NASCAR playoffs at Texas: Lineup, predictions, schedule, what to know for Cup race

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NASCAR’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway opens the final playoff round before the Championship 4 at Phoenix. The Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 race is Sunday at 2 p.m. on NBC.

Eight drivers remain in title contention following last weekend’s dramatic cutoff race at the Charlotte Roval won by regular-season champion Kyle Larson. Larson enters this Sunday’s race ranked first in points, followed in order by Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney. Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are the four playoff drivers sitting below the points cutline.

Larson is starting on the pole at Texas and he’s the favorite to win (+275), according to BetMGM odds, followed by Hamlin (+600), Elliott (+700) and Busch (+700). Kevin Harvick leads all active Cup drivers in playoff wins at Texas with three victories at the 1.5-mile oval.

Harvick, however, was eliminated from championship contention after wrecking himself out of last weekend’s race amid storylines that centered on his ongoing feud with defending champion Elliott. NASCAR is looking to quash the intentional wrecking as the season nears its end. The AP reported this week that NASCAR held a call with the two teams involved, warning them to cease any retaliatory moves.

“I think they’ve had enough,” Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet crew chief Alan Gustafson told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “They made that pretty clear.”

NASCAR at Texas predictions

With the Harvick-Elliott drama fizzling, the focus is likely to return to the competitive battle atop the points leaderboard between Larson and Hamlin. Hamlin is slated to start second alongside Larson in the front row this weekend for his No. 11 Toyota team, which has won each opening playoff round of the season so far. Will the streak continue?

Hamlin has three wins at Texas, his latest win at the track being in 2019. He finished ninth at last year’s Texas playoff race behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Busch in first and Truex in second.

Larson won this year’s All-Star race at Texas, and his No. 5 Chevrolet team has been particularly strong on the tracks running the 550 horsepower package. Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford team is another one to watch since driver Ryan Blaney has fared well at similar speedways this year.

Busch, Truex and Blaney could be other strong picks for the win on Sunday, but ultimately the recent team consistency of Larson and Hamlin seems impossible to ignore. I predict one of those two drivers will clinch another win weekend, with Larson likely solidifying a 2021 points victory in Fort Worth.

The race is 501 miles (334 laps) with stages ending on laps 105, 210 and 334.

How to watch the NASCAR playoff race at Texas

  • Race: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500

  • Distance: 501 miles (334 laps) with stages ending on laps 105, 210 and 334

  • Where: Texas Motor Speedway

  • When: Sunday, Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. EST

  • TV: NBC

  • Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR at Texas starting lineup

Order

Driver

Car No.

1

Kyle Larson

5

2

Denny Hamlin

11

3

Kyle Busch

18

4

Ryan Blaney

12

5

Joey Logano

22

6

Chase Elliott

9

7

Brad Keselowski

2

8

Martin Truex Jr.

19

9

Tyler Reddick

8

10

Chris Buescher

17

11

Christopher Bell

20

12

William Byron

24

13

Matt DiBenedetto

21

14

Alex Bowman

48

15

Austin Dillon

3

16

Michael McDowell

34

17

Kurt Busch

1

18

Bubba Wallace

23

19

Daniel Suarez

99

20

Cole Custer

41

21

Erik Jones

43

22

Aric Almirola

10

23

Ryan Preece

37

24

Kevin Harvick

4

25

Ross Chastain

42

26

Chase Briscoe

14

27

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

47

28

Anthony Alfredo

38

29

Corey LaJoie

7

30

Quin Houff

0

31

Ryan Newman

6

32

Justin Haley

77

33

Josh Bilicki

52

34

Cody Ware

51

35

BJ McLeod

78

36

Garrett Smithley

15

37

Joey Gase

53

38

David Starr

66

39

Timmy Hill

13

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