The speedy men in metal machines get their Texas on (finally!) this weekend.
With some of the fastest qualifying speeds of the year and a 500 mile beast of a race, those who don the victorious 10-gallon cowboy hats are the men of the series, not the boys. There's a bronco to bust, and it's a fast track with laws against braking. Bring your six-shooters, gentlemen. And start your engines too.
Pole Position: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has killed at Texas with two wins, 13 top-10s, and a series-best driver rating of 106.5 festooning his resume. He's not let down his 2012 strength of late either; heck, he nabbed a top-5 at Martinsville last weekend, a track self-described as one of his worst. Look for great speed from Team 17.
Outside pole: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
With a win, 10 top-10s, a league-leading 610 quality passes (passes inside the top 15), and a bunch of 2012 mojo, Dale Jr. nabs the outside pole for this week's power rankings. Firstly, he's looking good, and secondly, this writer wants to look good in case he busts a winning move come Saturday evening. The forecast looks so much like a win of late, Junior Nation...
Position 3: Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie usually ends up looking good in the south, with a win and a dozen top-10s to his credit. He also averages a 10.2 finish, an absolutely fine mark. He's still hunting for that first win of 2012, and having come close several times over the past month, he's closing in quickly on victory circle, Johnson and Knaus style.
Position 4: Tony Stewart
Stewart is the latest winner in Texas, having triumphed in the Chase race there last year over Carl Edwards. He has another win at the track to boot, and two wins on the 2012 season already. Team 14 should be fast material yet again.
Position 5: Carl Edwards
Carl is no stranger to six shooters and ten gallon hats, having won three times at Texas in his past. When he's not winning there, he routinely runs in the top-10, with the second-most laps in the series in the top 15. Teammates Kenseth and Biffle should be very strong, and Edwards should find no trouble in keeping up with the Joneses this weekend.
Position 6: Kyle Busch
Not surprisingly, KyBusch's stats are rather helter-skelter at Texas; a wreck here, a top-15 there, a win contention gone awry over there. However, when not shooting himself in the foot, Kyle runs strong at Texas, and he's vastly overdue for his first good run of 2012.
Position 7: Ryan Newman
Newman is coming off of a surprise win at Martinsville, where a solid top-5 run was converted last-minute to a win, courtesy of late-race fireworks at the front of the pack. He's been frequently running in the top-10 in 2012, and Stewart-Haas racing as a whole is mighty fine at the moment. Keep on eye on a top-10 spot for Newman.
Position 8: Jeff Gordon
Gordon returns to his love-hate relationship with Texas, where he often either runs for the win or just struggles to keep up with the top 12. It's certainly been a yin-yang history for Gordon at the track, where even many win contentions have been ended with untimely wrecks or mechanical issues. If he can survive the day, Team 24 should be able to parlay their 2012 performance strength into an excellent top-10 run, at least.
Position 9: Kasey Kahne
Kahne continues to wallow in unfortunate 2012 misery, having had many a fine run but often a bad result. Last week's Martinsville race was no exception, where he sat on the pole, ran in the top three, yet succumbed to mechanical issues about halfway through the race. He's due for a great run, and his qualifying this year has been stellar. Look for pole contention and at least top-10 potential.
Position 10: Greg Biffle
Points-leader Biffle has waned a tiny bit in recent races from the might shown in the season's first handful of races. That's all relative of course, and Texas is a good track to both Biffle and Roush as a whole. He leads the series in fastest laps run at Texas and has a third-best driver rating there of 100.8. He should contend well.
Position 11: Clint Bower
Bowyer's stats at the Texas track are routinely top-10, and he's been routinely running in the top 10 most races this season. He's a quiet pick to run well this weekend, but Michael Waltrip Racing isn't to be denied contention of late. Keep Bowyer on your radar.
Position 12: Martin Truex Jr.
Like his teammate Bowyer, Truex continues to turn heads in 2012 by taking the Michael Waltrip Machines to new heights in qualifying and race results. The jury is still out on whether or not the strength will remain consistent, but, yet again, now isn't the time to take a top-12 power ranking eye off of Truex. Look for Team 56 to fight for a top-10 result.
Lucky Dog: Kevin Harvick (it's an awfully crowded top-12 at the moment)
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