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NASCAR at Texas: Sadler Takes the Pole For Chase Race #8

Rusty NormanNon-Chaser, Elliott Sadler, took his first pole in a very long time and delivered Richard Petty Motorsports some upbeat news after several weeks of nothing but tumultuous days and negative speculations. That doesn’t mean the RPM teams are out of the woods yet, but it does mean they are still working hard to make good showings every week which does offer a few rays of hope into their situation. Personally, I’m glad to see it for both Elliott and RPM.

When it comes to qualifying, it is pretty obvious the Fords are looking mighty strong this weekend. A quick look at the top thirteen shows seven Fords and three of them qualified in the top three positions. With my normal pessimism about how important qualifying may be, I can’t help but notice there are also seven Chevys in the top fifteen, along with only one Dodge and no Toyotas. That may or may not mean anything for this weekend, but I do find it interesting.

The top three in points are far back in the field with Jimmie Johnson starting in 17th, Kevin Harvick in 26th and Denny Hamlin starting in 30th. Of course, we all know over the course of 500 miles, starting in the middle to the back of the pack doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but this is Texas and it takes some strategy and consistently moving forward to get up front and stay there.

Now, I’m not trying to present anything new to anyone, but the fact remains unless absolute disasters happen to those top three in the points (and on a regular basis over the next three races) it is pretty much a three horse race for the 2010 Sprint Cup. The interesting thing about it is they don’t really have to do much more than race each other for 15th place and they could still be the top three by the time they reach Homestead; (of course, that also depends on what some of the others in the top twelve do.)

So what should we make of the way the practice and qualifying went? Well, I guess that depends on which team is your favorite and who you think will win. From this fan’s view, (and yes, I know I’ve said this a lot lately), this could be the weekend that someone visits Victory Lane for the first time or for the first time in a long time. I’m really not sure which way it will go, but I do think it will be someone besides the top three in the Chase. In fact, judging from the late practices, it could even be one of the Toyotas and not necessarily one from JGR.

Of course, you can never figure Kyle Bush’s Toyota out of the mix, but I still say the Fords are looking very strong for the weekend. Even though they didn’t necessarily turn the fastest laps in the final practices, I do think Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards have a good chance of pulling off a good run for Sunday’s race; either one of them could win and I won’t put it totally outside the realm of possibilities that Matt Kenseth could too.

There is a dark horse Ford who’s been showing some strength and consistency lately and that is the other Roush/Fenway team of driver, David Regan. This is another one of those teams that could pick up their first victory, if things go right. If things go as they have for Regan so far this season, he may lead and run near the front for a period of time, but there is always that simple little something that takes him out of contention.

Texas is a fast track but it can also be a bit treacherous. I’m of the opinion it could also be a fuel mileage track this weekend. As I’ve stated often in the past, I’m not one that watches the fastest lap, (although they do tell a tale at times), but one that watches for consistency in lap times. Sometimes, we as fans don’t get the full picture about lap times until after the race starts and (even more importantly) how some do after several pit stops. My thinking is the ones that will be in there looking to take the win will be the ones that can run consistently on the bottom of the track all day and also make a move or two on the outside to pass.

I hate to be the one that says it, but I really think the top three in the points are going to have a mediocre day at Texas. It is this fan’s opinion, they are so close in points that none of the three of them wants to be the one that gives anything away. Denny Hamlin has struggled since they unloaded off the truck. I can’t say anything much different about Kevin Harvick either. Jimmie Johnson looks the least stressed by the closeness of the points and I think he has the best advantage of the three to finish closest to the front. Unfortunately, that spot closer to the front is somewhere around tenth or worse. Now that may not sit too well with some of you, but admit it, you’re not happy when he finishes any nearer to the front either. Let’s just say I think he’s going to extend his lead over Hamlin and Harvick this weekend but I think it’s only because he is going to finish ahead of them by a spot or two…

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© November 06, 2010 – all rights reserved

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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.