COMMENTARY | "I think anyone within a race (or 43 points of the lead) is still in it," said Matt Kenseth following Sunday's runner-up finish at Martinsville Speedway, which left him tied with five-time Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson in points. If that's the case, there are five drivers left with a shot at the title, and three races in which to catch and pass Kenseth and Johnson. This weekend, the Chase heads to Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track in the Fort Worth area where four of the top five drivers have wins.
Matt Kenseth - Kenseth, atop the points standings based on his seven wins during the season (compared to Johnson's five), has two wins at Texas (2002 and spring of 2011), and is one of two drivers to have an average finish in the top 10 at 8.5 (Johnson is the other at 9.1). In 22 starts, Kenseth has 15 top 10 finishes, with only one finish outside the top 20 (his first race there, in 2000, when he finished 31st). He's led more than 10-percent of the laps he's complete at the track as well (772 laps led, 7307 of 7359 laps completed).
Jimmie Johnson - Johnson also has two wins at Texas, his last one coming last fall when he won from the pole. Last year, Johnson led 324 of a possible 669 laps raced at the track, but led no laps in the spring race, where he finished sixth. Johnson has 15 top 10 finishes in 20 starts, with two finishes of 38th dragging down his average finish.
Jeff Gordon - Gordon, fresh off last weekend's win at Martinsville and 27 points back of the leaders, is heading to what is statistically his worst track on the schedule: in 25 previous races, he has one win and 11 top 10 finishes, with an average finish of 17.0; his win came in the spring of 2009. In order to keep his name in the hat for the title, he'll have to improve on his spring finish of 38th, when he was hampered by suspension issues.
Kevin Harvick - Harvick, 28 points back of the leaders, is the only driver in the top five without a win at Texas, where he has an average finish of 12.5. He has 10 top 10 finishes in 21 races at Texas Motor Speedway, with a best finish of third in the fall of 2006. He has three races left at Richard Childress Racing, and after last weekend's tirade about the Dillon boys after the Camping World Truck Series race it might be a tough run, but "Grandpa" has promised his commitment to Harvick for the rest of the season.
Kyle Busch - Busch, who won from the pole at Texas in the spring of this year, has seven top 10 finishes in 16 starts, with an average finish of 14.1. He lost some ground following Sunday's 15th-place finish at Martinsville, now sitting 36 points back, but he's still within striking distance of his first title.
Sources: "Jeff Gordon Wins at Martinsville Speedway," Joe Menzer, NASCAR Media, October 27, 2013
"Statistical Advance: Analyzing the AAA Texas 500," NASCAR Media, October 28, 2013
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers NASCAR at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.
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