Drivers to watch
Check out a short list of favorites for Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:
Continued his dominance at Bristol Motor Speedway as he won his third straight race there by holding off Rusty Wallace after a red flag with just two laps to go; ignored the suggestion of his crew chief to pit tires and notched his fourth win in the last five races at Bristol; the victory vaulted him two spots in the standings to second, just 21 points in back of Rousch Racing teammate Matt Kenseth; has two top-10 finishes in three career starts at Texas.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Recorded his first Winston Cup victory at Texas in his 12th career start in 2000; was headed for another win here last year, but was passed by Ryan Newman with 10 laps to go and settled for second place; "When I'm old and gray, I'm going to bore my grandkids with race stories from my driving days and I'm sure Texas will wind up in many of the stories," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I think our record shows we've been one of the teams to deal with there every year." he has led at least one lap in each of his four races at Texas, where he has three top-10 finishes; has two victories and four top-10 finishes this year and is third in the standings, 41 points behind Kenseth.
The four-time Winston Cup champion has never won at Texas Motor Speedway; started second and finished ninth at Bristol, was 18th after a restart with 62 laps remaining; moved up one spot in the standings to 12th, just six points from 10th; his best run at Texas was a second-place finish in 2002; last year was just edged by Earnhardt Jr. and finished third here.
Was third at Bristol to gain four spots in the standings to seventh; finished seventh in his first start at Texas in 2001, but has been out of the top 10 here the last two years; tested at Texas a week ago; "We tried a lot of new combinations and most of it worked out the way we wanted," Harvick said of testing here. "We struggled with the bumps in (turns) one and two at the beginning and that spilled over to the bumps in three and four. Once we fixed the bumps in one and two, the ones in three and four pretty much fixed themselves."
Had consecutive top-5 finishes, including a victory at Darlington Raceway, before placing 16th at Bristol; has consecutive top-10 finishes at Texas; "Well we go from the short track of Bristol to the fast track of Texas Motor Speedway this week. I am very much looking forward to going to Texas," Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus said. "We've run exceptionally well there. I like that race track. It's very fast and very conducive to the Lowe's team. I think we've got a shot at qualifying in the top five and definitely have a car capable of winning the race."
Showing the consistency he displayed in 2003, when he was the Winston Cup champion as he has five top-10 finishes in six races; after finishing fifth at Bristol, he was bumped and spun by Jamie McMuray on the cool-down lap; recorded his second career victory at Texas in 2001, when he had to start at the back of the 43-car field after changing an engine; started 17th and finished sixth here last year for one of his 25 top-10 showings.
Was fined $10,000 and placed on probation until August 31 for spinning Kenseth's Ford on the cool-down lap at Bristol; his action came after Kenseth tapped McMurray near the end of the race; is 14th in the standings, just 43 points from 10th; "Texas is always fun for me because my family comes in for the race since it's one of the closer places we visit to my hometown of Joplin, Missouri," McMurray said. "Bristol is behind us. I know a lot of people keep asking about all that happened last Sunday in Bristol, but that's short track racing and is why they pack fans into that place."
Did not pit for tires on his final stop here last year, but passed Earnhardt Jr. with 10 laps to go and drove away for his second career victory; had seven more wins in 2003, but is seeking his first triumph this year; has three poles in six races this year; has three straight top-10 finishes and moved up four spots in the standings to fifth after he was seventh at Bristol; "Going into Texas, I look forward to going back as the defending winner, but that doesn't mean a whole lot when it comes to different teams and another opportunity to win the race," Newman said. "I just look forward to that as well as the IROC race."
Leads all drivers in bonus points with 35 and is fourth in the standings, 94 points behind Kenseth; is one of just four drivers to be in the top 10 in the standings each week this season; in five career starts at Texas, Stewart has three top-10 finishes.
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