Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Saddle up boys, it's Texas time!

The crowd always turns out at Texas, one of the final stops of the Chase.
Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

The Chase field heads to Texas Motor Speedway, the seventh race in the 10-race playoffs. With just three races to go, the Chase is on! Carl Edwards has a slim 8-point lead over Tony Stewart, but as we saw last week, that can change in an instant. Matt Kenseth was in second place last week headed into Martinsville and after an accident, he now finds himself back in fifth. Three races still allow for plenty of racing, so do not count anyone out of the championship battle just yet until the math says different.

Skirts and Scuffs looks at the top 12 drivers' chances this weekend at Texas. The drivers are listed in order of their standing in the points, followed by their stats at the 1.5-mile oval.

1. Carl Edwards – Ready for the gloves to come off – By Amanda Ebersole
Top 5s: 4, Top 10s: 5, Wins: 3

Tony Stewart issued some fightin’ words for Carl Edwards after his win at Martinsville when he said, “He better be worried, that’s all I am saying.” Well, Stewart has some worries heading into one of the best, if not the best, track for Edwards.

With three wins (2005 and sweeping the races in 2008), Edwards is definitely a driver to watch for this weekend. Not only does Edwards perform well in Cup, but look for him to be upfront in the Nationwide Series race as he and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. attempt to bring home an owner's championship to Jack Roush.

Edwards said of heading to Texas, “Texas is one of our strong points. I feel really good about going there, especially the way our Roush Fenway Fords run there. Texas is different than any track we go to just because of the atmosphere. It’s one of the biggest races of the year. The fans, sponsors and drivers all know it, there is a lot on the line and there is a lot of pride in winning a race there.”

2. Tony Stewart (-8) – Headed into Texas with the momentum of a win - By Amanda Ebersole
Top 5s: 4, Top 10s: 10, Wins: 1

Racers thrive on momentum and if that holds true, Tony Stewart will be the driver to watch this weekend. After winning at Martinsville, Stewart heads to Texas where he has one win (2006) and also claims 10 top 10s. Stewart has led 554 laps in his 19 starts at the track and boasts an average finish of 13.2.

Asked how he’s been able to adapt to the layout of Texas, Stewart said, “I’ve found that you can pass anywhere, really. If you get a guy who misses the bottom of the corner and he bobbles, you can get around him. But even if someone doesn’t make a mistake and you’ve got a little better car than they do, the groove has moved up enough over the years to where the track’s a little wider, so you have more room to get a run on a guy. But, as the tires wear out and grip goes away, drivers will make mistakes and a car’s handling will become more important. And, when a guy makes a mistake, you need to be there to capitalize on it. You can really pass anywhere as long as the right opportunity comes up.” 

3. Kevin Harvick (-21) – Still in the mix and looking for his first Texas win - By Rebecca Kivak
Top 5s: 3, Top 10s: 8, Wins: 0

After a 4th-place finish at Martinsville lifted him back up in the standings, Kevin Harvick is very much in the mix for the 2011 Sprint Cup title.

This weekend Harvick and the No. 29 team head to Texas Motor Speedway, a track where Harvick has run well but has yet to notch a win. This shouldn’t stop Harvick: three of his four wins this year came on tracks where he hadn’t won a points race previously. In 17 starts at Texas, Harvick has three top 5s, eight top 10s and an average finish of 12.9. In his last six races at the 1.5-mile track, he has only two finishes outside the top 10. Harvick finished sixth here a year ago, but stumbled earlier this spring, finishing two laps down in 20th after battling an ill-handling car.

Sitting just 21 points behind leader Carl Edwards, the driver of the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet is ready to capitalize on any mistakes the No. 99 may make in the next three weeks.

"The goal of the Rheem Racing Team is just to keep chipping away at the lead,” Harvick said. “We got a little behind at Talladega (Superspeedway), but we must keep doing what we're doing. We've got three to go and we're closer now than we were last week."

4. Brad Keselowski (-27) – Cheers to chasing greatness at Texas – By Melissa Wright
Top 5s: 0, Top 10s: 0, Wins: 0

Brad Keselowski heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend to make his 7th start in the Cup Series. His first race at TMS was in November 2008. Keselowski has an average finish of 23.7 in those six previous races, and an average running position of 25.3 (30th best) and a driver rating of 57.3, which is 32nd best.

On heading to the track that has “No Limits,” Keselowski said, “Texas really is a unique racetrack and a unique layout. From above it looks like any normal 1.5-mile track, but the transitions into and off of the corners are quite a bit different than Charlotte, Las Vegas or any of the other mile-and-a-halfs. There is a lot of banking into the corners, which means you can carry a lot of speed in and to the center of the turns, but you lose that speed on exit as the track flattens out. It’s difficult because normally you can carry the same amount of grip and speed on both corner entry and corner exit. You have to adjust accordingly and sometimes that’s hard to do at 180 miles per hour. It’s easy to find yourself in trouble, especially off of Turn 2.”

Keselowski has three wins, 10 top 5s, 14 top 10s and one pole for this season. He's currently 4th in the standings and 27 points behind the Chase leader, Carl Edwards. Keselowski has a driver rating of 86.9 and has led 17 races for 281 laps.

While at the “Great American Speedway” this weekend, Keselowski's Blue Deuce will feature “Cheers To Chasing Greatness” on the rear bumper. 

5. Matt Kenseth (-36)  – Kenseth has been looking forward to this race - By Genevieve Cadorette
Top 5s: 9, Top 10s: 12, Wins: 2

This season, Matt Kenseth has won three races; his last victory came at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500. When asked what tracks he was looking forward to the most and believed he could win at, Kenseth responded, "If I had to look at the final five, you know - Texas, I probably look forward to Texas the most and Homestead. Those are the two that I'm looking forward to the most, but I'm looking forward to  the challenge of all of them and looking to hopefully stay on this run that we are on."

After a 31st-place finish in Martinsville, Kenseth heads to Texas fifth in points with a 36-point deficit. He won Texas last April and a win this weekend could put him ahead of the leader, Carl Edwards.  

6. Jimmie Johnson (-43)  – Trying to remain a factor in the Chase with 3 races remaining – By Amanda Ebersole
Top 5s: 7, Top 10s: 12, Wins: 1

Can you ever truly count out the five-time Sprint Cup champion? My opinion, yes - Johnson is 43 points behind Carl Edwards, which is a full race worth of points, although it still is mathematically possible for Johnson to come back and win it all.

Headed into Texas, Johnson needs a strong finish to gain ground on the Chase frontrunners. With an average finish of 9.9 in 16 races at TMS, Johnson can be expected to be upfront and battling strong for the win this weekend.  

“Texas is a great track. It’s really challenging,” said Johnson. “The corner exits creep up on you and you are carrying a ton of speed and it’s a narrow transition from the exit of the turn onto the straights. The track has widened out a lot, so we can race all over. Texas Motor Speedway does an awesome job promoting our sport, and that race; and the fan base is there and they are excited to see us. So, I’m excited to go back to Texas.”

7. Kyle Busch (-57) – Looking for his first Texas win - By Rebecca Kivak
Top 5s: 4, Top 10s: 5, Wins: 0

After being in the wrong place at the wrong time at Talladega and Martinsville, Kyle Busch is looking to turn his luck around at Texas Motor Speedway. Though his shot at his first Sprint Cup title is all but out of reach, Busch can focus his efforts on claiming his first series win at Texas.

In 13 Sprint Cup starts, Busch has four top 5s and five top 10s, with an average finish of 16.2. The driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota finished 32nd here a year ago and 16th in the spring.

While victory has evaded him in Cup, Busch has five Nationwide wins and two Camping World Truck Series wins to his credit at the 1.5-mile oval. After choosing to cut back on running the Nationwide and truck races during the Chase, Busch will be running all three series this weekend and hopes to benefit from the extra seat time.

"We’ve scaled back on some Nationwide and Truck races during the Chase, and it really hasn’t made much of a difference in our Sunday results," Busch said. "So I’m looking forward to getting back out there this weekend and racing as much as I can, since that’s what I love to do the most."

8. Kurt Busch (-58) – Proud of his season and scraping for points - By Holly Machuga
Top 5s: 3, Top 10s: 11, Wins: 1

Kurt Busch’s hopes for this weekend can be summed up in one quote: “We’ve already enjoyed a successful run during the 2011 season and we're proud of our accomplishments so far. But, there are still three races to be run and we'll be out there scraping for all the points we can get from here on out.”

Busch has an average start of 15.8 and an average finish of 13.6 at Texas Motor Speedway. 

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-73)  – Junior Nation is revitalized after Martinsville - By Lindi Bess
Top 5s: 3, Top 10s: 9, Wins: 1

It's been several years since Junior Nation felt the excitement that 2011 has brought to them. Dale Earnhardt Jr. displays a new level of confidence and his fans are ecstatic and hopeful, but continually supporting their driver.

Earnhardt is currently 73 points behind and in the 9th position in the standings. Holding onto the spot consistently speaks for the No. 88 and how far they have come and their future potential.

Texas Motor Speedway holds some fair stats for Dale Jr. with one win, three top 5s and nine top 10s. In the past 18 races, Earnhardt Jr. has an average finish of 14.5.

This weekend, the National Guard will be honoring the women and men who have chosen to join and identified career fields in the "Trained by Tradition" AMP Energy Chevy at Texas Motor Speedway. The campaign ran between July 1 and Sept. 28. The No. 88 Chevy will sport a National Guard camouflaged paint scheme featuring their names during this weekend in Texas, sponsoring them for their service by the Hendrick Motorsports team.

10. Jeff Gordon (-76) – Can Gordon maintain a top-10 Chase spot for the season? – By Amanda Ebersole
Top 5s: 7, Top 10s: 9, Wins: 1

With three wins this season, Jeff Gordon is mired back in the 10th position in the Chase standings, even behind his winless HMS teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. To say that Gordon has hit a rough patch would be a bit of an understatement. A blown engine at Kansas topped with 20-something place finishes at Charlotte and Talladega had left Gordon barely clinging on to that precious 10th spot. In order to head to Las Vegas to celebrate, drivers must finish within the top 10.

Headed to Texas, Gordon has an average finish of 17.3 in 21 races at the track. With one win (April 2009), Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson will look to improve on those stats this weekend.

Gordon said of heading to Texas, “It's always been one of the premier facilities, but the race track itself has really come into its own and made great racing, as well. I don’t go into a race with any expectations based on recent results. Once we get the green flag, I’ll see what my car does in (turns) one and two. Then I’ll go to turns three and four and see what it does there. I’ll evaluate it as the race goes on and try to provide (crew chief) Alan Gustafson with the best information so he can make the right adjustments.” 

11. Denny Hamlin (-80) – Hamlin just wants that win - By Unique Hiram
Top 5s: 5, Top 10s: 8, Wins: 2

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, is headed to Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval track with 24 degree banking) where he has captured a couple of wins. Although this talented driver and his team haven’t displayed the strong competitive Chase for the Sprint Cup performance this season compared to the previous, he is still fighting for that win until the checkered flag waves in Homestead.

In an interview with Mark Aumann of, Hamlin had this to say about wanting to win a race before the 2011 season concludes: "My goal is to win a race before the end of the season, I feel that would go a really long way with our team and myself and the confidence level, and I feel like we could do that. We have some awesome race tracks ahead of us that we've pretty much all won at."

In addition to the two wins and numerous top finishes at this track, Hamlin has led approximately 131 laps and he has an average finish of 9.33.

He is currently seeded 11th in the standings, 80 points behind leader Carl Edwards

12. Ryan Newman (-89) – Out of contention but a threat for the win at Texas - By Lacy Keyser
Top 5s: 3, Top 10s: 3, Wins: 1

Ryan Newman hasn’t had the best Chase season; he is currently 12th in the standings and has been eliminated from winning the championship this year.

However, Newman has great success at Texas. With a win and three poles here, Newman may not be able to win the Sprint Cup, but he can sure bounce back and win a race in Texas. Look for Newman to be a threat to take that checkered flag come Sunday.  

Who will be sporting that cowboy hat in Victory Lane on Sunday? Tune into Skirts and Scuffs on Monday afternoon as we recap how the Chase contenders fared at the Great American Speedway.
Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Saddle up boys, it's Texas time! Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Saddle up boys, it's Texas time! Reviewed by Admin on Friday, November 04, 2011 Rating: 5