By the numbers: The 2013 Chasers at Texas

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This weekend, the Chase for the Sprint Cup is going to the Circus – “Wild Asphalt Circus,” that is.

The intensity surrounding the championship is sure to build even further at Texas Motor Speedway, as Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson enter the AAA Texas 500 tied for the lead – although Kenseth does hold the tie-breaker, as his seven victories this season trumps Johnson’s five.

Four of Kenseth’s seven wins in 2013 have come on 1.5-mile ovals such as Texas but based on past performance at this track, both himself and Johnson appear evenly matched going in – which could make Kenseth’s runner-up effort this past weekend at Martinsville all the more critical in the end.

However, both Kenseth and Johnson’s greatest challenge this weekend may not be each other.

Kyle Busch’s title hopes are now in serious danger after late-race handling problems at Martinsville caused him to finish 15th. But in the Sprint Cup Series’ first visit this year to Texas back in April, Busch was able to take the lead coming out of the final pit stops and go on to win. Expect him to leave nothing on the table as he tries to erase a 36 point deficit over the final three races.

Ahead of Busch at third and fourth in the championship respectively are Jeff Gordon (-27 points), your winner at Martinsville, and Kevin Harvick (-28 points). They too must position themselves to capitalize on any misfortunes Kenseth and Johnson may have.

As provided weekly by NASCAR, here’s a glimpse at what the 13 Chase contenders have done in their Cup careers at TMS:

Matt Kenseth (Leader – 2,294 points; holds tie-breaker over Jimmie Johnson with 7 wins this year)
· Two wins, 12 Top-5s, 15 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 8.5 in 22 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.3
*Series-best Driver Rating of 106.5
*Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 173.225 mph
*Series-high 4,497 Laps in the Top 15 (79.0%)

Jimmie Johnson (Second – 2,294 points; 5 wins this year)
· Two wins, nine Top-5s, 15 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 9.1 in 20 races
· Average Running Position: 10.9, third-best

Jeff Gordon (Third, -27 points)
· One win, eight Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 17.0 in 25 races
· Average Running Position: 13.3, 10th-best

Kevin Harvick (Fourth, -28 points)
· Three Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 12.5 in 21 races
· Average Running Position: 15.2, 15th-best
*Series-high 1,360 Green Flag Passes

Kyle Busch (Fifth, -36 points)
· One win, six Top-5s, seven Top-10s
· Average Finish: 14.1 in 16 races
· Average Running Position: 11.2, fourth-best

Clint Bowyer (Sixth, -55 points)
· Three Top-5s, eight Top-10s
· Average Finish: 12.9 in 15 races
· Average Running Position: 12.8, ninth-best

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Seventh, -56 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, 12 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 14.3 in 22 races
· Average Running Position: 11.9, sixth-best
*Series-high 707 Quality Passes (passes within Top 15)

Greg Biffle (Eighth, -58 points)
· Two wins, eight Top-5s, 12 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 15.3 in 19 races
· Average Running Position: 12.3, seventh-best
*Series-high 458 Fastest Laps Run

Kurt Busch (Ninth, -75 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, 12 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 15.2 in 21 races
· Average Running Position: 14.7, 14th-best

Carl Edwards (10th, -76 points)
· Three wins, six Top-5s, eight Top-10s
· Average Finish: 14.4 in 17 races
· Average Running Position: 11.9, fifth-best

Joey Logano (11th, -85 points)
· Two Top-5s, two Top-10s
· Average Finish: 21.7 in 10 races
· Average Running Position: 22.2, 28th-best

Ryan Newman (12th, -106 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 19.8 in 20 races
· Average Running Position: 20.8, 22nd-best

Kasey Kahne (13th, -124 points)
· One win, four Top-5s, five Top-10s
· Average Finish: 18.7 in 18 races
· Average Running Position: 15.4, 16th-best

MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

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