Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 9/8/14
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR Here’s the straight-up truth: after Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski are the only two drivers with a shot at winning this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Separated by two points, Johnson and Keselowski have three weeks to separate themselves from one another. The process will begin on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, as both fight for the victory in the AAA Texas 500. And while Johnson admits that a mid-pack finish for either driver could bring Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, and others back into the fight, the truth is the top two teams are the top two teams for a reason: they’re not in the business of finishing poorly. Truth be told, one of these two drivers is probably going to win on Sunday. For Keselowski, the numbers suggest that the next three weeks are going to be a great struggle for him, as Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead are three of his worst six tracks at the Sprint Cup level. In fact, his average finish of 25.2 at Texas makes it his second worst track in the series, better than only Las Vegas. On the other hand, don’t count Keselowski out just yet. Fast in early Friday practice, he’s also scored two of his five victories this season on 1.5-mile tri-ovals just like Texas. In fact, in his past five races on cookie-cutter tracks, he has an average finish of 4.8. He also ran in the top 10 for much of the early stages of the April Texas race until mechanical failure cost him 22 laps. As for Johnson, his one win in 18 Texas starts may seem pedestrian, but with 13 top-10s, he has an average finish of 9.7, second best among active drivers. While the win came back in 2007, Johnson actually had the best Texas race of his career in the spring; he led a race-high 156 of 334 laps on the way to a second place finish. But Johnson has had issues at Texas before, including in his last two championship-winning years. A crash in 2009 allowed Mark Martin to make up over 100 points with two races to go, while Johnson actually lost the points lead there in 2010 when Denny Hamlin won the race. Johnson would rebound strongly at Phoenix both times, winning in 2009 and gaining significant points on Hamlin in 2010. Regardless, Keselowski has a blueprint for success in front of him. If Johnson has another issue at Texas, he needs to pounce and take the lead back. In the next two weeks, he’ll have to remain aggressive as Johnson comes back strong. The key for Keselowski is to start another surge on Sunday, and that likely means taking the win. That being said, out of the two remaining championship contenders, he’s the only one to win a points race on this kind of track this season. - Chris Leone The post Sprint Cup Race Preview: AAA Texas 500 appeared first on Race Review Online.
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