Everything is big in Texas including Jimmie Johnson’s track record six wins and 1,023 laps led. He’s won the past three Sprint Cup events there and 4 of the last 5. Yes, that’s right, he swept last season’s two events and won the fall race there in 2014 which is why he is the 9-to-2 favorite to win Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500.
His reason for being such a large favorite this week doesn’t even have as much to do with past Texas results as it does what he’s been doing this season on similar type of tracks where the new low downforce package has been stellar for the No. 48 team. Johnson won at Atlanta, finished third at Las Vegas while leading a race-high 76 laps and then won at Fontana.
Atlanta and Vegas are both 1.5-mile tracks while Fontana is a two-mile layout. Of the three tracks, Atlanta is most similar to Texas’ high-banked 1.5-mile layout.
Last season, Johnson won four of the 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks. This season his team looks even better. In 25 Texas starts, he has an 8.44 average finish. Only one other driver has a career average finish better than 10th-place, and that would be two-time Texas winner Matt Kenseth (9.4).
Kenseth has led laps in five of the six races thus far and has started 13th or better in five of the races, but he’s still looking for his first top-five finish of the season. He finished seventh at Phoenix and has been 14th or worse in in the other five races.
Kenseth missed this race last fall due to be suspended for spearing Joey Logano’s car at Martinsville. In 26 starts he’s had 13 top-five finishes which is a track record he and Johnson both hold. He’s also led 834 laps, second only to Johnson. The Joe Gibbs Racing stable have all been stellar on these types of tracks this season, and Kenseth should have his best results of the season Saturday. JGR driver Kyle Busch has finished in the top-five in five of the six 2016 races, including last week at Martinsville. He was third at Atlanta and fourth at Las Vegas. Last year’s Sprint Cup champ won at Texas in 2013 and has a 12.4 average in 20 starts. He’s been fourth or better in five of his past six starts there and it’s likely to happen again this week.
Kevin Harvick finished second 13 times last season while only winning three races. He led a series-high 2,294 laps, the second straight year he led over 2,000 laps.
He won at Phoenix this year like he always does, but he’s left a couple of wins on the table just like last season. He’s led 485 laps this season, including leading the most at Atlanta and Fontana (finished second).
Harvick will be good again, but he seems to be a better bet at finishing second than winning.
It’s a crazy thing, his team just can’t close out races. Harvick has never won at Texas in 26 starts, but does have a very respectable 12.3 average finish.
Brad Keselowski has three top 5’s in his last four Texas starts, including a series-high 446 laps led over that span.
He won at Las Vegas last month and should be right there with teammate Joey Logano trying gain a top-five finish.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].