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NASCAR At Texas: Start Time, Starting Lineup, And Stories To Watch

Today's NASCAR AAA Texas 500 is due to go green at just after 3 p.m. eastern today. The race can be seen on ESPN starting at 2 p.m. with NASCAR Countdown.

To see where your favorite driver - unless your favorite driver is Kyle Busch, of course - starts in today's event, head over to and view the starting lineup.

Here are some stories to watch heading into the event, including the big one.

 How does Michael McDowell do in what has to be an audition race? Before this weekend, Michael McDowell was best known for his horrific qualifying crash at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008. Today, he has his best opportunity to show he belongs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Kyle Busch, of course, is on a self-inflicted vacation from the driver's seat, and Gibbs tapped McDowell - who has driven Nationwide races for the team this season - to pilot the car today.

Where does the title fight stand after 500 miles of racing in Texas? As of right now, only eight points stand between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart in their pursuit of the 2011 Sprint Cup title. Stewart is after his  third championship, while Edwards is looking for his first. Of course, that could all be turned on its head with bad luck for the chief challengers. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski still are within 30 points of the lead, which without help is insurmountable but with help that could come at any turn can certainly be overcome.

Can Georgia's own David Ragan make a statement that helps him earn a ride in the Sprint Cup Series for 2012? Ragan is losing his UPS sponsorship at the end of this season, and with no prospective sponsors on tap for his car, he has been given the go-ahead to look for another ride. A great showing at one of his better tracks would certainly help his search. He rolls off second today, so he will already have a great view of the front of the field. The trick will be staying there.

Do the drivers outside the Chase hunt dictate the Cup title fight like Kyle Busch impacted the Truck title fight Friday? Busch's intentional wreck of Ron Hornaday has drawn added scrutiny for two reasons. First, it added to Busch's mile-long rap-sheet. Secondly, it mathematically ended Hornaday's shot to win his fifth truck title. If a similar situation, intentionally or even unintentionally, were to happen in the much higher stakes Sprint Cup Series, it could be a bigger story come the end of the season than whoever does win the title. Once such situation would be a last-lap spin by Ricky Rudd of Dale Earnhardt at North Wilkesboro in 1989 that cost Earnhardt more than the 12 points he eventually lost the title to Rusty Wallace by.

Is this finally Dale Earnhardt Jr's day? Earnhardt got his first Sprint Cup win - and first Nationwide win for that matter - at Texas and has for years declared it to be his favorite race track. Of the three remaining tracks, Texas might provide his best opportunity to end his winless drought before winter.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.