The spoilers stole the show Friday in qualifying for the AAA Texas 500.
Carl Edwards, who is 10th in the standings and 76 points behind co-leaders Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, posted the top lap of 196.114 mph. Edwards’ 13th career pole — and his first at Texas Motor Speedway — knocked Brad Keselowski off of the provisional pole.
Johnson was third on the speed chart, followed by Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Kenseth.
But can Edwards and Keselowski factor into the race on Sunday?
“A lot of guys say they could run a faster lap, all of us can always do that, but I believe our car is even better than that,” Edwards said. “I am really excited about practice tomorrow (Saturday) and the race. It looks like the weather will be good, a lot like what we tested in, and hopefully we can apply all that stuff.”
Keselowski refuses to back off, either. Following his win last month at Charlotte and his fourth-place finish at Martinsville last Sunday, the current Sprint Cup champion has shown he won’t go away quietly even though he wasn’t able to make the Chase and defend his title.
Though Keselowski initially struggled at Texas and has an average finish of 21.3, his last two starts here produced finishes of second and ninth, respectively.
“I want to win. I am going to be very, very selfish,” he said.
Edwards said his test at Texas last week helped the team tremendously. He also credited Doug Yates with stepping up the horsepower on the Fords — which swept the front row for Sunday’s race. Edwards also believes the speed Greg Biffle exhibited at Martinsville Speedway was “a turning point” for the company as well.
After running second or third in the point standings for 17 of 33 weeks and entering the Chase fifth in the driver point standings, Edwards still has something to prove.
“When the Chase started, truly we sat and thought with the two wins and leading the (owner) points that we could go out and lead these last 10 races and win this thing,” Edwards said.
"It has not happened that way, obviously. Some guys have really stepped it up. For Jimmie and Matt and those guys and the 29 bunch with Kevin (Harvick) and now Jeff Gordon is back in the mix. As a company, everyone has recognized that at Roush Fenway Racing.
"I spent an hour or two with (RFR general manager) Robbie Reiser this week and that man is working as hard as anybody I have seen to make sure that we can beat these guys — not just this year, but next year and beyond. We recognize that we need to be better.”
Considering that Edwards leads the Cup tour with three wins at Texas, this could be the perfect place to start.
“I believe this pole and hopefully a solid run by not just me but Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) and Greg and the whole Ford RFR camp will hopefully give those guys a little bit of something to show for all their hard work, because they have been really working hard in the shop,” Edwards said.
“Yeah, we recognize this Chase hasn’t gone well and it spurned a lot of hard work.”
SIZING UP THE COMPETITION
With Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth tied in points heading into Sunday, it’s hard to say which of the champions has an advantage.
Both drivers have two wins at Texas Motor Speedway. Kenseth’s average finish of 8.5 is slightly better than Johnson’s 9.1. And while each driver has 15 top-10 finishes, Kenseth, 41, has three additional top-five results (12) but two more starts than Johnson, 38.
While the drivers have battled each other for the last decade, now that Kenseth is in top-of-the-line equipment, Johnson might have finally met his match. With three races remaining to decide the Sprint Cup title, Johnson says he hasn’t discovered a weakness in Kenseth’s program.
“I don’t think there’s a weakness for either team right now,” he said. "We’re probably going to finish by each other. If somebody has a mistake, I think that will be the deciding factor. But other than that, I think we’re going to run right around each other for these next three races.”
7 — Poles in 25 truck starts for Jeb Burton, who posted a lap of 181.129 mph.
21 — Top-10 starts for Jimmie Johnson in 2013.
100 — Wins for Richard Childress Racing throughout NASCAR’s top three tours.
Darrell Wallace Jr. had four days to enjoy his first win in the truck series, then it was back to work for this weekend’s event.
Although Wallace won six times in the K&N Pro Series, last Saturday’s truck victory at Martinsville opened a lot of doors for the 20-year-old rookie. So what was the highlight of his week?
"I’d say the Arsenio Hall Show,” Wallace said. “I’m horrible with faces and names and they’re like, ‘Arsenio Hall, that’s huge.’
"I’m like, ‘Sure, whoever that is.’ Then the minute I saw him I was like, ‘Oh, OK now I know who he is.’ That was pretty cool. I’d say the coolest thing that happened was Tyra Banks followed me on Twitter."
Wallace finished seventh in Friday night’s Windstar World Casino 350k — the top finishing rookie.