NASCAR heads to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday for the second of three races in the playoffs Round of 8. Joey Logano won the opening act at Martinsville last week, securing his spot in the Championship 4 in controversial fashion, leaving just three spots remaining for a shot at the title.
If the championship were to take place this week, Logano would be up against former Cup Series title winners Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, otherwise branded “The Big Three” this season. Busch is currently 46 points above the cut line while Truex and Harvick are 25 points to the good.
In that same scenario, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola would be the four drivers to miss out on Homestead. Kurt Busch is the only former champion outside of “The Big Three” in the field.
Fortunately for the aforementioned drivers, there are indeed two races left before the series ships down to Miami. All any of the seven remaining drivers have to do is win at either Texas or Phoenix to secure their spot in the next round. If another driver in the field wins the next two races, the Championship 4 will be decided on merit.
Now that we’ve got the logistics worked out, let’s take a look at action happening this weekend.
How to watch the AAA Texas 500
Location: Texas Motor Speedway
Date: Sunday, November 4
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Length: 500 miles/334 laps
Stage 1: Ends on Lap 85
Stage 2: Ends on Lap 170
Final stage: Scheduled for Lap 334
Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Let’s begin our preview with the last driver to win at Texas: Kyle Busch. As we mentioned earlier, Busch is currently in the best position to advance on merit, but may not have to sweat given his track record in the Lone Star State. Busch had three career Cup Series wins at Texas in addition to a record eight Xfinity Series wins. Only seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson has more wins than Busch at the track, but we’ll get to him in a little bit.
It only makes sense to move on to Truex and Harvick after discussing Busch, considering their names have been paired all season when it comes to success. NASCAR fans probably remember Harvick securing his spot in the Championship 4 last season when he won this exact race. He followed that effort up with a runner-up finish earlier in the 2018 season. So Harvick fans should feel pretty good about their chances this time out.
As for Truex, chances are he’s still reeling regarding the ending to last week’s Martinsville race, when he — in position to win — was turned by Joey Logano in the final laps to cost him a guaranteed shot at defending his title. Unfortunately for Truex fans, he’s never won at Texas. However, that shouldn’t be much cause for concern considering he has finished in the top five in six of the past seven races there.
Next up is the first driver outside of the current Championship 4 spectrum, Kurt Busch. The No. 41 has shown speed in the past two Texas races, claiming the pole in both. He’s hasn’t won at the track in nearly a decade but does have five top-10 finishes in his last six races there. If the playoffs weren’t enough motivation, factor in that the track will be handing out 30,000 Kurt Busch bobbleheads to fans on Sunday to fuel the fire.
As for the others: NASCAR fans should not sleep on Chase Elliott this weekend. In five starts, his worst finish (11th) came this season as Hendrick Motorsports was adjusting to a new Camaro model. Prior to that, he had a stretch of four straight top-10 finishes leading to an average finish of 7.40. Couple that with the fact he’s won two of the past four races on the schedule and it deduces a strong result for Elliott this weekend.
Looking at the remaining drivers, Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer have shared different experiences at Texas. Bowyer has never won there, however he does have a runner-up finish in his career in addition to starting third and placing ninth in April. As for Almirola, he has an average finish of 20.60 and his only top 10 came back in 2013.
Looking for a potential spoiler this weekend? Well we mentioned Johnson earlier in the article and for good reason. On the heels of obtaining a new sponsor for the next two seasons, Johnson will be looking to end a career-long winless streak on Sunday at a track where he’s had ample success. The No. 48 driver has won more than anyone else in NASCAR history at Texas Motor Speedway, taking seven trips to Victory Lane there throughout his career.
Curious what Johnson’s odds are to win this weekend? How about the drivers in the Round of 8? Head over to SportsLine.com for expert picks and analysis surrounding the NASCAR Playoffs and beyond.
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