The Chase for the Sprint Cup championship rolls on to Texas Motor Speedway, where, of course, everything is bigger. Is Jimmie Johnson thinking about last year's wreck with Sam Hornish Jr.? Are Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick feeling the pressure? Stick with us here all day to keep up with what's going on the track.
Here are a couple of notes to get us started:
• First practice begins at 1 ET.
• Qualifying is at 4:30 ET.
Should teammates help teammates?
• Jeff Burton says there is no way he'd let teammate Kevin Harvick win a race, even if it would help Harvick win a title. He says he wouldn't want to win a title that way.
• Burton says Kevin Harvick is very relaxed and enjoying the "situation."
Gordon talks Talladega
• Jeff Gordon says he still doesn't know what happened to his engine at Talladega. "I promise you there was no foul play there, because I was doing everything I could to win that race."
The Jimmie-Johnson's-dominance-is-bad-for-the-sport discussion continues
• Here's what Jeff Gordon had to say about that:
"It's unfortunate for Jimmie. I hate to see somebody like that who is that good, dominates like that, done what they've done, and be put to blame for things that are totally not his doing. ... What he's doing is unbelievable, and I think somebody should be applauded for that and recognized for doing such great things, not have this sort of shadow on him that it's not that good for the sport."
Jimmie Johnson is relaxed.
• "It's a lead," Johnson said of his 14-point lead. "That's all I'm concerned about. We're up."
Johnson says his goal is pretty simple: beat Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, and he says to do that he needs to win.
"This week has been really easy for me. Other weeks I was more in defensive mode. It's all offense now. I feel less pressure for this Texas race than last year."
• A lot is being made of Johnson being in a position he hasn't been in — a tight championship battle. Well, that's not necessarily the case. He held a scant 17-point lead over Matt Kenseth heading to Texas in 2006 and trailed Jeff Gordon by nine points in 2007.
How has Johnson stayed fresh over his title runs?
• In 2006 and 2007, he used golf as a distraction. Training was the distraction in 2008 and 2009. This year, it's been his daughter.
Jack Roush's odd pep talk
• Prior to the 2004 finale, when five drivers went to Homstead-Miami Speedway still in the title hunt, team owner Jack Roush gave a speech to his team in which he said, according to Kurt Busch, "be prepared to fail."
"I'm looking at him thinking, ‘This is the speech he's giving?'" Busch remembered.
Busch brings up a good point about the Chase
"If '92 was the best year ever" — when Alan Kulwicki, Bill Elliott and Davey Allison went to the season finale battling for the championship — "why isn't the Chase format accepted?"
Busch's point is that if a close title race is exciting, and the Chase format helps facilitate that, why are some fans critical of the Chase?
First Cup practice:
• Kurt Busch tops the speed chart in the early going of Practice No. 1. Eight Chasers are in the top 10, including Jimmie Johnson, who got a late start but clocked the fifth-fastest lap so far. Denny Hamlin is 22nd; Kevin Harvick 19th. NOTE: These will change fast.
• Carl Edwards is now the top dog. Harvick (25th) and Hamlin (29th) remain well down on the speed chart.
• And now Jimmie Johnson is on top of the speed chart. Harvick is up to 22nd, while Hamlin is down to 36th.
• Greg Biffle is the new man on top. Johnson remains in the top 10 (7th), while Hamlin (26th) and Harvick (23rd) remain out of it.
• First practice is over. Here is your top 10: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and AJ Allmendinger.
Kevin Harvick finished 27th. Denny Hamlin was 29th.
Next up, qualifying at 4:30 ET.