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AAA Texas 500
Location: Ft. Worth, Tex.
Distance: 1.5-mile quad-oval (334 laps/501 miles)
Banking/Turns: 24 degrees; Banking/Quad-Oval: 18 degrees; Banking/Straightaways: 5 degrees
Race Dates: April 18 (Denny Hamlin) and November 7
From the Spotter’s Stand
Everything is bigger in Texas; just ask Jeff Gordon. The four-time Cup champ ended a pair of major droughts at the 1.5-mile quad-oval in April 2009.
Ripping the monkeys off his back, Gordon ended a 47 race-winless skid, and took his first checkers at Texas in 17 tries since the stop was added to the Cup schedule in 1997 — with a second annual trip added in 2005. Unfortunately for the four-time champ, the win was the one that bridged the gap between the 47-race slide and his current 62-race drought.
The 82nd victory of Gordon’s career (and the only victory of his ’09 season) moved the 24 car into sixth place all-time, behind Cale Yarborough’s 83 wins in 560 races over 31 seasons. Gordon finished ahead of runner-up and Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson, the November 2007 winner at Texas, by .378 seconds to extend his lead in the points standings at the time.
Gordon nearly broke the bad luck this April, when he led a race-high 124 laps at Texas — but the bug bit him again when he was involved in a late-race accident that also eliminated Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, among others. Instead of Gordon, it was Denny Hamlin who fired the six shooters in Ft. Worth, followed by a familiar cast of characters in Johnson, Kyle and Kurt Busch.
In this event last season, a brotherly feud broke out between dominant driver Kyle Busch — who led a race-high 232 laps before running out of fuel three laps short of sweeping the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series in one weekend — and ultimate winner (and older brother) Kurt Busch — who led 89 laps before earning his second victory of the season. In all, the Busch Bros. led a combined 321 of 334 total laps.
Carl Edwards has back-flipped his way to three Texas wins, while Jeff Burton has two victories, including the inaugural running in 1997. Other than the two multiple winners, 14 different drivers have taken the checkered flag in Fort Worth.
Crew Chief’s Take
"Texas looks like Charlotte and Atlanta, but trust me, it isn’t. It’s different from any other track in the way that it flattens out off of Turn 2 onto the back straight. At other tracks, there’s a little banking on the straightaways. Turns 3 and 4 are dramatically different from Turns 1 and 2 because of that. The exit of two and the entrance of three are the trouble spots, both from a driver’s and a mechanic’s perspective. It’s one of those places where, in my mind, strange things happen. I’m always extra wary when we go there."
Looking at Checkers: It’s tough to not figure one of the three Chase contenders — Johnson, Hamlin and Harvick — won’t factor.
Pretty Solid Pick: See above ... Gordon, Kyle and Kurt.
Good Sleeper Pick: Carl Edwards or Matt Kenseth could break long losing skids here.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Joey Logano has been solid lately, but that may end in Texas.
Insider Tip: The Earnhardt-Childress engines have been the best on tour all season. It should pay off here.
Classic Moments in Texas
A third-generation driver grabs his first win in the DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 2, 2000, while a fourth-gen driver makes his first and only start.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads a race-high 106 laps in his DEI Budweiser Chevy and wins in only his 12th Cup start. His father and car owner, Dale Earnhardt, greets him in Victory Lane for an emotional post-race celebration.
Adam Petty, great-grandson of Lee, grandson of Richard and son of Kyle, makes his one and only Cup appearance in the No. 45 Petty Enterprises entry.
No one realizes how bittersweet the day will be for the Pettys, though. Later that week the patriarch of the family, Lee, passes away. And tragically, just over one month later on May 12, Adam passes as well, when the throttle on his car sticks and he hits the wall while practicing for the Busch Series race at New Hampshire.
November 2009 Race Winner: Kurt Busch
April 2010 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
April 2010 Top 10
1. Deny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kurt Busch
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Mark Martin
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Greg Biffle
April 2010 Laps Led
Jeff Gordon — 124
Tony Stewart — 74
Dale Earnhardt Jr. — 46
Jimmie Johnson — 39
Greg Biffle — 13
Denny Hamlin — 12
Jeff Burton/Jamie McMurray — 10
Kurt Busch/Juan Pablo Montoya — 2
Travis Kvapil/Michael McDowell — 1
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Follow Matt and Nathan on Twitter at @MattTaliaferro @AthlonNathan