The round of eight in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs rolls on Sunday to the Texas Motor Speedway. Three spots remain in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 8 and a chance to win the title. Joey Logano sewed up one spot with last week’s Kansas win.
Kansas and Texas bring back-to-back 1.5-mile tracks to the playoff schedule, but despite being the same distance around, the speedways are quite different. While high speeds and drafting will again be on display, Texas has a trickier layout because the turns are banked differently from one another. That differentiation makes setting up cars to handle well a challenge as drivers need to adapt on opposite ends of the racetrack.
In addition to those remaining in the title picture, others have chances to shine Sunday. Several who didn’t make the playoffs or who have been eliminated from the championship picture ran well in the first Texas race, including Austin Dillon, who can’t win the title but did win there in the spring. It opens the possibility for an upset win or at least a driver playing spoiler to those trying to keep their playoff hopes alive and advance to Phoenix.
Here’s a look at the favorites Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway:
He has been by far the best performer at Texas in recent years in terms of average finish, with a mark of 4.1 over the last 10 races. Next best is Kyle Busch’s 8.3, more than double Harvick’s effort. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has won three of the last six Texas races and has six top-5 finishes in the previous seven outings at the track. He comes into the weekend after finishing second to Logano last week in Kansas.
He is playing with house money. Logano has nothing to worry about in the championship chase since he’s locked into the finale. All the Team Penske driver has to concentrate on is winning, something he has done at Texas. Logano has six top-5 finishes in his last nine Texas starts.
The best bet among the non-playoff drivers in Texas. Blaney has led the third-most laps over the last 10 Texas races and has five top-5 finishes in the previous six races. Only an engine problem in the spring 2019 race derailed that string.
The intermediate-track program for Elliott’s team has been better in recent outings, and despite a radio communication problem in Kansas, he finished sixth. He has a couple of top-5 Texas finishes to his credit as well as five career top-10 runs in just nine starts.