By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
After a barnburner of a finish at Martinsville last weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Lone Star State and Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s running of the AAA Texas 500 and the second race of the playoff semi-finals.
First joining the circuit in 1997, the 1.5-mile Texas track has provided some great racing over the years as the original track surface wore down over the years. Prior to the 2017 season, Texas went through a reconfiguration, dropping the banking in Turns 1 and 2 from 24 degrees to 20 degrees, as well as widening the racing surface from 60 feet to 80 feet. Meanwhile, Turns 3 and 4 remain banked at 24 degrees and 60 feet wide, giving the track two distinct corners that the drivers will have to navigate.
Heading into the weekend, one of the four spots in the Championship Four at Homestead have been filled and success here will go a long way in helping those remaining race their way into the season finale with their title hopes still intact.
By the Numbers
What: AAA Texas 500, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 34 of 36
Where: Texas Motor Speedway – Fort Worth, Texas (Opened: 1997)
When: Sunday, November 4
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 3:00 pm ET / PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 1.5-mile quad oval
Race Length: 334 laps, 501 miles
Stage Lengths: First two stages: 85 laps each – Final stage: 164 laps
Pit Road Speed: 45 mph
Pace Car Speed: 55 mph
April 2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota (Started eighth, 116 laps led)
November 2017 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford (Started third, 38 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford (26.877 seconds, 200.915 mph – 11/3/2017)
Top-10 Driver Ratings at Texas:
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 104.1
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 101.9
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 95.3
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 94.4
- Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 94.2
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 89.7
- Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 89.2
- Erik Jones – No. 20 Toyota – 89.2
- Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 88.4
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 86.4
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings:
- Joey Logano (Advanced with Martinsville win)
- Kyle Busch (+46 ahead of cut-off)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (+25)
- Kevin Harvick (+25)
- Kurt Busch (-25)
- Chase Elliott (-31)
- Clint Bowyer (-42)
- Aric Almirola (-50)
From the Driver’s Seat
“(Turns) three and four are an incredible sensation,” said Kurt Busch. “Once the car goes into the banking, it travels. The suspension collapses in the car and it gets lower to the ground and picks up speed because you are lower to the ground and have less drag. It’s a sensation that is hard to describe. When you have that grip level in the car, it gives you the feeling that you can just put it down to the floor and there won’t be any consequences.
“Turns one and two are where I think the lap times come from – if you can get it to hook and stay right on the bottom because that end of the track is a lot flatter. You have to back out of the gas all the way. Then, in three and four, you can hold it wide open. Both ends of the track are very different. It is a cool sensation going through three and four almost holding it wide open.”
Last Time at Texas
Early in the season, it became clear that Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were going to be two of the top contenders this year and their battle at Texas in April was a sign of things to come.
Harvick dominated the early stages of the race, winning stage 1 and building a lead upwards of 12 seconds at one point, but pit road would be the bane of his existence that afternoon, with three different pit road issues that hampered him.
Despite the setbacks, Harvick was able to get back to second-place just in time to hound Busch for the race lead over the final 23 laps of the race, but got no closer than 0.300 seconds back at the finish as Busch scored his first win of the season and third at Texas.
“It feels awesome,” said Kyle Busch. “Any time you can win at a track that kind of isn’t maybe one of your favorites or isn’t one of your best, then it definitely means even more because it just – you try to focus on those tracks and make it a little bit more meaningful and a little bit more special to get it done.
“So cool though to be in Victory Lane here – finally this year and punch our ticket into the Playoffs and of course, you know also just continue our hot streak of being the points leader right now and keeping these guys focused on what we need to do all year long.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, November 2
- MENCS Practice (2:00 pm to 2:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)
- MENCS Qualifying (7:00 pm – NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, November 3
- MENCS Practice (12:30 pm to 1:25 pm – CNBC)
- MENCS Final Practice (3:00 pm to 3:50 pm – NBC Sports App, NBCSN on air at 3:30 p.m.)
Sunday, November 4
- MENCS AAA Texas 500 (3:00 pm – 334 laps, 501 miles – NBC Sports Network)