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Five things to watch in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway

Duck Commander 500 - Practice

Duck Commander 500 - Practice

NASCAR via Getty Images

FORT WORTH - “Left turns and right crosses!”

That’s one of the slogans Eddie Gossage and Texas Motor Speedway adopted to promote its first Sprint Cup race of the season, tonight’s Duck Commander 500 .

Jeff Gordon, who was involved in a post-race confrontation with Brad Keselowski, has another way to describe racing at the track that hosts the first night race of the season.

“I like to relate this track to a roller coaster,” Gordon said Friday. “The transitions from the straightaway to the corners are more abrupt than at any other track we go to. When you look at the pace and the grip level, it goes up and down.’'

Gordon, whose only Cup win at this track came in 2009, says racing around the track on new tires with plenty of grip leads to “tons of fun” before the tire’s eventual fall off leads drivers to move around the track.

“It’s a tough racetrack; a very technical racetrack, and also abrasive,” said Gordon, who starts 12th tonight. “I feel like we’ve been very strong here. But, we haven’t always had the, I don’t like to say luck because I think you make your own luck, but I think that we haven’t had as good as results as I feel like we’ve performed here over the years. It is nice to have that win and to run good and come in here with confidence that we can back that up again.”

If Gordon doesn’t win at Texas tonight he’ll have one more chance in November, as another TMS billboard declared, that race will be “Gordon’s Last Stand.”

Jimmie’s Jam: We forgive for having forgotten after all the post-race drama last year, but it was Jimmie Johnson who won the November race, his third victory in the last five races at Texas. The six-time Sprint Cup champion has four wins at the 1.5-mile track and starts fifth tonight.

More Stewart-Haas domination: Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick once again gave Stewart-Haas Racing a front-row sweep in qualifying after doing it at Auto Club Speedway two races ago. This is Busch’s first season with multiple poles since 2011 when he took the top spot three weeks in a row at Kansas, Pocono and Michigan.

“To bring home a pole award at Texas is fast,” Busch said. “You feel it in the car. The way the new qualifying format works you have to do it three times.”

He also lauded crew chief Tony Gibson. They started working together at last year’s fall race in Texas.

"(Tony) is amazing with his adjustments,” Busch said. “The tire guy, he is coming up last second and says ‘hey, the track has cooled off another three degrees we might need to add something here.’ I’m like ‘go for it.’ When you have everybody adding in and you are not second guessing anything, then you are able to get everything out of a race car.”

Hometown guy: Xfinity Series driver Chris Buescher isn’t used to this. The day after the Xfinity race, the native of Prosper, Texas usually joins friends and family in the grandstands to watch the Sprint Cup race.

They’ll forgive him for missing out this time as Buescher, a Roush Fenway Racing driver on loan to Front Row Motorsports, makes his first Cup series start at a track located 50 miles from his hometown.

Buescher starts 40th in his third-career Cup race.

Larson’s return: The second-year Cup driver missed the race at Martinsville while being hospitalized after fainting at an autograph session. Larson’s health checks out now and he will start ninth - next to Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray. In his last two start in Texas, Larson has finished fifth and seventh.

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