Saturday, April 7, 2018

Five Questions before Texas

credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs


by Lisa Janine Cloud

This week's action puts the Xfinity Series and the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth. Or more precisely, No Limits Texas, established 1997.

Race rituals include cowboy hats, six-shooters, and rifles, of course. Repaved before last April's race weekend after track drying became an almost impossible task, drivers are feeling their way around, trying to get used to the new surface and configuration. While they're doing that, let's look at some questions.


Who will qualify for the Dash 4 Cash? 
The My Bariatric Solutions 300 results will set eligibility for Bristol edition of the popular contest in which four full-time Xfinity Series drivers compete for $100,000. Richmond, Talladega, and Dover host the other three Dash 4 Cash races. In addition to the driver award, Comcast will donate bonus money, a total of $40,000, within those four communities as part of the company’s Internet Essentials program, which is designed to help low-income Americans get online.

Who in the heck is Bayley Currey?
Hailing from Driftwood, Texas (near Austin and San Marcos), Bayley Currey will attempt to make his first Xfinity Series start this weekend. He’ll be driving for B. J. McLeod in the No. 8 with CHASCO Constructors on the car. The No. 8 has seen action two other drivers have taken the wheel of that No. 8 this season - Caesar Bacarella and Tommy Joe Martins. Currey ran three Camping World Truck Series races last season and one so far this season. In first practice, he finished 28th of 40 and 32nd of 41 in second practice. Not too shabby for his first time in an Xfinity car!

Can Jimmie Johnson get his eighth win at TMS?
No driver has won more at the Great American Speedway than Seven-Time. Despite this season’s lackluster performance, the No. 48 must be considered a threat when the green flag falls in Texas. Johnson not only won seven times but has five second-place finishes in 29 starts. He rolls off ninth on Sunday afternoon.
While qualifying was on hold for lightning in the area, Johnson said, “I was just telling Alex (Bowman) we started off and struggled pretty bad.  I think the track was just really far off from what we anticipated. At the very end of practice, things started going much better for us and popped off a decent lap there and making good gains. We are excited either way.” As strong as the Fords are, no one should count Johnson out until the checkers fly.

Can Bowyer bring it?
The proud new owner of a grandfather clock from Martinsville, Clint Bowyer’s performance thus far in 2018 has been encouraging. A win, two top fives, and three top tens out of six starts is a good way to start the season, and the Kansas native is optimistic.

 “All four of our Stewart-Haas cars are fast again here at a totally different race track. It is crazy how you can get your cars with a good balance on them and really roll them through the corners good and for whatever reason in today's day in age it doesn’t matter if it is at Texas Motor Speedway running 200 mph or last week at Martinsville. It seems if they are fast at one track they are going to be fast at the next. It is real fun to be in a Ford right now,” Bowyer said in his media availability Friday. He starts third behind SHR teammates Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.

Can a New Kid on the Track score a win in No Limits, Texas?
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage is known for capitalizing on current controversy and conflict to promote races. This race, he has cast the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series youngest drivers as “New Kids on the Track,” a play on the boy band New Kids on the Block. Cartoon versions of Daniel Suarez, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, William Byron, and Alex Bowman pose as if for an album cover or a promotional shot. To the side, a smaller poster states that the average age of winners in the first six races is 38.5.

When asked about the reference during media availability, Suarez and Blaney didn’t know who NKOTB were, and Jones pointed out that he was born in 1996. “We were actually just talking about it in the hauler and I don’t know the New Kids on the Block.” Jones said. “I was born in 1996 and the last year they were a group was 1995. They asked me what new kid on the block  was and I was like ‘man, I’ve got to be honest with you, I have no idea’. I saw that though. It’s cool. It made me laugh. I liked the sign they put next to it better. At first I thought Harvick actually put it there. I was like that, that’s pretty funny, but then I realized the track did it.”

Joey Logano was the youngest Cup winner at TMS. In 2014 he was 24 but had five full-time Cup seasons under his belt. While the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series have seen young winners, Cup races tend to go to older, veteran drivers like Johnson and Harvick. That could change this Sunday, but odds are against it.

Tune in to FOX Sports 1 at 1 p.m. Central Time on Sunday to find out!




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