Previewing the Samsung Mobile 500
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval; Banking/Turns: 24°; Banking/Quad-Oval: 18°; Banking/Straightaways: 5°
2010 Winners: Denny Hamlin won both races (April and November).
2011 Race Length: 501 miles/334 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 196.235 mph (Brian Vickers, 2006)
Race Record: 151.055 mph (Carl Edwards, 2005)
From the Spotter's Stand
After perfecting the Texas two-step, Denny Hamlin joined Carl Edwards (2008) as the only drivers to sweep at Texas since the track became a biannual stop in 2005. Cousin Carl (3) and Jeff Burton (2) are the only other multi-win drivers in the 20-race history of TMS.
In April, Hamlin beat runner-up Jimmie Johnson to the line (.152 seconds) after pole-sitter Tony Stewart (74 laps led) lost control and started a nine-car pileup that also wrecked Jeff Gordon (124 laps led).
The other boot dropped in November, when Hamlin earned his second spurred trophy and series-best eighth win of the year — leaving Ft. Worth in first in the Chase, 33 points ahead of JJ with two races to go.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Texas is all about downforce, and generating it in race conditions — with cars all over the track — is tricky, yet paramount. Speed at Texas is important, but so is a good shock and suspension package that allows the car to handle the bumps that have formed in Turns 1, 2 and 3. 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 hard not to like the way Carl Edwards has performed on the big intermediates thus far this season.
Pretty Solid Pick: Two wins and a runner-up in the last three Texas Cup starts for Denny Hamlin.
Good Sleeper Pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has only one finish outside the top 12 this season (Daytona), and actually runs well at Texas, where he got his frist career Cup win.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Juan Pablo Montoya averages a 25th-place finish here.
Insider Tip: At some point, Kyle Busch’s Nationwide domination at TMS will translate to Cup, right? Until then, it’s best to stick with Edwards, Hamlin, et al.
Classic Moments at Texas
Texas Motor Speedway’s first two Cup dates are brutal affairs. The 1997 Interstate Batteries 500 and ’98 Texas 500 are plagued by savage wrecks — one that nearly ends Greg Sacks’ career and another that sidelines Mike Skinner for weeks — and weepers that cancel practice and qualifying sessions. The mayhem even leads to whispers, though not verified, that Texas would have its single date stripped.
Therefore, following the ’98 race, track owner Bruton Smith purchases a share of North Wilkesboro Speedway to move one if its two dates to his track in Texas. He has the track repaved and reconfigured and installs a new drainage system. The results are immediate, as TMS stands as one of the great facilities on the circuit.
Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: (@MattTaliaferro)