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NASCAR is going deep into the heart of the yellow rose of Texas this week for the eighth race of the season. It’s hard to believe the season is almost a quarter of the way over, but here we are going to our third 1.5-mile high banked track of the season. We get a nice preview and indicator for what might happen this week just because of what we saw in Las Vegas and Atlanta not long ago.

We also get to look at the two day Charlotte test session where every team went out and tested the new spoiler which could make a difference in this race. Whoever has the quickest and best read on the set-up of their car – as to how the new spoiler responds – will be the team that will have a head start this week in Texas and a leg up at all the down force tracks.

During the two-day test session at Charlotte on March 23-24, a couple teams really stood out beginning with the Richard Childress cars of Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, and Clint Bowyer. Kevin Harvick has already had success at Las Vegas and Atlanta with the old spoiler with second and ninth place finish respectively.

Juan Pablo Montoya surprised everyone with a great Phoenix after tweeting that he hated his car in Friday’s practice and said it was going to be a long race day. During the Charlotte testing, Montoya was at or near the top on each day. In Atlanta, Montoya also came home with a third place finish which makes him a nice candidate to win this week.

Jimmie Johnson’s world class crew would seem like the natural choice to be ahead of the curve with any new change to the car, especially as to how it relates to the down-force track that they’re always so good at. Johnson won at Las Vegas and finished 12th in Atlanta already this year. During the testing, Johnson didn’t dominate as would be expected, but he was in the top-10.

Matt Kenseth didn’t do anything special in the testing with the new spoiler, but we should believe that he’ll be good on race day based on what he did at Las Vegas and Atlanta where he’s the only driver to finish in the top-5 for each. He’s a former winner at Texas and has the best average finish position of anyone with a 9.1 average finish. He’s on a current streak of six straight top-10 finishes. He should present good value in odds to win this week.

An interesting driver to take a look at this week who will have great long shot possibilities is Paul Menard. He was fastest in one of the test sessions and finished fifth in Atlanta.

Brian Vickers has never cracked the top-10 over his career at Texas, but these are the type of tracks he does well at and made his run into the chase last season by doing well on them. He looked fast in the Charlotte testing with the new spoiler and could be another semi-long shot to take notice of.

Kyle Busch moved four points in the standings after a great run at Phoenix and is currently in 12th. Had there been no caution late at Phoenix, or had his team made the inning call by taking two tires in the last pit, or perhaps not even pit at all, Busch might have won the race. The good run at least shows that his team might finally be moving in the right direction. During testing, Busch was rather ordinary as were his finishes at Las Vegas and Atlanta this year, but did lead the most laps at Texas last fall.

Kasey Kahne has shown some horsepower on the high-banked 1.5-mile tracks this year. He led the most laps in Atlanta and finished fourth. He’s also one of only four drivers to have top-10 finishes at both Las Vegas and Atlanta. He hasn’t been so special on the other tracks, but it’s likely he’ll have the same type of horsepower this week and contend for another good finish.

Kurt Busch won at Atlanta this season and last season as well as taking the fall Texas race. He dropped eight points in the standings following a poor Phoenix run, but he’s been one of the most consistent drivers all season. Look for a great run this week.

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