NASCAR viewer’s guide for Texas Motor Speedway
The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs roll on this weekend to Texas Motor Speedway, which will be hosting its first points race of the season.
Former champion Chase Elliott, a four-time race winner and the only driver with more than two victories this year, leads the standings, followed by Joey Logano and Ross Chastain.
The Texas race (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, USA Network) is the first of three races in the Round of 12. Events at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9) will follow.
Entering Texas, Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric are below the cutline.
Chris Buescher won Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, becoming the third non-playoff driver to win during the playoffs.
Three tough teams
Three teams account for nine of the remaining 12 drivers in the hunt for the Cup championship.
Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske and Trackhouse Racing put all of their drivers in the second round.
Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, William Byron and Alex Bowman are in the final 12 for Hendrick. Bowman is below the cutline.
Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney are in the top eight entering Texas. Teammate Austin Cindric is below the cutline.
Trackhouse Racing drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez remain in title contention. Suarez is below the cutline.
In a playoff season marked by troubles of various sorts, Byron is the only driver who has not had a significant issue through the first three races. He has finished eighth, sixth and third in the opening races.
A 20th winner?
In a very unusual season, one of the most unusual statistics is this: Nineteen different drivers have won a race this year, tying the modern-era record set in 2001.
Could there be 20 different winners? In a word, yes.
Six drivers who won races last year haven’t won a points race this year. They are Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Michael McDowell.
Truex, Keselowski and Blaney might be the best bets to be No. 20 this weekend at Texas.
Truex is a three-time runner-up at Texas and has led 674 laps there, the most by any driver without a win at the track.
Keselowski has finished second twice at Texas and led 654 laps there. He led 109 laps Saturday at Bristol as part of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s best race of the season.
Blaney remains in the championship race despite continuing to haul a big zero with him. He won the All-Star Race at Texas this year and has finished in the top 10 in seven of the past eight Texas races.
Playoff standings tight
Twelve drivers will be hoping to advance to the Round of 8 as the NASCAR playoffs stop at Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval over the next three weeks.
The point totals in the top 12 entering Sunday’s race at Texas are tight.
Only 34 points separate leader Chase Elliott and 12th-place Austin Cindric. The point gap from first to 12th in recent seasons has been higher -- 57 in 2021, 66 in 2020, 46 in 2019, 55 in 2018 and 56 in 2017.
The battle around the cutline is tighter. Only seven points separate sixth-place Denny Hamlin and 12th-place Cindric.
Thirty-six drivers are entered in Sunday’s 334-lap Cup race. Included in addition to Cup regulars are Garrett Smithley and Noah Gragson.
Thirty-nine drivers are entered for 38 spots in Saturday’s 200-lap Xfinity Series race. On the list are Tommy Joe Martins, Stefan Parsons, Matt Mills, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Garrett Smithley.
This week’s schedule and forecast
(All times Eastern)
Saturday, Sept. 24
Forecast: Sunny and hot. High of 98.
- 10:35 - 11:05 a.m. -- Xfinity Series practice (USA Network)
- 11:05 - Noon -- Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)
- 12:35 - 1:20 p.m. -- Cup Series practice (USA Network)
- 1:20 - 2:30 p.m. -- Cup Series qualifying (USA Network)
- 3:30 p.m. -- Xfinity Series race (200 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Sept. 25
Forecast: Mostly sunny. Stray shower or thunderstorm possible. High of 95. 15% chance of rain.
- 3:30 p.m. -- Cup Series race (334 laps, 501 miles; USA Network, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)