As the season is drawing to a close, teams and drivers are worn out, getting tired, and wanting things to be over with. Equipment is used up, travel logs are nearly filled, and teams know it's getting down to crunch time.
The Chase has only three races remaining, and the contenders are becoming clearer each week. The way to win the title is to have a big week, and a big finish.
Seems appropriate because at the next track, everything is bigger. NASCAR is returning to the Lone Star State, where the longhorns are plenty, and the biggest money-making industry is the oil fields. The home of America's Team takes second-place, as the Texas Motor Speedway. The cowboy hats will be throughout the garage, and in the stands, letting NASCAR know it definitely is in the south.
The writers themselves are ready to hop on their horses and ride, as their title hunt is still going strong. So who did they decide on taking the win this week? Here's their choices for Sunday's AAA Texas 500:
Misan Akuya: Jeff Gordon
Gordon has been very competitive in this chase. Just getting his first win of the season last week at Martinsville.
I thought about picking him in that race and going with Junior in this one. But I flipped flopped, and it cost me some points. Maybe Gordon makes it two in a row.
Rob Blount: Kyle Busch
James Broomhead: Joey Logano
So deep in the hole I might as well try a few Hail Marys.
Kelly Crandall: Brad Keselowski
I'm pretty much out of it at this point and have used all my power house picks already. So, you're up Champ.
Billy Fellin: Kyle Busch
I wish I could pick the 20 or 48 again, because they're probably the favorites. But, I'll Shrub.
He won in April and I think he'll keep that going. Not to mention, he's running all three races and I feel like the more track time he gets in a weekend, the better he does.
Michael Hirshbein: Matt Kenseth
Kara Martin: Carl Edwards
Ryan O'Hara: Brad Keselowski
No idea, but we'll go for it here.
Dustin Parks: Matt Kenseth
After finally getting my first win last week, confidence is up. It definitely is up now, because second part of my plan seems to be falling into place. The guy my pick last week beat, is now the one I pick to win it.
Let's face it, the track record of the No. 20 at the 1.5-mile tracks this year can't be touched. So, running on that luck and hoping for Kenseth to pull another one out of his bag.
Patti Rodisch: Kevin Harvick
Sal Sigala Jr: Kasey Kahne
Rob Tiongson: Kyle Busch
Gotta go "Rowdy" now and realize that I don't like being in second place in points. So if I have jinxed a certain ladyfriend of mine on this, sorry, but not sorry cause I think that No. 18 is going to win on Sunday at Texas.
Either that...or Happy Birthday to you Allison. Feeling good about a Texas two-step sweep.
Standings following Martinsville:
Sal Sigala Jr. (2284) Jeff Gordon WON (2)
Rob Tiongson (2280) Brad Keselowski finished 4th (3)
Rob Blount (2267) Jeff Gordon WON (3)
Dustin Parks (2267) Jeff Gordon WON (1)
Misan Akuya (2266) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 8th (3)
Ryan O'Hara (2260) Clint Bowyer finished 3rd (1)
Billy Fellin (2258) Jeff Gordon WON (3)
Kelly Crandall (2252) Jimmie Johnson finished 5th (1)
Patti Rodisch (2250) Jimmie Johnson finished 5th (0)
Kara Martin (2238) Kyle Busch finished 15th (1)
James Broomhead (2214) Jimmie Johnson finished 5th (2)
Michael Hirshbein (2183) Paul Menard finished 22nd (3)
Final Thoughts: This weekend, clocks get turned back an hour, meaning that likely at the end of Sunday's race the lights will be shining bright on the track. Some teams wish they could turn back time and make up for the difficult races they experienced earlier.
But now, the battle deep in the heart of Texas is ready to rage. Three races are left, and it's going to be a fight right to the very end.
Coverage begins on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Summary of Picks: