by Matt Taliaferro
Race: Samsung Mobile 500
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Specs: 1.5-mile quad-oval; Banking/Turns: 24°; Banking/Quad-Oval: 14°; Banking/Straightaways: 5°
2011 Winners: Matt Kenseth (April); Tony Stewart (Nov.)
2012 Race Length: 501 miles/334 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 196.235 mph (Brian Vickers, 2006)
Race Record: 152.705 mph (Tony Stewart, 2011)
From the Spotter’s Stand
Everything was bigger in Texas last April, as Matt Kenseth ended a 76-race winless streak by demolishing the field with an 8.315-second margin over runner-up Clint Bowyer. In fact, Kenseth wasn’t the only Roush Fenway Racing driver with a particularly strong showing in the Lone Star State. All four of Jack Roush’s boys were in the top seven — with Carl Edwards (third), Greg Biffle (fourth) and David Ragan (seventh) joining Kenseth, who led 169 of 334 laps for his second career win at Texas.
Tony Stewart’s fourth win of the Chase came at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth quad-oval, with Smoke leading a race-high 173 laps to trim runner-up Edwards’ Chase lead from eight to only three points heading into the final two stops of the 2011 season — Phoenix and Homestead.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Texas is one of the fastest tracks on the circuit — it’s all about downforce, and generating it in race conditions with cars all over the track, which is tricky, yet paramount.
“There are some decent-size bumps in Turns 1, 2 and 3 that give teams a challenge when going that fast, so a good shock and suspension package is also important. Texas has unique corner exits — especially off Turn 2 — that really flatten out quicker than most of the other 1.5-mile tracks. This creates some setup issues that crew chiefs have to deal with. Drivers also have the ability to run both high and low through the corners, which translates into a lot of passing.
“Texas is one of those places where, in my mind, strange things happen. I’m always extra wary when we go there.”
Classic Moments at TMS
For the second straight year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the man to beat at Texas Motor Speedway, but unlike in 2000 — when he scored his first Winston Cup win — it was not to be.
Earnhardt was on cruise control in the 2001 Harrah’s 500 until the caution waved with 21 laps remaining. A slow pit stop left him lined up ninth on the restart with lapped cars to the inside.
James Ince, the crew chief of Johnny Benson Jr.’s No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac, gambled on two tires during the stop and led the field to green with 19 laps to go. He held off a snarling pack consisting of Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Dave Blaney, Dale Jarrett and Steve Park for 13 laps until Jarrett powered by off of Turn 2.
Jarrett — in the No. 88 Yates Racing UPS Ford — pulled away from there, beating Park’s Pennzoil Chevy to the line by .703 seconds. Earnhardt slipped to a disappointing eighth.
Kurt Busch, in an unsponsored Roush Ford, notched his first career top 5. His No. 97 team landed Rubbermaid/Sharpie as the sponsor the following week. Sharpie remained with Busch until his departure from Roush Racing with two races left in the ’05 season.
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