Chase Nuggets: Texas

Matt Kenseth continues to reign supreme at the top of the 2006 Chase for the Championship class. He has a narrow lead of 26 points over Jimmie Johnson. After a slow start to the Chase pundits had all but counted the No. 48 Hendrick team out of ...

Matt Kenseth continues to reign supreme at the top of the 2006 Chase for the Championship class. He has a narrow lead of 26 points over Jimmie Johnson. After a slow start to the Chase pundits had all but counted the No. 48 Hendrick team out of championship contention; but they are now poised to pounce with just three races left.

The rest of the field thins out from there point wise. If Kenseth and Johnson continue to run well it will be hard to catch them.

By the numbers & what they are saying:

1. Matt Kenseth: Leader
Kenseth has one victory and four top-10 finishes in eight starts at TMS.

"Texas is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit," commented Kenseth. "We've obviously had some success there so that helps in my opinion of the track. But, the facility is great, it's always a packed house and the fans there are great. It's a fun atmosphere for sure. The track's kind of like Atlanta and we're bringing our car that we ran at Atlanta last weekend. Hopefully the results will be the same or better. When we went to Texas in April, we were really fast at the end of the race and if Kasey (Kahne) hadn't have been on another planet we could've challenged for the win. I was happy with our performance as a team last Sunday, but we'll need to continue that over the next three races if we're going to have a shot at this thing."

2. Jimmie Johnson (-26)
He has six top-15 results in six starts.

"I feel great about it," Johnson said of the Chase. "But I'm sure every team feels that way though. I'm sure Junior feels he's got a great shot. He's close, mathematically. Matt (Kenseth) is coming up to some good tracks. I think that everybody is in a good spot. I don't think anybody is really worried about not performing. It's just going to come down to luck and maybe who can outscore one another on the track."

3. Denny Hamlin (-65)
Hamlin has two top-tens in two starts here.

"We feel like we are good on these kind of tracks," said Hamlin. "We are certainly happy about where we are right now. It should be a good weekend for us."

4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-84)
In eight Texas starts, Earnhardt has one victory and six top-tens.

"It's very special. I always love running there," said Earnhardt. "Texas was the place where I realized I could make a career out of racing. Before our Busch Series win there in '98, I wasn't sure I was going to make it as a race car driver. I was living in a double-wide and trying to get my career going. I hadn't had much success in racing up to that point, but we won that race at Texas, and it set the foundation for our (Busch) championship that year."

5. Jeff Burton (-84)
Burton scored his first career Nextel Cup victory at this race track in 1997. In 11 starts, he was one win and four top-tens.

"To me, what I am looking at, are we in the position to press to try to make something happen? I still don't think we are there," said Burton. "I used the analogy this week, we are down by seven points, there is five minutes left to go in the game, it is fourth quarter - are going to punt or are we going to try to get a first down. We are still going to punt. We are still going to play our game, we are not going to try to get off course. If we leave here 84 points back, then we will have to think about it. For us right now, I really believe we still have a chance without us having to do miraculous things. Obviously, we are going to have to have a little help. But the way things are going this year and in this Chase, I wouldn't be surprised if we got a little help. My focus is on doing a good job so if we do get some help we can take advantage. The way you do that is to run well."

6. Kevin Harvick (-121)
In seven starts, Harvick has earned just two top-10 results.

"I think it's going to come down to luck, myself," said Harvick. "I think in racing and any other sport that you can think of, luck plays a major factor in what you do. I think all 10 teams are really good and have performed well week in and week out, and everybody is pushing as hard as they can right now. We haven't been in the Chase for two years, so if we lose it all and finish 10th, we still won four races this year."

7. Jeff Gordon (-146)
He has four top-fives in 11 starts at TMS.

"I've said from the beginning that this race was the one I was most concerned about performance-wise during the Chase," said Gordon. "We don't have a good track record here recently, which gives us concern. But we've made a lot of changes with the car, the set-ups and the team, and our intermediate program has improved since we last visited Texas."

8. Mark Martin (-201)
He has one win and six top-tens in 11 starts.

"Texas is a great race track," Martin said. "It's the type of place that suits my driving style. I've always done pretty well on the 1.5-mile tracks and Texas has been pretty good for us in that mix. We won the second race there and we've been pretty good there ever since. We finished ninth there in the spring and we competed for the win there last year in a second-place finish.

"Our luck has really taken a turn for the worse in the last few races, but all we can do is just keep doing what we've been doing and keep moving forward. We've had really good cars and we've ran well in the Chase, it's just hard to come back from three straight weeks of that kind of luck and wrecks. Still that takes nothing away from this team and the outstanding job of Pat Tryson and the No. 6 AAA Team."

9. Kasey Kahne (-210)
Kahne has one victory and two top-tens in four races.

"Atlanta is behind us," Kahne said. "We had a car capable of winning, but it didn't happen. We move forward. We have three races remaining in The Chase. The objective is to score every point possible. That is done by winning the race and leading the most laps. That's our objective this weekend at Texas. It will be the same at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami. We've had a good race at Texas in the spring, starting from the Bud Pole and winning. We're taking the car that won at Lowe's a couple of weeks ago, so we know it has the potential to take the Bud Pole and run up front."

10. Kyle Busch (-249)
Busch has competed in three races at TMS but has never garnered a top-10 finish.

"We would like to come out of here with a good finish," said Busch. "We would like to have a strong finish to the season and get ready for next year's Daytona 500. We have run well this year and we have had a great year in the first 26 races or the regular season. Since the playoffs have started we have been pretty bad."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin