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Qualifying the Chasers: Texas Motor Speedway

November 03, 2012, Nick Margiasso,

Jimmie Johnson (Qualified 1st): Talk about anticlimactic, Five-Time is it. It took a long lucky seven races, but JJ finally grabbed his win and first place in the Chase thanks to Martinsville. Popular sentiment is that he'll stay there after Texas and wherever else the Cup circuit goes. The statistics will make his competition feel even grimmer about knocking JJ off the pedestal. In Chase history, Johnson has led the points following a ridiculous 37 percent of postseason races. Wow. In four of his five title runs, JJ never relinquished the lead after holding it through eight Chase races. So, yeah, Texas is huge. He's won in Fort Worth only once (2007), but had a near-miss in second back in April and has an average finish of 9.7 there. A decent finish might be all he needs to close down this thing.

Brad Keselowski (Qualified 8th): Now, it's really time for the "young gun" to show the "old hand" what he can do. It's been almost eight weeks since Keselowski grabbed the Chase by the horns and surprised the sport with a Chicagoland win. He'll need to do it again. Bad Fast Brad has made a Chase for himself out of ignoring stats about his poor past performances by posting nice new and successful ones. Texas is another of his worst tracks, as his best-ever finish is a 14th and his career average finish is 25.2. Yeah, it's bad. He already posted his worst-ever finish at TMS this season with a 36th in April, so there's nowhere to go but up.

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Clint Bowyer (Qualified 4th): This anxious gentleman went from one half of a feel-good story at Michael Waltrip Racing to being a serious Chase for the Sprint Cup contender. He's in the top three, poised to put a bow on his best season in at least five years and looks to Texas to see if there's more in this thing. Bowyer's run decently at Texas of late -- 17th this season, but a 9th, 2nd and 7th before that -- and has a 13.3 average finish there. He's one of two guys left with even a very outside shot at the Chase, and he's got the leg up there two with a win in his pocket. He will certainly need another, and probably some real help.

Kasey Kahne (Qualified 13th): It's a little "sky is blue" to say that Kahne has the best run of a Chaser without a win to show for it. It's a little bit of a mystery and a lot more unlucky how Kahne hasn't snuck one away from the field yet in the postseason. I mean, Matty K. has two! Kahne has four top fives in seven races in the Chase and won the poll at Talladega before becoming one of the victims in Kenseth's wake. He'll need to go on a Smoke 2011-style run to grab this thing, but it is still a tiny bit possible. His seventh- and third-place finishes in the last two races betray his all-time 18.8 average finish at Texas, but can he sneak one out with the top three so locked in?

Denny Hamlin (Qualified 12th): About a minute ago, Denny was about to shake up the whole Chase. Then the lights went out, literally. Hamlin's No. 11 got bit by the mystery electrical bug that sunk his Martinsville run, and now all he represents is the leader of the pack of Chasers who have no shot at winning the 2012 championship. Texas has shown Hamlin some love -- back-to-back wins in 2010 -- but has also not shown him a top-10 finish in two years.

Jeff Gordon (Qualified 16th): Another week, another multiple-spot move up (not down, this time) the points standings. Has there been a more volatile season by a Cup driver in the Chase era? Give this guy a Tums. Oh, that was last week ...

Martin Truex Jr. (Qualified 5th): The other half of the great story out of the MWR garages, Truex has bigger things on his mind this week. His home state of New Jersey -- specifically Mayetta and nearby Long Beach Island -- were some of the hardest areas hit by Hurricane Sandy. So, his foundation, and the great folks at NASCAR are going full-bore with helping out those affected. Racing is just a sport. Still, Truex would like to see more of what nabbed him the pole at TMS earlier this year rather than his 16.1 average career finish.

Matt Kenseth (Qualified 10th): It's almost like I'd like to see just how many races in the Chase that Kenseth can win without him improving all that much in the points standings.

Greg Biffle (Qualified 2nd): Biffster has also made his way all kinds of up and down the points standings, but he arrives back at Texas with a chance to ... well ... win and nothing more, relevant to Chase terms. He has two wins at TMS, but still a very average 16.2 average career finish there. It's that kind of performance that, honestly, has him ninth in the points.

Tony Stewart (Qualified 21st): So, 2011 was LAST year?! It seems more like 2011 BC ... or BTC -- Before Tony's Championship. At least in the No. 14 garage.

Kevin Harvick (Qualified 23rd): Harvick is a perfect representation of a pretty bad Richard Childress Racing team right now. RCR drivers are on a 37-race winless streak and have a combined seven top-fives and 25 top-10s in 104 races this season with six different drivers having raced RCR cars. Harvick is wrapping that with a bow, having not even scored a single top-10 in this Chase.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Qualified 19th): You know he's feeling better when he's getting all moody post-race. Well, there's always 2013, Junior ...

Story includes statistics from © Racing Resources and Services, Statistics by © Racing Recall®

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.