The stars at night are big and bright...deep in the heart of Texas. Everything is bigger in the largest state, and that certainly goes for the celebration of NASCAR's first Saturday night race of the season.
Something about the 1.5-mile track just outside of Dallas just puts everyone in the mindset of being in America's heartland, in the presence of an area that is well known for a top NFL program, and a defending NBA championship franchise. At the same time, for some reason this track has seen a history of strange occurrences.
Ground water coming through the race track occurred in 1998, and not to mention a multi-car wreck on the first lap, in the first turn, of the very first race.
But, at the same time, the differences in the many winners at the track is vast. Veterans, rookies, and the lack of repeats means that any driver has the opportuunity to visit victory lane at the end of 500 miles. It could also be a big change in momentum if some drivers do end up putting on the cowboy hat, then shoot off the pistols at the end of the night.
But, just exactly who would be the best choice. That's hard to say, but it eventually came down to the point where the writers had to narrow down their decision of who to go with.
Let's see who these guys and gals decided to saddle up with for Saturday night's Samsung Mobile 500:
Misan Akuya: Tony Stewart
Not sure how you could go against Smoke at a 1.5-mile track right now. Dating back to Atlanta of last fall he has five wins, six top-fives, seven top-10's in the last eight races on tracks 1.5 mile in length or bigger.
One win was a dominating one at Texas. With two wins there and bringing the car he won with last fall and Vegas, Stewart is the one to beat.
James Broomhead: Tony Stewart
Kelly Crandall: Matt Kenseth
He dominated the big tracks of Texas and Charlotte last year. And he's the defending winner of this event so hopefully it's more of the same.
Billy Fellin: Greg Biffle
Biffle got away from the Roush-Fenway nightmare that is Martinsville and comes to a track where RFR has been traditionally dominant. Biffle hasn't finished outside the Top 10 in his last seven races in the Lone Star State.
Money in the bank as far as I'm concerned. I'll take the 16.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
No reason, other than being consistent.
Christopher Leone: Kyle Busch
So last year's winners were this year's Daytona 500 champ, Matt Kenseth, in the spring, and last year's Sprint Cup champ, Tony Stewart, in the fall.
That's predictable, too much so for me to be sure of it at all. Rowdy likes drama, let's go with him.
Kara Martin: Matt Kenseth
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Gordon
The man is on a mission and after martinsville he wants and needs to win.
Dustin Parks: Carl Edwards
I'm not sure why I'm going against Stewart at a 1.5-mile track, but considering I am behind in the standings, I need to sometimes go against my gut. WIth Talladega looming not to far in the future, best to try and make up ground before risking losing even more.
So, I'm sticking with the Roush-Fenway camp, but not going with the Daytona 500 winner, nor the points leader. I'm going with the guy who simply was oh so close to Stewart at Texas last fall. Yep, I'm deciding to saddle up and go with Cousin Carl.
Let's hope at the end of the night it's a backflip, and not a trip back to the trailer.
Patti Rodisch: Carl Edwards
This is a track that Roush Fenway Racing has been very successful on in the Sprint Cup series. I think Edwardws is due for a real breakout race. He hasn't exactly lit the world on fire this season and at times they have been out to lunch with their setups.
An off weekend and a track that Edwards has been fairly kind to Edwards. He has three wins, five top fives and six top 10 finishes. Edwards is 11th in the standings but if this team wants to be taken seriously as a Chase contender they are going to have to find a way to be up front and lead laps.
Cousin Carl should get it done this weekend.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
Don't know why but going off a gut feeling.
Rob Tiongson: Greg Biffle
Standings following Martinsville:
Misan Akuya (236) Denny Hamlin finished 6th (1)
James Broomhead (221) Denny Hamlin finished 6th (0)
Billy Fellin (214) Denny Hamlin finished 6th (1)
Rob Tiongson (206) Tony Stewart finished 7th (1)
Sal Sigala Jr. (206) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (0)
Christopher Leone (200) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 3rd (0)
Kara Martin (186) Denny Hamlin finished 6th (0)
Kelly Crandall (183) Denny Hamlin finished 6th (1)
Patti Rodisch (168) Jeff Gordon finished 14th (0)
Ryan O'Hara (158) Jeff Gordon finished 14th (0)
Michael Hirshbein (149) Kyle Busch finished 36th (0)
Dustin Parks (147) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 3rd (0)
Final Thoughts: It's impossible to try and sum up what will happen in Texas on Saturday. No lyrics from a George Strait song could sum it up, although in some way we all could weave any of his #1 songs into it.
So we can forget about the seashores of old Mexico, there's no need to be in Amarillo by morning. There won't be a blue clear sky, but we are all living for the night. There's no way any driver will hand another a victory; they won't give it away. But, maybe there's a chance an old troubadour could be holding the trophy at the end of the night.
Go figure, it can be done.
The green flag flies on FOX at 7 p.m. ET this Saturday night.
Summary of Picks: