They say everything is bigger in Texas, and this week it means Jimmie Johnson's lead in the NASCAR title race as the series reaches Fort Worth's Texas Motor Speedway.
Seven races into the ten race Chase for the Sprint Cup the three-time and reigning champion has a 184 point lead over his nearest contender, Mark Martin, who declared himself “tired” of the points this week.
Meanwhile, Juan Montoya, who now lies 239 points adrift of Johnson has been more open of his concession of the title. “Realistically speaking,” said the Colombian. “I think [Johnson]'s got it in the bag unless something really bad happens to him on Sunday.”
Sunday's race, which Johnson will start twelfth after Friday's qualifying session, will be the second race at the 1.5mile venue of the season, the first being back in April when Jeff Gordon took his only win of the season so far, and his first at the track in 16 attempts.
However, despite this Gordon is looking forward to visiting again. “We're anxious to get back there,” he said. “It was obviously a huge win for us as a team, going there so many times”
“Typically I left there wanting to forget [the race] as quick as I could. Now I can't wait to get back there because we had such a strong car there.”
And to back up the Californian's assertions it is he in the no.24 car that will start Sunday's race from pole position, but if he has any designs on making an impression on his Hendrick Motorsports teammate's title stranglehold then Jimmie Johnson has other plans.
“The last three to four events we've had there we've been competitive and scored a win of two,” he says of TMS. “I feel very good about the track for the Lowe's team”.
Aside from the title race there are the normal concerns for the NASCAR drivers as they contend with the track and their competitors. Kurt Busch focuses on the nature of the track saying; “Texas. It's always meant speed. It's just bad fast and your always on that edge of trying to make the car turn and hook up, but yet you've got to worry about the speed.” On the other hand Ryan Newman mentions the double-file restarts as a potential for “another level of excitement” on the wide racetrack.
Texas also marks another step towards the 2010 season, with team's outside of the immediate title race starting to switch their attention to next year. A.J. Allmendinger will follow his RPM teammate to run the Ford package at Texas (though Sadler is back to running his normal Dodge this week), while in the No.12 Penske car Brad Keselowski will replace David Stremme for the rest of the season, ahead of the Spring Talladega winner taking the seat full time next year.
The green flag for the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway is expected soon after 2:30pm local time (8:30pm GMT).