From Masters, we now return to NASCAR in Texas

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In an off week that seemed like an eternity for NASCAR fans, things got a little better for most when a guy named Bubba won an event on Sunday.

It didn’t matter to NASCAR fans that the event was golf, because they’ve had a special love brewing for Bubba Watson, and not just because he’s a Georgia Bulldog, but rather because of the car he drives.

Watson bought the “General Lee,” the famed car from the Dukes of Hazzard television series. Watson not only owns the car, but he proudly drives it to tournaments despite the backlash he receives because the Confederate flag on the roof of the car isn’t politically correct.

Because Watson hasn’t conformed to what people think he ought to do, the fans who comprise the powerful buying power of NASCAR nation will soon be seen buying whatever product Bubba is pitching.

With the week off from racing, a big exciting race will be needed to satisfy the fans’ thirst for NASCAR and it’s something Texas always provides. The high-banked 1.5-mile track should provide all the excitement every fan wants to see in a big Texas way on a big Texas starry Saturday night.

Coming into this week’s race, we have a little bit of data to go off of from the results of two tracks that require similar horsepower. Las Vegas is the sister track of Texas and while the banking in Vegas is just a little flatter with speeds obtained a little slower, it serves as a great barometer for every team as far as set-ups go.

Whatever worked well in Las Vegas should translate well in Texas. And whatever went bad at Las Vegas, don’t repeat at Texas.

California is a much flatter and bigger track than both Las Vegas and Texas, but still requires the same type of necessary horsepower needed at Texas.

It didn’t take long to see who the best driver was at Las Vegas and California, because Tony Stewart won them both, which is why he is the 6-to-1 favorite this week according to odds posted by the LVH Super Book. If we take Stewart’s past history at Texas into the equation, you don’t have to sort through too many races because he won the last race held there last fall.

It would almost seem foolish to bet any other driver to win this week, but we should at least try to make a case for a few other drivers.

Stewart may have led the most laps in Las Vegas, but it was Jimmie Johnson who was chasing him down and eventually settled for runner-up. Johnson won his six-guns and Cowboy hat at Texas in 2007 and also has four runner-up finishes to his credit.

Johnson didn’t look like the driver to beat in Las Vegas, but his crew – the best in the business – worked hard to get the right set-up. It’s quite possible the adjustments made in the crunch at Vegas will have Johnson’s car set ideally right off the hauler when they practice Thursday night.

Greg Biffle won at Texas in 2005, but more importantly, has finished in the top-5 the last three races run there. The current points leader also has a third-place finish at Las Vegas and a sixth at California to suggest he’s got all the big Texas horsepower he’ll need this week.

Matt Kenseth has the best Texas resume of any driver with an average finish of 8.7 in 19 starts that includes wins in 2002 and last spring. Kenseth was a driver who was expected to do well at Las Vegas and California, but it never materialized. Despite those poor runs, he’s still a driver who can be expected to find his way into the top-5 considering he’s done it in five of his last six Texas starts.

Carl Edwards is a three-time winner at Texas and finished third and runner-up last season. Edwards still hasn’t given any indication during practice he’s a driver to be contended with, but when the race is over, he’s is right in the mix. At Vegas and California, he looked to have no shot at a top-20 based on practices, but wound up fifth in both races. Texas should get him straight.

It’s either hit or miss for Kyle Busch at Texas. He’s either going to finish in the top-5 or outside the top-15. Busch has never won at Texas and missed last fall’s race due to bad behavior, but the California race showed Busch has some giddy-up under the hood. Busch led the most laps in that race and finished runner-up after the rain shortened the race.

In that California race, Denny Hamlin had perhaps the best car and might have won if it weren’t for the rain. Beyond suggesting Hamlin’s progression from California will translate well this week, we also have past history that shows he had a big Texas sweep of the two races in 2010.

The big Texas wild card in this race is Kasey Kahne, who won in 2006. Kahne also finished third in the fall race last season. The only thing going against Kahne is bad luck. He’s had great cars every week, but you would never know by simply looking at the results.

It’s likely Kahne will practice as one of the best this weekend again and we’ll have to see how it plays out from there, but he is going to win very soon, mark it down.

 

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