NASCAR

Chase Viewer's Guide: Round 8

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

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I bristle at the suggestion that all mile-and-a-half tracks are the same because they're not. They're not even close. They're similar in length, but at Atlanta, all of the drivers talked about how they could run the top, middle and bottom. They liked having options. At Texas Motor Speedway, you've got to be much more specific about your line. It's an extremely fast track, so it requires more precision.

Who to Watch

  • Jeff Gordon: We like to look at numbers and statistics to predict success or failure, and when you look at Gordon's record, you say, "Well, he's never won at Texas." But Gordon has been in position to win and has five top-five finishes to his record. It's just sort of coincidence, or luck more than anything else, that he hasn't won. The No. 24 Chevrolet is still the one to beat, and he showed it with Friday's fastest practice lap. Based on performance and his team's body of work for the entire year, he should get his first Texas victory this weekend.
  • Jimmie Johnson: Like Gordon, Johnson hasn't won, but he has five top 10 finishes at Texas. The No. 48 team has so much momentum that it's going to carry over as well.
  • Elliott Sadler: Sadler has a victory at the track in 2004, and also led a lot of laps in another race before losing a tire on the backstretch. The Gillett Evernham Motorsports driver has had a very disappointing season by his own standards, and his own admission, but he may surprise come Sunday.
  • Tony Stewart: The defending race winner is very good at this track. He'll bounce back from a disappointing run at Atlanta.
  • Matt Kenseth: A Texas winner in 2002, Kenseth has been disappointed by his results in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, but it's a track that requires precision. A driver has to hit his marks, and Kenseth is as consistent as they get.
  • Jeff Burton: The only driver who has won more than once at Texas, Burton will be a factor at the end of the day.
  • What to Watch

  • Keeping up with the track: At 500 miles, it's a long race, and teams have to keep up with the track. You might see someone fast early, but he'll start to fade. There are guys that hit the setup and take off, but it's also the kind of track that you have to keep up with, which is why Jimmie Johnson will do well. The teams that can make the right adjustments as they go are the ones that are there in the money at the end.
  • Rubber match: It was interesting to see the end of the race at Atlanta with Johnson taking two tires. That move surprised me. I thought four tires would be the way to go. It's a tough place to gamble. Early in the race, some teams may try to get track position, but it's a very fast racetrack. Similar to Atlanta, Texas Motor Speedway is performance-based. You might see a two-tire gamble late or early in the race, but you've got to make sure you maintain track position for the last part of the race.
  • Bring it on, Bowyer: If Clint Bowyer can stay within striking distance going into Homestead, it would be a significant achievement. What his Richard Childress Racing team has accomplished already is pretty amazing, and with three races to go in the Chase, it's one of the biggest stories of the year. You don't wish anyone bad luck, but if Gordon and Johnson have bad luck, Bowyer could be in position to become even more a part of the title fight than he already is right now, 111 points back.

    Speed Mail Steve

    Pit Perspectives

    A lot of people are speculating in the garage that Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith will move one of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway dates to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009 since the 2008 schedule is locked down. With every track he's acquired — like Atlanta Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway — he upgrades them considerably. Look at the seats he added at Bristol. At Vegas, he said it wasn't racy so he tore up the track, changed the banking and changed pit road. That's an expensive and big project. He's got enough guts and desire to put on good races. Smith said he had an engineer up there and his company will make some pretty significant changes. It won't sit the way it is right now. Whether or not they move a race, I don't know, but one thing is for sure. He said he just spent $340 million of his hard-earned money, and he'll put more than that into the racetrack.

    Finish Line

    Texas Motor Speedway isn't a track where you'll say, "Boy, we really got lucky today." Luck is a part of racing every week, but this is a track where you make your own luck. You work hard and are efficient in the red zone on pit road, which has bitten teams over the past few weeks. You earn wins at Texas Motor Speedway. NFL on FOX focus
  • Washington at New York Jets, Sun., 1 p.m. ET on FOX: The Redskins are embarrassed after a 52-7 loss to the Patriots. They'll bounce back and beat the Jets.
  • Carolina at Tennessee: They're very similar teams, but the Titans will win a close game. It'll be a low-scoring game, and Tennessee will win at home.

  • NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.

    Tagged: Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer

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