Race Day Schedule
7 am: Garage Opens
1:15 pm: Drivers To Cars
1:20 pm: Driver Intros
1:49 pm: Invocation
1:50 pm: National Anthem
1:57 pm: Command
2:08 pm: Green Flag
Coverage: 2 p.m. ET
Green Flag: 2:08 p.m. ET
Phone: NASCAR App
Race Distance: 334 Laps/501 Miles
Stage Lengths: 105-105-124
Competition Caution: Lap
Playoffs: Round 3, Race 1
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Who Wins Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500?
- In 10 races on the 550 package this season, we’ve seen 7 different winners.
- 3 times has the winner of the Cup race at Texas gone on to win the championship. 2007 – Jimmie Johnson, 2011- Tony Stewart, 2013 – Jimmie Johnson.
- 4 times has the winner of the 7th playoff race gone on to win the title later that season – 2007 Jimmie Johnson (Atlanta), 2011 Tony Stewart (Martinsville), 2016 – Jimmie Johnson (Martinsville), 2018 – Joey Logano (Martinsville).
- 4 times has a non playoff driver won this race – 2006 Tony Stewart, 2014 Jimmie Johnson, 2015 Jimmie Johnson, 2020 Kyle Busch.
As you can see, the prospects of a non playoff winner could very well happen, but with how strong Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have been on 550 tracks, I don’t expect it to. I fully believe we’re going to see all three races this round won by the eight eligible championship drivers.
Denny Hamlin is 2-for-2 (Darlington, Las Vegas) with opening race wins each round. Kyle Larson is 2-for-2 (Bristol, Charlotte) with cut race wins each round. They’re the two favorites to win this year’s championship. Do they start the Round of 8 with a victory?
In 10 races on intermediate tracks this season, Larson has three wins, three runner-ups, seven top fives and a top 10 in all but two. The only two he didn’t get a top 10 was in Kansas to where he led 132 of 267 laps and restarted in the top five on the final shootout but was incurred some damage on it. Then, it was Atlanta when he had problems on pit road.
He’s led 1,351 out of 2,913 possible laps (46%) in these 10 races which also accounts for 67% (1,351 out of 2,011) laps led on the season for him. Furthermore, he’s won 10 stages and has been in the top two in 13 of the 21 stages run on these tracks.
Hamlin, is looking for a third straight opening race of each round win. Take out the two wildcard races at Talladega and the ROVAL and you’d see that Hamlin has led 42% (645 of 1,534) laps this postseason.
They all have the speed but maybe not the finishes at Texas though. Four of Hamlin’s last six finishes there have been 20th or worse. Larson only has three top five’s in his last 13 and also six finishes of 23rd or worst.
Chase Elliott only has three top five finishes on 550 tracks this season and has been 11th or worst in five of his last six at Texas including no top fives since his rookie season there.
That could open the door for someone like Kyle Busch who has eight top five finishes in his last nine 550 starts with his worst finish in that stretch being seventh at Michigan. 6 of his last 7 he’s been in the top 3. He won this very Texas race last year and won at Kansas back in May. He’s also had five top 10’s in his last six at Texas and 10 top fives in his last 16.
Truex Jr. has five top sixes on these same 10 races as well as three top sixes in his last four at Texas and seven top sixes in his last nine at Kansas.
Can the Penske trio top this? Do they have the speed when they said all along the 550 tracks are their worst?
Ford has 2 wins in 10 550 races this season. Chevrolet has five wins with Toyota the other three. For Brad Keselowski, he’s had just three top five finishes on them this season. His teammate Joey Logano has finished 15th or worse in six of those nine without a single top five to his name.
Ford, has only produced seven wins all season. Chevy has 15 and Toyota 10. Ford has at the very minimum 10 wins in every season since 2017. They had 18 last year. They’d have to win 75% of the final four races to end up reaching double digit victories for the fifth straight year and sixth of the last eight overall.
The top teams in Texas history? Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing. They’ve each won nine times. Penske is next best at four.
HMS and JGR have 5 of the 8 drivers left in the playoffs.
Keselowski has been solid in the playoffs with four top 10’s in six races but other than Talladega, they’ve all been sixth or worst. In fact, his runner-up at Talladega was his only his third top five in the last 21 races. He’s not won since Talladega in April (23 races ago) and has led just 44 laps since the start of August.
Logano is in a similar boat. He’s had four top 10’s in the playoffs, two of which in the top five, but one of those was at Talladega too. He’s only had six top fives in his last 23 starts and four in the last 11 at that. Also, out of the last 18 races he’s led just 84 laps. That dates back to Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte and 37 of those came at Daytona in August. His last win came 26 races ago in Bristol during the spring race.
Does he bode well with long winless streaks like that in a round that you’re more than likely going to have to win a race at with two of those three tracks not being your best and the only times you’ve won this season being at a superspeedway (Keselowski) or a dirt track (Logano)?
Keselowski, has finished outside the top 10 in six of his last 10 Texas starts. Logano, has been 15th or worse in four of his last five Kansas races.
That’s why maybe Blaney is their best hope. He’s been faster and more consistent. He’s had seven top fives in the last 12 races and nine top sixes over the last 15 in general. Since the Indy road course, he’s had five top fives including a pair of wins and a runner-up. He’s also led 151 laps in the last 11 races at that.
Plus, out of those Ford wins on 550 tracks, Blaney has two of them. He’s also had seven top sixes in those 10 races to go along with a pair of top four finishes last year at Texas.
- 18 KyBusch – The door is open for him this weekend to prevail.
- 12 Blaney – He’s been stellar at Texas and 550 tracks have suited him so far this season.
- 11 Hamlin – Hard to keep him down at Texas still.
- 5 Larson – He’s shadowing them again.
- 19 Truex Jr. – A typical day for him in Texas.