stage for the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race. This week, it's the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Background

• This is the seventh race of 36 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008.

• This is the third of 17 intermediate track races this season.

• This is the 15th time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has competed at Texas Motor Speedway since 1997.

• Texas is a 1.5-mile oval with 24-degree banking in the corners and five-degree banking on the straightaways.

• Forty-seven drivers are on the pre-entry list to compete for one of the 43 starting slots in Sunday's 334-lap, 501-mile race. Of those 47 entrants, 12 must get into Sunday's field based on qualifying times. They are: Burney Lamar, David Reutimann, Patrick Carpentier, Bill Elliott, Dave Blaney, Chad McCumbee, Jamie McMurray, Dario Franchitti, John Andretti, Mike Skinner and Joe Nemechek.

• Of those drivers, Bill Elliott is the one who is eligible for a past champion provisional.

• The following drivers are on the qualifying bubble:
31. Jamie McMurray/Roush Racing, 494 (59 points ahead of 36th)
32. J.J. Yeley/Hall of Fame Racing, 468 (+33)
33. Michael Waltrip/Waltrip Racing, 460 (+25)
34. Jeremy Mayfield/Haas CNC Racing, 441 (+6)
35. Regan Smith/Dale Earnhardt Inc., 438 (+3)

• The following drivers are outside the top 35 and will have to get into the race based on their qualifying speeds:

36. Sam Hornish/Penske Racing, 435 (3 points out of 35th)
37. David Reutimann/Waltrip Racing, 418 (-20)
38. Dario Franchitti/Ganassi Racing, 416 (-22)
39. Dave Blaney/Bill Davis, 373 (-65)

• If qualifying for Sunday's race is cancelled, John Andretti, Joe Nemechek, Burney Lamar and Patrick Carpentier will miss the show.

• A number of drivers are attempting to run both the Nationwide and Cup Series races here this weekend: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, David Reutimann, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Robby Gordon, Dario Franchitti, Burney Lamar, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Kasey Kahne.

• Chad McCumbee is replacing Kyle Petty in the No. 45 Dodge this weekend. McCumbee has two previous Cup Series starts and must make Sunday's race on time because the No. 45 is 40th in owners' points.

• Last year, Jeff Burton became the only driver to earn multiple Sprint Cup Series wins at Texas Motor Speedway. Burton's record here is up and down, though. In 14 starts, he has six top-10s and three top-5s to go with his two wins, but he also has five finishes outside the top 25, three of those outside the top 30. His average finish at TMS is 16.9.

Jimmie Johnson is the most recent winner here and also has the highest-average finish (9.2) of any active driver. In nine starts, Johnson has finished outside the top 10 only once (one of those was an 11th place). Despite his successes here, Johnson has led a total of only 12 laps at TMS.

• The most recent winner on the circuit, Denny Hamlin, also knows his way around this place. In five starts, Hamlin has four top-10s and four lead-lap finishes.

Jeff Gordon
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireTexas is one of the two tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule that Jeff Gordon hasn't won at.
• This is one of only two tracks on the Sprint Cup Series schedule where Jeff Gordon hasn't won, the other being Homestead. He has 14 starts here, with seven top-10s and two DNFs.

• Fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a special place in his heart for TMS; this is the site of his first-ever wins in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Dale Jr. will double-dip this weekend, racing his first NNS event here since 1999.

• Only five drivers have raced all 14 Sprint Cup Series events here: Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett. All but Jarrett will be starting here this weekend. Of these drivers, Martin has the highest average finish with a 14.9.

• Of the drivers with 10 or more starts at Texas, Joe Nemechek has the worst average finish with a 26.2. Michael Waltrip has the worst average finish (23.4) of the drivers guaranteed entry into Sunday's event.

• Dave Blaney has the best average finish (22.5) of the go-or-go-home drivers with 10 or more starts here.

• Kevin Harvick has the longest current streak of races without a DNF, with 50 consecutive races finished. His RCR teammate Clint Bowyer is next with 43.

• Citing their quick switch from Dodge to Toyota and the need to do more testing, Bam Racing has decided to they and driver Ken Schrader will skip not only this weekend's race at Texas, but Phoenix next weekend as well.

Previous winners at Texas
Driver Texas wins
Jeff Burton 2 (April 1997, April 2007)
Greg Biffle 1 (April 2005)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1 (April 2000)
Carl Edwards 1 (November 2005)
Jimmie Johnson 1 (November 2007)
Kasey Kahne 1 (April 2006)
Matt Kenseth 1 (April 2002)
Mark Martin 1 (April 1998)
Ryan Newman 1 (March 2003)
Elliott Sadler 1 (April 2004)
Tony Stewart 1 (November 2006)

Last four races at Texas
Pos. Fall 2007 Spring 2007 Fall 2006 Spring 2006
1 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Burton Tony Stewart Kasey Kahne
2 Matt Kenseth Matt Kenseth Jimmie Johnson Matt Kenseth
3 Martin Truex, Jr. Mark Martin Kevin Harvick Tony Stewart
4 Kyle Busch Jeff Gordon Kyle Busch Denny Hamlin
5 Ryan Newman Jamie McMurray Clint Bowyer Kevin Harvick
6 Jeff Burton Greg Biffle Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jeff Burton
7 Jeff Gordon Martin Truex, Jr. Casey Mears Scott Riggs
8 Kurt Busch Juan Pablo Montoya Kurt Busch Martin Truex, Jr.
9 Jamie McMurray Denny Hamlin Jeff Gordon Mark Martin
10 Kevin Harvick David Stremme Denny Hamlin Bobby Labonte
11 Tony Stewart Kurt Busch Kyle Petty Jimmie Johnson
12 Elliott Sadler Carl Edwards Matt Kenseth Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
13 Scott Riggs Tony Raines Jeff Green Reed Sorenson
14 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Brian Vickers Martin Truex, Jr. Casey Mears
15 Ricky Rudd Paul Menard Carl Edwards Kyle Busch
16 Bobby Labonte Clint Bowyer Bobby Labonte Ken Schrader
17 J.J Yeley Elliott Sadler Reed Sorenson Dale Jarrett
18 Kasey Kahne Joe Nemechek Joe Nemechek Jeff Green
19 Clint Bowyer David Gilliland Tony Raines Clint Bowyer
20 Tony Raines Kasey Kahne J.J Yeley Robby Gordon
21 Dave Blaney Dave Blaney David Gilliland David Stremme
22 Jeremy Mayfield Johnny Sauter Mark Martin Jeff Gordon
23 Brian Vickers Casey Mears Mike Bliss Joe Nemechek
24 Mike Skinner Robby Gordon David Stremme Tony Raines
25 Juan Pablo Montoya Tony Stewart Ward Burton Terry Labonte

2008 Sprint Cup Series Top 10

  1. Jeff Burton (915) was the third-place finisher at Martinsville on Sunday and moves up three places in the Sprint Cup Series points standings to first. In 14 starts here, Burton has six top-10s, three top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 16.9.
  2. Kevin Harvick (-39) was the 12th-place finisher at Martinsville and moves up a spot to second in the Cup Series standings. Harvick has 10 starts at Texas, with four top-10s, two top-5s and an average finish of 13.6.
  3. Greg Biffle (-60) was the 20th-place finisher Sunday and falls one spot in the standings to third. Biffle has eight starts here, with two top-10s, a win and an average finish of 24.5.
  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-69) finished sixth at Martinsville on Sunday and takes over the fourth position in the Cup Series standings. Earnhardt has 11 starts at TMS, with seven top-10s, three top-5s, a win and an average finish of 12.9.
  5. Kyle Busch (-84) was the 38th-place finisher Sunday at Martinsville and falls four places to fifth in the Cup Series standings. In six starts at TMS, Busch has two top-5s and an average finish of 20.2.
  6. Tony Stewart (-104) was the fifth-place finisher Sunday and moves up one place to sixth in the Cup Series standings. Stewart has 12 starts at Texas, with seven top-10s, three top-5s, a win and an average finish of 13.5.
  7. Kasey Kahne (-129) finished the race at Martinsville in 17th, falling one spot in the standings to seventh. In seven starts here, Kahne has two top-5s and a win, with an average finish of 21.6.
  8. Denny Hamlin (-157) was the winner at Martinsville and moves up seven places in the Cup Series standings to eighth place. Hamlin has five starts here with four top-10s, a Top 5 and an average finish of 11.8.
  9. Jeff Gordon (-166) was the runner-up Sunday at Martinsville and moves up five places in the Cup Series points to ninth place. Gordon has 14 starts at TMS, with seven top-10s, five top-5s and an average finish of 15.2.
  10. Jimmie Johnson (-169) was the fourth-place finisher Sunday and moves up three places in the Cup Series points standings to tenth. In nine starts here, Johnson has seven top-10s, four top-5s, a win and an average finish of 9.2.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.