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Three Races Left as NASCAR Heads to Texas

Moon and Blake here with a look at a:

Weekend Preview: AAA Texas 500

After a weekend of bumping, braking and short track tempers at Martinsville, teams head to Texas for this weekend’s AAA Texas 500. This weekend will be the 24th Sprint Cup Series race for the Texas track, which opened in 1997. Four drivers have competed in all the races at Texas Motor Speedway, they are Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon.

Racetracks that host NASCAR races on the east coast do not report significant damage from Hurricane Sandy. Dover International Speedway, which is 10 miles from Dover Bay did not sustain any significant damage according to a track spokesman. Pocono Raceway, which is 100 miles west of the big apple was without power on Tuesday morning but only lost one of it’s steeples which towers above their grandstands. New Hampshire International Speedway reported no damage and no power loss. According to track president, Michael Printup, Watkins Glen International sustained approximately $50k in damages including part of victory lane being ripped apart. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by Hurricane Sandy and the first responders aiding in relief efforts.

Martin Truex Jr. is leading the charge in the clean up process. Truex, who is stunned by the damage done to his hometown of Marietta, NJ will be carrying a special decal on his #56 Toyota displaying his Martin Truex Jr. Foundation which is accepting monetary donations for relief efforts. Lowe’s has donated $1 million dollars to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and will match Jimmie Johnson’s earnings this weekend at Texas for an additional donation.

Teams in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will run the same tire code at racing events in Texas this weekend. This is the same tire they ran earlier this year at Texas as well as both races last season. Drivers who are running the Nationwide Series race on Saturday could have an advantage of tire wear knowledge going into Sunday’s race.

46 teams will be competing for forty-three starting positions for this weekend’s AAA Texas 500. A notable name on the entry list is Danica Patrick who will be making her return to the driver’s seat for this weekend’s event. The Wood Brothers and Trevor Bayne are also entered but will have to qualify on time to make the race.

Teams will take to the track at 10:30 this morning in preparation for this afternoon’s qualifying session. Those who make the race will have 2 additional practice sessions tomorrow to prepare a race setup for Sunday’s race.  A thought on many crew chief’s mind is fuel mileage. Look for teams to make long runs in practice to see where they stand on the number of laps on a fuel run.

Points leader, Jimmie Johnson will be utilizing Chassis #720 for this weekend’s race. He told Fox News, “From a performance standpoint we are ready to show up and race”. Jeff Gordon told Fox, “The track is fast, pretty abrasive”. Brad Keselowski, who is 2nd in standings will be bringing the same chassis he raced to a 6th place finish at New Hampshire. Clint Bowyer will be bringing the same chassis, No. 740, that he took to victory lane last month in Charlotte. Fourth place, Kasey Kahne and crew are bringing Chassis 5-739 which most notably finished 12th at the Brickyard in July.

Denny Hamlin, who was rallying back from a pit road penalty when he had an issue with the EFI will be heading into this weekend’s race 5th in point standings at 49 points back from the leader. Hamlin, who is still very much mathematically in contention for the championship, will need a great finish and in my book a win at Texas to still have a chance to win the championship. I think he and crew chief Darian Grubb will do just that. Denny Hamlin is my pick for this weekend’s race.

Tune into Sunday’s PRN coverage of the AAA Texas 500 beginning at 1PM on WBKR and WBKR.com. Also tune into Eli Gold at 6pm on Tuesday for NASCAR Live.

Moon & Blake Smith

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