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Next Up, The Texas Tornado!

Man, just three races left in the NASCAR season -- it seems like the Daytona 500 was just a few weeks ago, does it not?


Yes, it is a long race season, and I think it is going to feel even longer for the 11 drivers who are "chasing" Jimmie Johnson (48) for the championship.


And after last week's nine-lap dash to the finish where Johnson tore through the field on new tires to finish second, I can tell you his competition is starting to feel the agony of defeat.


You have to give Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, all the credit there. Knaus called Jimmie in under that caution period to get four fresh tires and he went back out and picked them off one by one. You know, if the race had gone one more lap Johnson would have caught race winner Carl Edwards (99).


This Sunday's Dickies 500 should prove to be an interesting race as there has only been one repeat winner, Jeff Burton (31), at Texas Motor Speedway since the track opened about 10 years ago. Even Jeff Gordon (24) hasn't won at this track -- in fact, his average finish here is 15th place.


Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile quad-oval and the drivers can really crank up the speeds here. This track is similar to both Lowes and Atlanta, but offers a little more traction, which means higher speeds, which means more punishment for the right front tire.


If a crew chief doesn't get the setup of the car right, and allows the car to push in the corners, then you'll see that right front tire blow. Let me tell you, you don't want that tire to let loose while going into the corner at about 200 m.p.h. even with the soft-wall technology that is in now in use. Just ask Michael McDowell, who crashed here back in April while qualifying. He rolled the car eight times.


Another thing about Texas is that since the cars can run almost wide open, the drivers will have the engines in their cars running at a higher rpm longer, which can cause all sorts of mechanical problems - usually terminal. The engine guys back at the race shops must be sweating this weekend.


The drivers to watch out for this weekend are Matt Kenseth (17), Carl Edwards (99), Denny Hamlin (11), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), Jimmie Johnson (48) and Jeff Burton (31).


The dark horse picks would be Kurt Busch (2) and Martin Truex Jr. (1). Both of these guys have had less than stellar seasons and are looking to get a jump-start on next season, so look for them to be up front with the Chasers.


Based on the history of this track, I would probably pick someone who has never won here before to be the winner of the race. You never know, maybe Jeff Gordon (24) will finally win here after all.