Raceday: Your guide to the Duck Commander 500

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NASCAR: Tony Stewart knocks Brad Keselowski from Duck Commander 500 pole

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/05/17/19/WOYm0.Em.138.jpeg|210
    Sarah Glenn - (Credit too long, see caption)
    Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on during Saturday's qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Stewart won his first pole of the season and first in the series since the 2012 Atlanta race – a stretch of 39 races.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/05/17/19/2qFm4.Em.138.jpeg|227
    Jerry Markland - (Credit too long, see caption)
    Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives in the garage area during Saturday's practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Later Saturday, Stewart won his first pole of the season and first in the series since the 2012 Atlanta race – a stretch of 39 races.

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Tony Stewart wins the pole at Texas

Nothing like a little drama from Tony Stewart.

Stewart waited until the very last moments of the final round of Saturday’s Sprint Cup Series knockout qualifying session before making his last run and succeeded in knocking Brad Keselowski from the pole for Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Stewart’s average lap speed of 195.454 mph barely edged Keselowski (195.419 mph). The pole is Stewart’s first of the season and first in the series since the 2012 Atlanta race – a stretch of 39 races.

“The first run I knew I didn’t run a very good lap, and then the second run really wasn’t much different than that but we knew we had a heat cycle on the tires. This thing is fast,” Stewart said of his No. 14 Chevrolet.

“It was good in the first run, and in the second run it was pretty good and we were second and we ran a little bit quicker. We didn’t know what we could run this third time. The good thing is Chad Johnston (crew chief) made a really big change there to try and make it better.”

Kevin Harvick will start third, Greg Biffle fourth and Carl Edwards fifth. Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up 19th. Harvick actually set a new track qualifying record in the first round of qualifying with an average lap speed of 198.282 mph.

JR Motorsports class of the field:Six races into the Nationwide Series season, JR Motorsports has proven to be the organization to beat.

JRM drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith currently hold the top two spots in the series standings and both already have a win this season. JRM has never won a series championship.

The organization entered four cars in Friday night’s Nationwide race at Texas and its drivers finished first, fourth, fifth and seventh.

“We want to win a championship so bad this year. We feel like we learned a lot last year going through that process with Regan and now we have two teams that are really capable of getting the job done,” said team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“If everybody keeps their head on straight, we should be able to be in a good situation when we get to Homestead.”

Dillon misses some Cup practice:Cup rookie Austin Dillon missed some of Saturday’s lone practice session after falling ill. His brother, Ty Dillon, ran some laps in Austin’s No. 3 Chevrolet as a precaution but Austin did qualify his car for the race.

Three things to watch

1. Kurt Busch won last weekend at Martinsville, Va., wrecked his primary car in practice on Friday but was fastest in Saturday’s practice session in his backup car and will start 11th.

2. So far this season, there have been six different winners in the first six races and all six are former champions in either the Nationwide or Truck series.

3. Kyle Busch has led 9,960 laps in his Cup series career – 40 away from becoming the 15th driver in NASCAR history to accomplish the feat.

Observations

• There have been lots of comparisons between the start of this Cup season and last year – and rightfully so. In both seasons, six different drivers won the first six races. Last season, 27 different drivers had recorded a top-10 finish through the first six races. So far this season, 26 different drivers have earned a top-10 finish. If Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 produces a seventh different winner, it will mark the first time that’s happened since 2003. With the wealth of top-level drivers still without a win this season, another new winner is not out of the question.

• There’s no better evidence of the benefit of Cup drivers in the Nationwide series than this weekend at Texas. Series regular Chase Elliott won his first series race by holding off a small army of six Cup series regulars behind him, including a stellar pass of one (Kevin Harvick) to take the lead. Would Elliott had obtained the skill necessary to pull of such a move without having the previous experience of running against those same drivers? He certainly doesn’t think so. And who doesn’t think Elliott’s win has added significance considering the solid make up of the field he had to beat?

• It’s setting up to be another strong weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing, or at least most of it. Kevin Harvick set a new track qualifying record on Saturday, Tony Stewart won the pole on the last lap of the final round of knockout qualifying and Stewart, Harvick and Kurt Busch – who won last week’s race – will start 11th or better on Sunday. Danica Patrick has struggled in practice all weekend and qualified 24th.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy racing team:

Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart

Race facts

Where: Texas Motor Speedway, Forth Worth, Texas

Track type: 1.5-mile paved, banked quad-oval

Race distance: 334 laps or 501 miles

Weather: An 80 percent chance of rain with high in the upper 50s.

TV: Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on Fox. Green flag is 3:13 p.m.

Radio: Performance Racing Network

JR Motorsports class of the field:Six races into the Nationwide Series season, JR Motorsports has proven to be the organization to beat.

JRM drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith currently hold the top two spots in the series standings and both already have a win this season. JRM has never won a series championship.

The organization entered four cars in Friday night’s Nationwide race at Texas and its drivers finished first, fourth, fifth and seventh.

“We want to win a championship so bad this year. We feel like we learned a lot last year going through that process with Regan and now we have two teams that are really capable of getting the job done,” said team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“If everybody keeps their head on straight, we should be able to be in a good situation when we get to Homestead.”

Dillon misses some Cup practice:Cup rookie Austin Dillon missed some of Saturday’s lone practice session after falling ill. His brother, Ty Dillon, ran some laps in Austin’s No. 3 Chevrolet as a precaution but Austin did qualify his car for the race.

Three things to watch

1. Kurt Busch won last weekend at Martinsville, Va., wrecked his primary car in practice on Friday but was fastest in Saturday’s practice session in his backup car and will start 11th.

2. So far this season, there have been six different winners in the first six races and all six are former champions in either the Nationwide or Truck series.

3. Kyle Busch has led 9,960 laps in his Cup series career – 40 away from becoming the 15th driver in NASCAR history to accomplish the feat.

Observations

• There have been lots of comparisons between the start of this Cup season and last year – and rightfully so. In both seasons, six different drivers won the first six races. Last season, 27 different drivers had recorded a top-10 finish through the first six races. So far this season, 26 different drivers have earned a top-10 finish. If Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 produces a seventh different winner, it will mark the first time that’s happened since 2003. With the wealth of top-level drivers still without a win this season, another new winner is not out of the question.

• There’s no better evidence of the benefit of Cup drivers in the Nationwide series than this weekend at Texas. Series regular Chase Elliott won his first series race by holding off a small army of six Cup series regulars behind him, including a stellar pass of one (Kevin Harvick) to take the lead. Would Elliott had obtained the skill necessary to pull of such a move without having the previous experience of running against those same drivers? He certainly doesn’t think so. And who doesn’t think Elliott’s win has added significance considering the solid make up of the field he had to beat?

• It’s setting up to be another strong weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing, or at least most of it. Kevin Harvick set a new track qualifying record on Saturday, Tony Stewart won the pole on the last lap of the final round of knockout qualifying and Stewart, Harvick and Kurt Busch – who won last week’s race – will start 11th or better on Sunday. Danica Patrick has struggled in practice all weekend and qualified 24th.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy racing team:

Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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