Then There Were Three

The Sprint Cup Series tour rolls to Fort Worth for its first of two stops on the Southwest finale portion of the schedule. It has been a pretty slow week with news makers so let’s look at the highlights of the week and look ahead to Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.

Chevy Clinches 2013 Manufacturers’ Championship

With Jeff Gordon’s victory in last week’s Goody’s Headache Shot Relief 500 at Martinsville, Chevrolet captured the Manufacturers’ Championship for the 11th consecutive season. It is the first championship for the Gen-6 Chevrolet SS. To date, Chevrolet has captured 14 of the 33 victories this season. This is the 37th Manufacturers’ Championship for the bow-tie brand.

Schrader to retire at the end of the Season

During Sunday’s broadcast of the Martinsville race, my good friend, Allen Bestwick announced that Ken Schrader would be retiring from NASCAR competition at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Schrader told Bestwick that the season finale at Homestead would be his final race. Schrader has raced in a part-time capacity for the #32 Frank Stoddard Ford.

McDowell finds a new home for the 2014 Season

Leavine Family Racing announced that Michael McDowell will drive the team's #95 Ford Fusion NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry in 2014. The announcement was made at Texas Motor Speedway - the team's home track, where the Glendale, Arizona native signed a single-year deal. McDowell will make his debut when the team fields an entry for the February season-opening race at the 56th annual Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway. "This is an extremely good opportunity for me," said McDowell, who has worked with the Leavine Family Racing Sprint Cup team before, at this season's Sprint All-Star race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. McDowell will vacate the #98 Phil Parsons entry at the end of the season.

Race Preview: AAA Texas 500

Forty-three drivers are entered for Sunday’s race at the Texas Motor Speedway. Trevor Bayne makes a return to the track in the famed Wood Brothers 21. Parker Kilgerman will be behind the wheel of the #30 Swann Energy Toyota. Austin Dillon will be in the #33 Chevrolet with Kyle Larson returning to the track in the #51.

Friday will be a usual day for teams at the track. The first practice session of the weekend is scheduled for 11:30 AM with qualifying set to begin at 4:30. Teams will work to make their car fast for their two lap qualifying session with hopes of setting on the pole position like Kyle Busch did back in April when he set the new track record with a lap of 196.233 MPH. With a high temperature of 75 degrees today and even cooler temperatures by the end of qualifying, that record could be in jeopardy.

Friday will be the warmest day of the three-day race weekend, with a predicted high of 75 degrees and sunny skies. Saturday's forecast is for clear conditions and a high of 71 degrees. Sunday is expected to be cooler with a high in the mid-60’s again under sunny skies.

When teams make a second visit to a track during the season, they can usually fall back on notes from the previous race. That isn’t the case with Texas due to the Spring event being under the lights. A unique factor for teams this weekend will be changing track conditions. The race is scheduled for a later start time with the green flag dropping at 2:16 PM. The race will begin under warm track conditions but end under the shade of the grandstands. The race has even been known to end under the lights at Texas.

The teams will spend Saturday preparing their car for race conditions and also building "adjustability" into their cars. The cars will go from racing under hot slick conditions and then transition to cooler conditions. The effect on the cars will be based on the setups underneath them. Crew chiefs will hope for a few cautions to make these changes during the course of the race.

Blake’s Bold Point Predictions

The Contenders:

Matt Kenseth

Jimmie Johnson -0

Jeff Gordon -27

The Pretenders:

Kevin Harvick -28

Kyle Busch -36

The Back of the Pack Defenders:

Clint Bowyer -55

Dale Earnhardt Jr -56

Greg Biffle -58

Kurt Busch -75

Carl Edwards -76

The Non-Stagers:

Joey Logano -85

Ryan Newman -106

Kasey Kahne -124

Blake’s Pick:

Texas is a fast mile and half track that requires a lot of downforce and driver ability. Looking at the stats for this season on mile and half tracks, it’s hard to bet against the points leader. My pick for Sunday is Matt Kenseth!

Jeff Zelevansky\Getty Images

Moon’s Pick:

Way to step out there and take a chance, Blakester. Moon … I have some bad news for you. I know you are already heart broken that Kimberly Perry got engaged, the Yankees didn’t make it to the World Series and now Danica won’t be appearing in the “sexy” Go-Daddy commercials for the Super Bowl. The company will still feature Danica in two Super Bowl commercials but they will be more of a comedic spot. Regardless, Buddy, even with my pick score of 0 - 33 for the season is DANICA!

Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Tune into Sunday’s coverage of the AAA Texas 500 beginning at 1PM on WBKR and!