Sports

Sprint Cup race in Fort Worth always has been test of the best

Only the biggest names win Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway.

Even fewer win more than once.

Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton are the only drivers in TMS' 15-year history to reach Victory Lane two or more times.

It is not a coincidence that they were all driving for NASCAR's super teams: Roush Fenway, Joe Gibbs, Stewart-Haas.

It is not a coincidence that they are all in the top 15 in the point standings this year as the Sprint Cup series arrives in Fort Worth for tonight's Samsung Mobile 500.

Texas multi-time winners are big wheels.

"This one requires everything to be right," said Edwards, whose three wins are the most of any driver at Texas Motor Speedway. "You have to have a big engine. You have to have a good pit crew. You have to qualify well. Running at night, you have to be able to adjust the car and make it handle. The wind. The conditions change. All those things are tough."

All those things make it tough for underfunded or part-time teams to win at Texas. The 500-mile distance, the length of the 1.5-mile oval, the spring wind, the high banking and three-wide grooves for racing and passing combine to leave only the richest teams standing.

"This race, as it goes on, you get to see who's got their ducks in a row better than other guys," Edwards said.

The last eight winners at TMS have all gone on to finish eighth or better in that year's final standings. Even the one-time winners -- Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- have been among the biggest names driving for top teams.

"Everybody's trying to compete with the super teams, but it's difficult to do," TMS president Eddie Gossage said. "It's a great story if Michael Waltrip Racing wins because they're inching into that upper echelon. ...But you're going to see the big names. That's likely who is going to be standing in Victory Lane. It's not going to be a no-name."

It is tempting to pour every resource into a win at Texas Motor Speedway. The purse and attendance are among the biggest on the circuit. Mile-and-a-half tracks dominate the schedule, so success at Texas can translate to other tracks.

"This is one of the tracks on our schedule that we put an asterisk beside because it's really important to us," said Stewart, who won at TMS in November and in 2005. "I take a lot of pride in running well here at Texas. I've got a great relationship with Eddie Gossage -- in my opinion, one of the greatest promoters in the country right now and a good friend of mine on top of that. That makes it more important for me to want to win here."

None of the multiple-time winners at Texas wants to leave with a bad finish.

"If you got to a place where you have had success and left maybe eighth, you might feel defeated," said Kenseth, a TMS winner in 2011 and 2002.

For Edwards, a fourth Texas win could provide a big push.

"We have been running better for longer than we have since I have been here," he said. "This has been good. I don't know that we need to rack up some wins, but it sure would be nice. It would feel good."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter @calexmendez

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