Chase

Texas Motor Speedway

Previewing NASCAR's AAA Texas 500

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: AAA Texas 500
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
When: Sunday, Nov. 6
TV: ESPN (3:00 p.m. EST)

Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval; Banking/Turns: 24°; Banking/Quad-Oval: 18°; Banking/Straightaways: 5°

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<p> Athlon Sports previews Sunday's AAA Texas 500 from Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR's eighth race in the Chase for the Championship.</p>

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

A Two Man Show? Not Just Yet.

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Carl Edwards
Talladega and Martinsville were the wild card tracks, and the two Edwards and crew were most apprehensive about. They went into ’Dega with a five-point lead and left Martinsville up eight.

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<p> Is it a two-man battle? Not yet, but Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart have certainly separated from the pack in the Chase standings and in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

8. Jeff Gordon
It’s been a disappointing Chase for Gordon and the gang thus far. In fact, his third-place run at Martinsville was the best showing he’s had since a fourth in Loudon, five weeks ago.

9. Clint Bowyer
Will Bowyer’s hiring at Michael Waltrip Racing come at the expense of David Reutimann’s full-season effort? It just might ...

10. Kyle Busch
Has been wholly unspectacular throughout the Chase, which begs the question, “Why is he rated so high on this list?” Answer: Because he still has the ability to win on any given weekend.

11. Kasey Kahne
A strong six-race run comes to an end in Martinsville, which has never been a great “Kasey track.”

12. Kurt Busch
Sliding the wrong way since the win at Dover five weeks ago.

13. Jeff Burton
Follows runner-up showing at Talladega with a sixth at Martinsville.

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In lieu of a top-5 finish, it was at least good to hear Junior having fun in Martinsville.

15. Greg Biffle
Averaging a rather pedestrian 13th-place run over the last month.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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Martinsville Speedway

Previewing the Tums Fast Relief 500

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: Tums Fast Relief 500
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Location: Martinsville, Va.
When: Sunday, Oct. 30
TV: ESPN (1:30 p.m. EST)

Specs: .526-mile oval; Banking/Turns: 12 degrees

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<p> Athlon Sports previews NASCAR's sixth race in the Chase, the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Edwards wins by "running and hiding" at Talladega

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Carl Edwards No one driver wins the Chase at Talladega, but many lose it. Edwards did neither, which is a good thing for him. Expect top-10 runs from here on out.

2. Matt Kenseth Edwards’ teammate and the 2003 champ, Kenseth, sits just 14 points back in second. Both are good (Texas, Homestead) and weak (Martinsville) at the same tracks.

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<p> Carl Edwards survived the melee that is the final few laps at Talladega on Sunday to extend his points lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He also extended his lead over Matt Kenseth in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

8. Clint Bowyer  Four of his six Chase races have resulted in finishes of eighth or better, including, of course, the big win at ’Dega. It may be the last one he sees for a while since MWR isn’t known as a big-win operation.

9. Jeff Gordon  Gordon’s 27th at Talladega and the events that conspired to contribute to it may have been frustrating, but say this about him: He seemed to be the only Hendrick car that wanted to go to the front and race.

10. Kasey Kahne  Kahne’s average finish in the last six races is 7.1, including four straight runs of sixth or better. It’s a shame everything is coming together for this bunch as the season winds down.

11. Denny Hamlin  Back-to-back solid finishes with his favorite stop — Martinsville — up next.

12. Paul Menard  Leads all drivers on the circuit with a 10.2-place average finish on the plate tracks in 2011.

13. Greg Biffle  Winless thus far in 2011. That’s only happened once to the Biff in eight full-time Cup seasons.

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  It ain’t getting any prettier, but I get hate mail if he’s not at least ranked in the top 15.

15. Joey Logano  The final results (24th) don’t back up the great run Logano had at ’Dega with a torn up car.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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Clint Bowyer Wins Talladega

RCR finishes 1-2; Chase field narrows

by Matt Taliaferro

And then, there were five. So it seems. Maybe. The one thing that is beyond debate is Clint Bowyer’s continued strength on NASCAR’s plate tracks. Bowyer made a last-lap pass of teammate Jeff Burton in the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday to earn his first win of the 2011.

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<p> Clint Bowyer won the Good Sam Club 500 from Talladega Superspeedway.</p>
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Kansas Speedway

Previewing NASCAR's Hollywood Casino 400

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: Hollywood Casino 400
Location: Kansas City, Kan.
TV: ESPN (2:00 p.m. EST)
June Winner: Brad Keselowski

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<p> Athlon Sports previews this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400 from Kansas Speedway.</p>

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Horsepower Rankings

Chase field narrows after Monster weekend at Dover

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Attention race fans: Do not count Jimmie Johnson out of the Chase until he is mathematically eliminated (which probably will not happen). Thank you. That is all.

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<p> Jimmie Johnson sits atop Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

6. Kevin Harvick  Clinging to the points lead thanks to his four regular season wins and top-12 finishes. Still, Harvick seems to be lacking some of the mojo that got him here. Maybe he should pick a fight with Kyle Busch.

7. Matt Kenseth  Running out of fuel in the Chase’s first race at Chicago may come back to haunt Kenseth, who had one of the best cars there. The result was a 21st, with fifth- and sixth-place runs since.

8. Kurt Busch   Busch throws his hat back into the championship hunt with an impressive — and somewhat unexpected — win in Dover over Johnson, who he described as his “arch-nemesis.”

9. Kyle Busch  A sixth at Dover helped his cause after subpar 22nd- and 11th-place showings. Leading laps is Kyle’s calling card, but he hasn’t done that since the onset of the Chase.

10. Ryan Newman   There’s quite a gap between ninth and 10th on the list. Newman is sliding down the rankings thanks to 25th- and 23rd-place runs which have deep-sixed his Chase chances.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  That third-place run to open the Chase is proving to be the fuel-mileage fluke we believed it to be.

12. Clint Bowyer  If he expects to run better at Michael Waltrip Racing next season he needs to think again.

13. AJ Allmendinger  Back to his seventh- to 12th-place ways after a couple of down weeks.

14. Denny Hamlin  Averaged an eighth-place finish in the three races prior to the Chase. Averaging a 26th-place finish in it.

15. Greg Biffle   If a non-Chaser is to win a Chase race, Biffle may be that guy at Kansas.

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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Kurt Busch Wins Dover

Busch, Jimmie Johnson tighten NASCAR's Chase standings

by Matt Taliaferro

Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson entered Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway ranked ninth and 10th in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup — in 28- and 29-point holes. Many were already throwing dirt on Johnson’s bid for a sixth straight championship, while Busch was merely an afterthought in the title hunt.

That all changed in the Chase’s third race.

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<p> Kurt Busch ran away from Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards late in the AAA 400 to win at Dover International Speedway.</p>

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New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Preview NASCAR's Sylvania 300

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: Sylvania 300
Location: Loudon, N.H.
TV: ESPN (2:00 p.m. EST)
2010 Winners: Jimmie Johnson (June); Clint Bowyer (Sept.)
July Winner: Ryan Newman

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<p> Athlon Sports previews the second race of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, Sunday's Sylvania 300 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.</p>

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