Sprint Cup returns to racing at Texas

Fort Worth, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Sprint Cup Series is back on track at Texas Motor Speedway following its first off-weekend of the season.

This 500-miler at Texas is the first Sprint Cup points race to run at nighttime this season. It's the fourth time in five years the spring event here is scheduled for Saturday night. Last year's race at this track was scheduled for Sunday afternoon since the national semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (Final Four) took place on Saturday at nearby AT&T Stadium in Arlington. But rain on Sunday forced a delay until Monday.

Joey Logano is the defending race winner. Logano passed Jeff Gordon for the lead on the final lap and then beat Gordon to the finish line by a half-second for his first of five wins during the '14 Sprint Cup season.

"I'm pretty excited to go back to Texas and try to defend our win," Logano said. "That place has quickly turned into one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. It's just a place that suits me and my driving style well, and we as a team have excelled at since I came over here to Team Penske.

"The track is rough and fast. That seems to be where we excel for sure. It will be interesting to go there with the new rules package. We are finally starting to iron some things out, and we are making strides in what we need in the car. We just need to keep getting better. I think we can go there and back up the win again."

Logano started this season by winning the Feb. 22 Daytona 500. He is currently second in the point standings, 24 points behind leader and defending series champion Kevin Harvick.

This will be the 29th time NASCAR's top series has competed at Texas. Jimmie Johnson has won four Cup races here, which is more than any other driver. Johnson's most recent victory at this track occurred five months ago. It was the eighth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

"Texas is a lot of fun to drive," Johnson said. "I really like how the track has evolved, the bumps the wear that the track promotes for the tires, and all that really puts it back into the teams hands of having a drivable race car.

"Being able to comfortably stay in the throttle there is really important to sort out. It's not an easy thing to do. You have to focus on the aero package, even though you want to soften things up in the car for mechanical grip to make it drive smoother. The hardest part of the track to figure out is the long green flag runs."

On Friday, Martin Truex Jr. led the way in the first practice session with a lap at 191.096 mph. Kasey Kahne topped the charts in final practice (190.975 mph).

Truex, who drives the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing, is presently third in the point standings (-32). He has finished eighth or better in each of the first six races this season.

"If I could pick a track to continue a positive streak, Texas Motor Speedway would be high on the list," Truex said. "A couple of years ago, I nearly had the race locked at Texas, but I didn't get out of the pits quick enough and had to settle for second.

"Speaking of second, the last time our Furniture Row Chevrolet raced at a mile-in-a-half track was last month when we were runner-up in Las Vegas. It's been a great start to the season by posting six straight top-10s. And what makes it even better is that we have run well at different types of tracks - superspeedway, intermediate and a short track."

Kyle Larson returns to racing this weekend after he was forced to miss the Sprint Cup event at Martinsville on March 29 due to a fainting spell. Larson fainted during an autograph session the day prior to the Cup race and had been hospitalized for several days as he underwent extensive testing and observation. Regan Smith substituted for him in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

"It's never good when you have to miss a race," but it was good to get all those tests ran on me to know that I am 100 percent healthy," Larson said. "Missing one race sucks, but at least it wasn't more than one."

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, April 11. Race: Duck Commander 500. Site: Texas Motor Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 334. Miles: 501. 2014 Winner: Joey Logano. Television: FOX. Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.