FORT WORTH (Sports Network) – After taking its first weekend off during the season, the Sprint Cup Series returns to action on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Roush Fenway Racing has been dominant at the fast 1.5-mile oval since the series began competing there in 1997. RFR has accumulated eight victories at Texas. Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are second on the list with three wins each.
Matt Kenseth won at Texas one year ago. Kenseth’s victory, which was eight seconds ahead of runner-up Clint Bowyer, broke a two-year winless streak for RFR at this track. His teammates, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
RFR repeated its top-five domination at Texas last November. Edwards finished second to race winner Tony Stewart, while Kenseth placed fourth and Biffle took the fifth spot again.
“It’s a place I’ve been fortunate to have had a lot of great finishes at, and it’s a track where Roush Fenway as an entire team seems to perform well at,” said Kenseth, who also won at Texas in 2002.
On Wednesday, Kenseth was honored for winning the 2012 Daytona 500 during a champion’s luncheon held at Daytona International Speedway. Kenseth beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Biffle to capture his second win in the Daytona 500. The race was delayed until February 27 (Monday night) due to rain.
“It’s pretty cool to see [the car] sitting there with all the confetti on it, just like it was sitting in victory lane, and seeing the fans lined up out there,” said Kenseth, who was joined by his owner, Jack Roush, and crew chief Jimmy Fennig. “It’s unusual to celebrate [on Wednesday], but it was kind of an unusual race, so I might as well just keep that going.”
Kenseth is currently fourth in the point standings, as he trails leader Biffle by 12 points.
Edwards leads all drivers with three wins at Texas, including a season-sweep there in 2008. Biffle won the spring 2005 race at this track.
After winning the most recent Sprint Cup race on April 1 at Martinsville, Ryan Newman moved up to eighth in the point standings (-24). Newman bounced back from an early-race pit-road speeding penalty and benefited from a crash involving Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon after the restart of the first green-white-checkered finish. He then held off A.J. Allmendinger during the final two-lap overtime finish to claim is 16th career win in the series but his first since last July at New Hampshire.
“It’s big for us from a points standpoint, because we gain an advantage in the points, but primarily to give us something to fall back on if we need to win to make it into the [championship] Chase,” Newman said.
Newman is one pole win away from 50, which would place him solely in ninth on the series’ all-time pole winners list. He captured the top starting position for both races at Texas in 2005.
After being denied the victory at Martinsville, team owner Rick Hendrick is hoping his 200th win in NASCAR’s premier series will come at Texas. All four of Hendrick’s drivers — Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson — have won at Texas in the past.
Earnhardt Jr.’s first career Sprint Cup victory came at Texas during his 2000 rookie season when he drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. He has won 17 more races since then, but it’s been 135 races since his last one, which came in June 2008 at Michigan.
Trailing Biffle by just six points in the early season, Earnhardt Jr. is optimistic he’ll be back in victory lane soon.
“Confidence is up real high,” he said. “There are still some things we want to improve on, and the races can’t come fast enough for our team right now, because we are ready. We are really liking being at the track and being on the track, making laps and working.”
Hendrick has three victories at Texas, most recently by Gordon in the spring of 2009. Gordon ended a 47-race winless streak.
Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Samsung Mobile 500.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, April 14. Race: Samsung Mobile 500. Site: Texas Motor Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m.(ET). Laps: 334. Miles: 501. 2011 Winner: Matt Kenseth. Television: FOX. Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.