Texas means a quick transition

BY Larry McReynolds • April 4, 2011

It’s pretty interesting that we go from one of the smallest and slowest racetracks on the circuit (Martinsville Speedway) to one of our fastest, Texas Motor Speedway.

Sure, I could sit here and tell you who I think should be strong there, but if it’s anything like our first six races this year, who knows?

Last year Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx team swept both races at Texas, so you know they have to be feeling pretty good about this weekend. After that, you might want to go play the roulette wheel to figure out who is going to come out of a race weekend with a win.

I think one of the most interesting stories to come out of Martinsville was that Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, who have won the last nine Martinsville races, didn’t either one get a top-10 finish. Denny pitted under green late in the race but the caution came out. It put him so far back that he simply couldn’t get back to the front. Jimmie received a pit-road speeding penalty and it cost him a top-10 finish.

But now everyone is off the flat paperclip of Martinsville and to the high speed and high banks of Texas Motor Speedway. The place is fast, but it’s narrow. The track also has some bumps in it. The transitions off the straightaway into the corners are very abrupt. Getting off the corners onto the straightaway is equally as bad and leads to some big wrecks, even in qualifying.

It’s definitely a place where the driver has to man up and get after it. As the track cools down Saturday night, the speeds are going to pick up. And don’t forget this race is 500 miles. That place is very tough on engines. Trust me when I tell you all the engine builders from all the teams will be in nail-biting mode until the checkered flag waves Saturday night.

Tony Stewart is one that needs a good run Saturday in Texas. I tell you, from the minute they unloaded at Martinsville, that Stewart-Haas Racing team was lost. They were lost in practice and in qualifying. They were not much more than simply in the way Sunday at Martinsville in the race. Now, based on the way they ran at Las Vegas and at Auto Club Speedway in California, I would be surprised if the No. 14 isn’t back up front Saturday night.

The teams all have a short week this week to prepare for the Texas race. It is a pretty unique schedule. The Sprint Cup teams actually practice late afternoon on Thursday, which is pretty rare for them. Then there is qualifying on Friday and that is it until the race Saturday night.

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