Texas Motor Speedway is auto racing’s home office for controversy. Since its first race in 1997, TMS has rarely made it through a season without some sort of dust-up, involving everything from T-shirts to lawsuits.

Texas Tornadoes
Texas Motor Speedway is auto racing’s home office for controversy. Since its first race in 1997, TMS has rarely made it through a season without some sort of dust-up, involving everything from T-shirts to lawsuits. And while all appears quiet in advance of Sunday’s Samsung 500, we can’t help but quote a little B-movie dialogue: “Yeah. Too quiet.” We’re not sure what’s going to happen this time around – just that something will. As track president Eddie Gossage once said, “If you buy a ticket to one of our events, you can be sure it will be memorable somehow.” Here are five for-instances:

Them’s Fightin’ Words
At the track’s first IRL race, in 1997, a USAC scoring error led to chaos in Victory Lane and a “Don’t Mess with Texas” moment when Houston native A.J. Foyt decked Dutch driver Arie Luyendyk, the rightful winner.

Shut Up and Drive
Moisture weeping through the track contributed to 16 crashes during practice and qualifying for the 1998 Texas 500. Some drivers and fans felt TMS offered a tone-deaf response to a serious safety issue, citing a TMS souvenir T-shirt that carried the slogan “Shut Up and Drive” (even though the shirts had been printed before the moisture problem surfaced). TMS later reconfigured the track to address a number of safety concerns.

Dazed and Confused
In 2001, just hours before the CART Champ Car circuit was to make its inaugural appearance at Texas, CART canceled the race. During qualifying, the combination of the cars’ 230-mph speeds and the track’s 24-degree banking left drivers dizzy and disoriented due to excessive G-loads. TMS later filed suit against CART.

Who Is Francis Ferko?
More legal wrangling in the Lone Star State. In 2002 Francis Ferko, an obscure shareholder at Speedway Motorsports (TMS’s parent company), filed a suit contending that NASCAR violated anti-trust laws by providing favorable race dates to tracks owned by International Speedway Corporation (which was closely affiliated with NASCAR) while denying Texas a second Cup date. Although TMS did eventually land a second date, the “victory” was a dubious one. TMS purchased North Carolina Motor Speedway from ISC for $100 million and transferred that track’s Cup date to Texas.

A Creative Misstep
Last year, TMS launched a billboard campaign that listed various reasons to attend its NASCAR events. One ad depicted Dale Earnhardt Jr. alongside his then-new 88 ride with Hendrick Motorsports, with the tag line: “Reason No. 88: Step-Mom,” an obvious reference to Teresa Earnhardt, Junior’s stepmother and former boss at Dale Earnhardt Inc. In the face of criticism, TMS changed the tag line to “That New Car Smell” instead.

NEXT RACE SAMSUNG 500 Texas Motor Speedway
THE LOWDOWN Martinsville, the slowest, most claustrophobic track on the Cup tour, lived up to its reputation. Twice in the last 50 laps Denny Hamlin and eventual winner Jimmie Johnson swapped the lead, along with plenty of paint. We’re not likely to see a repeat of that kind of close-quarters racing Sunday on the big, fast, wide-open plains of Texas Motor Speedway, one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.

PAST WINNERS
2008    Carl Edwards
2007    Jeff Burton
2006    Kasey Kahne
2005    Greg Biffle

ABOUT Texas
TRACK: Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth, Tx.), 1.5-mile paved oval
RACE LENGTH: 334 laps, 501 miles
FIRST RACE: 1997
SERIES: NASCAR Sprint Cup

Driver Profile:
JEFF GORDON
WHY HE MATTERS: Leads Cup points despite a winless streak dating to 2007.
WHAT HE SAYS: “I’m not really concerned with this streak.”
WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY: Good thing, because the streak isn’t likely to end Sunday at Texas, where Gordon has never won.


Quote of Note
“If the roles were reversed, I’d do the same thing. And, believe me, I will if it ever comes back around.”
–Martinsville runner-up Denny Hamlin, on Jimmie Johnson’s bump-and-run pass for the lead

Where to Watch
Sunday’s pre-race show on Fox starts at 1:30 p.m. EST, followed by the race at 2:15.

UP TO SPEED

A Better-Than-Average Finisher
It’s no surprise that Jimmie Johnson has the highest average finish of all active Cup drivers at Martinsville, where his victory Sunday was his fifth at the track in his last six starts. But it might surprise you to learn that Johnson also has the highest average finish at Texas, where he has just one career win. Moreover, he ranks just 18th in laps led (see chart). Conclusion: Even when they’re not fast enough to win, Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of the No. 48 team manage to wring the most out of the Lowe’s Chevrolet. That’s how you win three straight Sprint Cup championships – and maybe a fourth.

A Test of Fairness
NASCAR’s 2009 test ban has created an irony in the state of Texas. As a NASCAR-sanctioned track, Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Samsung 500, is off limits for testing. But Texas World Speedway, a two-mile oval in College Station that lost its NASCAR sanction in 1981, is fair game. Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle hit 218 mph at a TWS test in January.

Experience Counts (Or Not)
Of the four drivers who have started all 16 Cup races that Texas Motor Speedway has run since it opened in 1997, two have never won there: Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte. Jeff Burton (two wins) and Mark Martin (one) are the other two drivers to start every race at TMS. Carl Edwards, with three wins in eight starts, is the leading winner in TMS history.

WEEKLY STATS
Lap Leaders at Texas Motor Speedway

RANK            DRIVER                LAPS LED
1            Carl Edwards            467
2            Tony Stewart            453
3            Matt Kenseth            442
4            Dale Earnhardt Jr.            394
5            Jeff Gordon                341
6            Greg Biffle                282
7            Terry Labonte            231
8            Kasey Kahne            213
9            Kyle Busch                207
10            Mark Martin                160
11            Jeremy Mayfield            159
12            Elliott Sadler            148
13            Jeff Burton                146
14            Kurt Busch                93
15            Denny Hamlin            86
16            Ryan Newman            84
17            Bill Elliott                82
18            Jimmie Johnson            77
19            Jamie McMurray            60
20            Bobby Labonte            59