Playing the numbers game for the NRA 500, to be held at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night:
Jimmie Johnson is back in the points lead after a dominant Martinsville victory. It’s his 12th straight multi-win season -- the fourth-longest streak in Sprint Cup Series history. It’s also the fourth time he’s won at least twice in the first six races of the season. The other three times he did it, he went on to win the title. Johnson could add a third win at Texas, a track at which he led 324 laps last season -- nearly half the laps of the two races held there (669).
Johnson took the points lead away from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished outside the top 10 for the first time this season. Earnhardt will look to bounce back at Texas, site of his first career win in 2000 and a track where he’s had five top 10s in the last six races, coming back from a slump.
From 2000-06, Dale Jr. had top 10s in seven of his nine races for an average finish of 10.2. Over the next three seasons, through 2009, he failed to crack the top 10 in six races for an average finish of 21.2. Since then, however, he's averaged an 11th place finish in his last six races.
No team has a better record at TMS than Roush Fenway Racing, which has won nine of the 24 races -- more than twice as many as any other team. In the last five races at TMS, Roush Fenway drivers have led 646 laps (38.7 percnet) and have gone on to 11 top 5s and 15 top 10s in 18 starts, and they've won the last two spring races with Matt Kenseth (no longer with the team) and Greg Biffle.
Kenseth is no longer with Roush Fenway Racing, but he’ll look to bring his Texas expertise to Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth is the all-time TMS leader in top 5s (12), top 10s (15), laps led (772) and average finish (8.3). He’s just one win behind former teammate Carl Edwards, who has three.
Danica Patrick was a pleasant surprise at Martinsville, finishing 12th in her first visit there. She’s struggled this season on larger tracks, but TMS could be a place where she maintains momentum. Last year in the spring Nationwide Series race, she finished a NNS season-best eighth. And in her only Sprint Cup start at the track, she passed a career-high 107 cars under the green flag.
Who stars in the Lone Star State?
Greg Biffle: Nine straight top-10 finishes at Texas; longest streak in track history (defending spring race winner).
Jimmie Johnson: Finished second and first at Texas last season (five top 10s in last six races).
Matt Kenseth: Five straight top-5 finishes at Texas (won spring 2011 race).
Carl Edwards: Three Sprint Cup Series wins at Texas (leads all drivers).
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Four straight top 10s at Texas (1st career NSCS win came at Texas in 2000).
Who's just feeling alone?
Brad Keselowski: Has finished 14th or worse in eight of nine career Texas races (2nd last fall; 36th last spring).
Mark Martin: Has wrecked out of two of last four TMS races.
Ryan Newman: Has finished outside top 10 in last nine TMS races.
Brian Vickers: Has never finished better than 12th at Texas (14 starts).
Kyle Busch: Has finished outside top 10 in three of last four races at TMS.