Podium Preview: AAA Texas 500

All in all, Parker Kligerman prepares for a challenging AAA Texas 500. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

All in all, Parker Kligerman prepares for a challenging AAA Texas 500. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

All things considered, Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway serves as the best shot for a Championship 4 seed.  Certainly, this distinct intermediate track rewards for aggression and fearlessness all race long.

However, the distinct corners pose a challenge to drivers and crew chiefs with their setups.  By all means, the likelihood remains for teams making sacrifices with a segment of the track while making gains on others.

Ultimately, Texas Motor Speedway remains a staple venue of cunning and brilliance for those daring to conquer this Fort Worth venue.  Moreover, this race may reward a Playoffs contender or curtail NASCAR championship dreams.

Today, our panelists, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKobe LambethMatt Sisoler, Stephen Conley, and yours truly prepare for this exciting race with the stories leading up to Round 34, statistics, and race picks!

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Question 1
After the Sunday night skirmish at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin moves forward with Sunday's AAA Texas 500. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

After the Sunday night skirmish at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin moves forward with Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Following some aggressive racing, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano had a brief scuffle following the First Data 500.  Ultimately, which driver and team benefits from this heated confrontation, or does this incident derail any focus or momentum for their championship efforts?

Hobbs :  I would not call it a scuffle – I would call it a playground spat. The driver themselves were civil until the slap from Joey Logano. Sure, Denny Hamlin raised his finger, but he did not actually touch Logano. Once Logano put his hands on Hamlin, it was all out from there.

As to how this will affect their focus for the title, neither team benefits from it as they both have targets on their back; just as Kyle Busch seemingly has one from Aric Almirola. If anything, the media will put the microscope on Hamlin and Logano at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

However, I would not put it past the drivers to race each other harder than before this weekend. If I happen to be another driver finding myself near these two if they are racing each other on track this weekend, I am going to back off a bit or work that much harder to get around them.

Shoppe :  This benefits everyone behind them in the playoff standings if this dispute continues on-track. I highly doubt we would see anything big happen on the track in the next two weeks between the two that would make a difference in the standings. But for guys like Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott being so far back in points, these two taking each other out may be their only hope!   

Sisoler :  Call it what you want, but I think this is not going to be that big of a deal going forward. That is, if nothing happens between these two drivers this weekend. There’s a history of animosity between the two, so if one takes the other out and ruins that guy’s playoff chances, expect retaliation later on. But, again, both drivers are pros who are chasing a title, so if they can get through Texas without more issues, they should be OK going forward.

Tiongson :  Based on Friday’s breakout sessions, sure, there may be some lingering animosity, but I think both drivers will move past this and not jeopardize each other’s chances at the Cup title.  This incident was more of a situation where there was some anger from the aggressive on-track action at Martinsville. However, Hamlin and Logano are professionals. Both are in the same spot in needing to advance to the Championship 4 so retaliation would be a total waste of time.

Question 2
As shown above, David Ragan and Ryan Newman simulate conditions for the AAA Texas 500. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

As shown above, David Ragan and Ryan Newman simulate conditions for the AAA Texas 500. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Earlier in the year, we saw close quarter racing at Texas that fans anticipated with this year’s package.  Will we see more of the same this weekend? Or will we see more intensity for the penultimate race of the Round of 8?

Acero :  No doubt. Those on the outside looking in will do what needs to be done to earn their seat in NASCAR’s version of the Final Four in Miami. With Truex having his seat reserved in Homestead, look for him to hone his car up for race 36 the following two races in Texas and Phoenix. The racing will get intense as the laps wind down and all hell breaks loose! 

Conley :  I don’t think it will be closer, in fact with the narrow line that Texas has, I think we’ll actually see more issues with passing. Drivers told me at Kansas that even though it’s a mile and a half, not much will transfer to Texas. And they will deal with aero struggles even more because you can’t move up. If anything ramps up, it will be the frustration of the field watching a single driver dominate and run away with the race. 

Lambeth :  I think the restarts should be entertaining. This package on 1.5-mile tracks produce restarts with drivers jockeying for position. Once they get spread out, things will probably be somewhat calm until the laps start to wind down. If we get a late race caution, I expect nothing but aggressiveness and bold moves. With an opportunity to secure a spot in the Championship 4, the playoff drivers will do anything to pick up a win in the Lone Star State.

Indeed, that’s two laps around Texas in grand fashion!  Before we proceed with more Texas talk, here’s our race and points reports from Round 33 at Martinsville!
Carolina Kobe scored a pivotal Playoffs win.

Carolina Kobe scored a pivotal Playoffs win.

However, some Florida girl leads the way.

However, some Florida girl leads the way.

As always, Ashley Hobbs makes her appearance by Crunching the Numbers: AAA Texas 500 style!
Sure, the AAA Texas 500 trends towards Toyota teams, but may that change today?

Sure, the AAA Texas 500 trends towards Toyota teams, but may that change today?

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History favors Jimmie Johnson at Texas.

History favors Jimmie Johnson at Texas.

Next, here's the AAA Texas 500 trends since 2009.

Next, here’s the AAA Texas 500 trends since 2009.

Now, here's the AAA Texas 500 trends since 2014.

Now, here’s the AAA Texas 500 trends since 2014.

Our infernal machine foresees Kevin Harvick winning the AAA Texas 500.

Our infernal machine foresees Kevin Harvick winning the AAA Texas 500.

Above all, get ready for the AAA Texas 500 with our race picks!
Given these points, any of these four make for a great AAA Texas 500 race pick.

Given these points, any of these four make for a great AAA Texas 500 race pick.

Acero :  Kurt Busch takes la bandera cuadros (the checkered flag) in Texas!

Hobbs :  He may no longer be in the Playoffs, but Kurt Busch ain’t half bad in Texas.

Conley :  He wants to win all three in the round of 8,  and I don’t see a reason why Martin Truex Jr isn’t back in victory lane at Texas.

Tiongson :  Ultimately, I think that Martin Truex Jr. is the man to beat on Sunday.

Shoppe :  Kevin Harvick will win his third straight playoff race at Texas.

Sisoler :  There’s a reason Kevin Harvick is nicknamed “The Closer,” and it’s not his fandom of Kyra Sedgwick. He turns it up to 11 for big races, and this race is a big one for him. Look for Harvick and the No. 4 Ford to take the checkered flag today in the Lone Star State!

TPF Stats :  He’s been quiet in the Playoffs thus far, but it is hard to ignore Kevin Harvick’s incredible Texas Motor Speedway stats. With 93% of his finishes coming in the Top 10 and 86% in the Top 5, Harvick will make some noise this weekend and clinch his final round spot.

Lambeth :  Ryan Blaney will punch his plane ticket to Homestead, sending shockwaves through the NASCAR garage.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the AAA Texas 500 at Texas!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019. 

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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