5 Questions Before: Texas and the Wild Asphalt Circus

This week the Chase takes us from Martinsville Speedway in the Commonwealth of Virginia to the Great American Speedway in the once (and some say future) Republic of Texas. Martinsville's grandfather clock trophy gives way to a cowboy hat trophy accompanied by a pair of pistols and a Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat. Next to Texas Motor Speedway, the 340 acre Virginia venue looks practically claustrophobic since it would fit in the TMS parking lot  - on the paved part! - with room to spare.  You could put the 800-foot straightaways of the Paper Clip end to end and still be well short of the 2,250-foot frontstretch at TMS. But the differences between racing at each of the iconic tracks goes beyond the 12-degree increase in the corners (Martinsville has 12 degrees, Texas 24.)

Drivers must shift gears from short-track tempers to high-speed drama, and the first of my five questions before Texas fits squarely in the middle of the the kind of action for which TMS is famous.

View of the TMS grandstands from the Samsung Media Center in the infield.
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Kyle Busch drives his KBM CampingWorld Truck Series Tundra for only the second time this season - and the first time at Texas since his infamous episode last November when he purposely wrecked Ron Hornaday and was parked for the weekend. Can Rowdy keep his temper this time and earn his first victory for his own Truck team this season? 

The Nationwide Series didn't run at Martinsville last weekend but the weekend before, at Kansas, four of the top five finishers - including the race winner - were not just Nationwide regulars, but were the top three in championship points. Elliott Sadler's won at TMS in Cup, but never in Nationwide. Can he change that?  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won in April. Can he sweep the series and grab the points lead? Can Austin Dillon add a Charlie 1 Horse hat to his collection - this time by winning it? Or will a Cup driver be firing the pistols in Victory Lane? 

In the lead by a slim 2-point margin, Jimmie Johnson's only win in the Lone Star State came in 2007, but in 18 starts he's got 13 top 10s and a average finish of 9.7, Brad Keselowski has never finished inside the top ten in Cup racing at TMS. Can he change that and get a black hat to go with his "Bad Brad" persona, and in doing so take the points lead? 

Will Mother Nature play a role in the race? The April race fell victim to 35-plus mph winds, which may not seem like much, but when you're screaming around the slick mile-and-a-half no-holds-barred track at 190 mph, a crosswind can cause significant handling issues. The forecast for Sunday currently calls for a 30% chance of rain, but this is Texas and that could change by tomorrow.

The Tale of the Tape: Smoke vs. Cousin Carl
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Finally, can Eddie Gossage top his marketing campaign from last year's Chase? Gossage capitalized on the building tension and featured prizefighters Smoke vs.Cousin Carl, right down to the boxing gloves and lockers in the media center. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards cooperated by finishing one-two in the race, and ratcheted up the drama leading into the final races of the season. With "Five-Time" leading "Bad Brad" by just two points and Clint Bowyer lurking 26 points back, can the match-up live up to the hype?

Stay tuned. I'll be at the track for Skirts and Scuffs alongside of our photographer Debbie Ross covering all three races. These questions and more will be answered as the travelling circus that is NASCAR meets the Wild Asphalt Circus at Texas Motor Speedway.

Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May, 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.

Follow her on Twitter @ljc777.
5 Questions Before: Texas and the Wild Asphalt Circus 5 Questions Before: Texas and the Wild Asphalt Circus Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Thursday, November 01, 2012 Rating: 5