FORT WORTH, Texas — Through six Sprint Cup races, there have been six different winners this season.
Could Texas make it 7-for-7?
The Duck Commander 500, which begins at 2 p.m. Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, usually has a familiar cast of characters running at the front, but winning is a different story. TMS has had 17 different winners in 26 Cup races since it opened in 1997.
Here’s a look at some potential favorites to win this week, along with some other story lines that could have a major impact on the race:
Three for victory lane
Here are three favorites to win the Duck Commander 500:
•Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior’s first Cup victory came at Texas 14 years ago, on April 2, 2000. The current points leader is off to his best start in years, and he’s been strong at Texas lately. He was the runner-up last November and has six top-10s in his last eight TMS races.
•Jimmie Johnson: One of two drivers with three Cup wins at TMS, Johnson still doesn’t have a victory this season. He typically performs best at Texas’ fall races, but don’t count him out this week.
•Carl Edwards: Another three-time Texas winner and currently third in the standings, Edwards is always solid in Fort Worth. He’s one of the winningest drivers at the track across all series.
New winner streak
Will there be a seventh different winner in the seventh race of the season? Aside from Johnson, here are three more candidates to keep the streak alive:
•Matt Kenseth: Though he’s second in points, he isn’t among the six race winners so far. He won a career-best seven races last year, including multiple wins on 1.5-mile tracks. He has won twice at Texas and been in the top five 15 times.
•Tony Stewart: As part-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, Stewart got to see his team win its first race of the season last week, with Kurt Busch taking the checkered flag at Martinsville. You can bet the boss wants to get his No. 14 car to Victory Lane soon, too.
•Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has had an up-and-down year that included him missing a race because of vision problems caused by a small piece of metal that got stuck in his eye, but he’s always dangerous at Texas.
Two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., tires were a major concern, taking several drivers out of contention, including Johnson, who was leading with less than 10 laps to go when a tire went down.
California is a half-mile longer than the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, but Texas is a faster track that causes more tire wear.
“The only other mile-and-a-half that we've run to date is Las Vegas, and it doesn't wear the tires as much as Texas does,” David Ragan said. “Lap times are very similar, very fast, but tire wear is a lot different at Texas. You wear it a lot more. So that is something that we will focus on and make sure our engineers have a good game plan for it.”
This will be the Texas debut for Goodyear’s multi-zone tread tire, which was used at Atlanta and Kansas last year. The tire is made of two different rubber compounds, one toward the outside of the tire that provides more traction, and firmer rubber toward the inside that is designed for more durability.
Rain, rain, go away
Rain delays have been the theme of the Sprint Cup season right from the start, with a six-hour stoppage because of thunderstorms at the first race of the year, the Daytona 500.
The Bristol race was delayed twice, and last week at Martinsville, practice was wiped out by rain the day before Sunday’s race.
So it’s no surprise that some spring showers could be heading toward Fort Worth on Sunday. As of Thursday, the Fort Worth area’s rain chances for Sunday were better than 50 percent.