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Raceday: Your guide to Sunday's AAA 500 at Texas

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Saturday, Nov. 02, 2013

Carl Edwards, who starts from the pole in Sunday’s AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, said one of the things that makes this year’s championship battle special is the winner will have to beat Jimmie Johnson to claim the sport’s top prize.

“If it’s Matt Kenseth or Jeff Gordon or Kevin Harvick or even somebody further back. I know we’re still mathematically able, and that’s what you want – that’s what I would want,” said Edwards, who is 10th in the series standings.

“I would want to beat a guy like Jimmie, and I’d want to beat him and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and those guys when they’re on their game. So it is amazing what they’re able to do.

“Someone put it really well the other day. They said, ‘The best rivalry that’s gone on the last decade has been the field vs. Jimmie Johnson,’ and that’s where we’re at right now. Those guys are really good.”

Notebook

Hire our Heroes honors N.C. vets: Three veterans from North Carolina were among those honored this weekend at Texas by Cup driver Greg Biffle and his team’s sponsor, 3M, through their Hire Our Heroes campaign.

Kevin Young of Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington won a grant to purchase tools and equipment needed to start a career in collision repair.

In addition, Joshua Pearson of Rudy’s Truck and Trailer in Bailey and Jerry Mccoy Patterson of Henderson won trips to this weekend’s race.

Keselowski, Kenseth lead the way: Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth tied for the fastest average lap speed during Saturday’s final Cup series practice session at 189.434 mph. Kenseth was tops in best 10-lap average with Keselowski just a tick behind. Clint Bowyer was fastest in Saturday morning’s practice session.

Three things to watch

1. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth are tied atop the Sprint Cup series standings – the closest the points race has been with three races remaining.

2. Jeff Gordon has climbed within 27 points of the series lead, but Texas has not historically been one of his best tracks.

3. Nationwide Series regular Parker Kligerman makes his first career Cup start on Sunday with Swan Racing.

Observations

• It remains mathematically possible for Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch to win this season’s championship but to do so would require the biggest comeback in the Chase’s 10-year history. Since the Chase’s advent in 2004 season, the largest comeback with three races to go to win the title was in 2006 by Jimmie Johnson, who made up 26 points on Matt Kenseth. That 26-point margin equates to a roughly six-point deficit under the current points structure.

• Here’s an odd stat: Johnson has yet to win a race this season on a 1.5-mile speedway, and Sunday is his last chance this season. Johnson has never won a championship without winning on a 1.5-mile track and the last time he went an entire season without a victory on the most common type of track on the Cup series schedule was 2002.

• How many times have we heard from drivers, media and even fans that some of the best racing they see on any particular race weekend comes in the Truck series? Friday night’s race was excellent and took place on a 1.5-mile speedway, where the quality of racing is often lambasted in the Cup series. The obvious difference begs the question: Why doesn’t NASCAR take what it learns from Truck and apply it to the Cup side? Is it because the two are not compatible or is it because Trucks run considerably slower than Cup cars, and NASCAR is unwilling to go down the slower-could-be-better-racing road?

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy racing team:

Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski

Today’s lineup