FORT WORTH, Texas — With only three races remaining in the Sprint Cup's Chase for the Championship, each race gets a little more intense.
Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the points lead heading into Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, a race that could go a long way toward determining the series champ.
Five-time champ Johnson has been back to his old ways, at his best when it's all on the line in the Chase. And Kenseth has excelled this season after joining Joe Gibbs Racing in the offseason.
Here are a few story lines to watch this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway:
Only a two-man race?
Johnson and Kenseth are tied for the points lead, but three other drivers are within 36 points of the lead. With three races remaining, it's not outlandish to think that one of those three drivers — Jeff Gordon (27 back), Kevin Harvick (28 back) or Kyle Busch (36 back) — could make a run at the title.
But track history at Texas certainly doesn't play in their favor.
All three have won and been generally successful at TMS. But Johnson and Kenseth have been crazy good. Expecting one or both of them to fault at Texas isn't a good bet.
Johnson has two wins at Texas, including last November, and he's only finished outside the top 10 five times in 20 starts. For that matter, he's only finished worse than 15th twice.
Kenseth is almost as strong at TMS, with two wins and 15 top-10s in 22 starts. He hasn't finished outside the top 20 since his first race at the track in 2000.
Leaving Texas with a lead
Considering that only two races remain when drivers wrap it up at TMS on Sunday, you'd think that whoever is able to gain a points advantage at Texas will be in good shape to claim the title.
Each of the last three years, the leader after the Texas race has fallen from the top spot over the final two weeks.
Last year, Johnson won at Texas and left with the points lead, but saw Brad Keselowski surpass him in the final two weeks. The year before, it was Carl Edwards who was on top after Texas, but Tony Stewart caught him and took the title via tiebreaker.
And in 2010, Denny Hamlin led the points after his win at Texas, and still led after Phoenix the following week, only to see Johnson rally in the final race to claim his fifth straight title.