Texas II: Round 34 preview

Chase Battle Heads For Tough Texas Showdown DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 1, 2006) -- If the word "Texas" summons visions of wide-open highways and horizons, consider the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, where drivers roll up and down the ...

Chase Battle Heads For Tough Texas Showdown

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 1, 2006) -- If the word "Texas" summons visions of wide-open highways and horizons, consider the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, where drivers roll up and down the standings like tumbleweed.

Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway is the eighth stop in the 10-race Chase, contested over the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season's final 10 events. And this much is clear: The 2003 series champion, Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), leads second-place Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) by 26 points. But don't count on the battle narrowing to those two, just yet.

Only 84 points divide the top-five drivers; only 146 separate the top seven -- the closest such margins after eight events in the Chase's three-year history.

Abetting the drama is Texas' lack of a repeat winner; 11 different drivers have won its 11 events.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Chevrolet) jumped one spot to third after an eighth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway last week. He trails Kenseth by 65 points.

And look who's back: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) is fourth, climbing two spots after last week's third-place finish at Atlanta. He and fifth-place Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) are tied with 5,924 points, but Earnhardt earns the tiebreaker with more top-five finishes. Both he and Burton trail Kenseth by 84 points.

Time is the enemy for sixth-place Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), who fell four spots following an Atlanta finish of 31st; also for four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), who finished sixth at Atlanta. Harvick trails Kenseth by 121 points; Gordon by 146.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin