The final race of the first round of the playoffs saw a thrilling points battle wrapped up at Bristol with regular season champ Martin Truex Jr. narrowly avoiding elimination. Now NASCAR kicks off the second round of the playoffs by heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400. Before we preview Sunday’s race, let’s take a look at the points situation.
Playoff Picture Heading Into AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400
With NASCAR’s second round underway, the playoff field shrinks from 16 to 12, and points reset. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell, veteran Kevin Harvick, and perhaps the biggest surprise – defending champ Joey Logano all bow out after Round One. With just four points over Logano and Harvick, Bubba Wallace clinched the final spot in Round Two at Bristol. Check out the list below for the current standings.
- William Byron – 25 Points Above Cut Line
- Martin Truex Jr. – 25 Points Above Cut Line
- Denny Hamlin – 21 Points Above Cut Line
- Kyle Larson – 12 Points Above Cut Line
- Chris Buescher – 10 Points Above Cut Line
- Kyle Busch – 8 Points Above Cut Line
- Christopher Bell – 5 Points Above Cut Line
- Tyler Reddick – 3 Points Above Cut Line
- Ross Chastain – 3 Points Below Cut Line
- Brad Keselowski – 3 Points Below Cut Line
- Ryan Blaney – 6 Points Below Cut Line
- Bubba Wallace – 14 Points Below Cut Line
Who Advances to Round 3?
While Bubba Wallace’s run at Bristol to qualify for Round Two impressed me, I think a win at Talladega represents the driver of the #23’s best chance to advance. Unfortunately, with the unpredictability of the draft-style tracks, I’m not willing to wager on it and I think Bubba Wallace’s playoff hunt ends after this round.
Much like his teammate eliminated in the Round of 16, Ryan Blaney’s Penske Ford just doesn’t seem to possess the speed he needs to advance. Blaney’s playoff hunt also ends in the second round.
Brad Keselowski represents the driver currently below the cut line with the best chance to qualify for the Round of Eight. It feels like a matter of time before Keselowski finds Victory Lane. I’m not sure if he makes it happen in Round Two but I think he’ll do enough to qualify for Round Three on points.
Ross Chastain hasn’t been exceedingly impressive with his speed in the playoffs either. The driver of the #1 may find a win on Talledega, but unfortunately, the road course that ends this round is not a track type Ross excels at. His playoff run ends here.
Finally, I see Kyle Busch as the last driver eliminated in Round Two. While the driver of the #8 has three wins on the season, he’s struggled in the second half. Unless RCR finds some speed in a hurry, I don’t like KB’s chances at any of the tracks coming up.
There are no surprises in the lineup at Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday. Zane Smith steps into the #38 for the race while Todd Gilliland slides over to the #51. Carson Hocevar once again mans the #42, a role he’s impressed me in so far this season.
While 1.5-mile tracks have produced some fantastic races this season, the current layout of TMS tends to produce subpar racing. I’d love to sugarcoat it and tell you that the race will be good on Sunday. It likely won’t.
POV: you cheering at the #AndysFrozenCustard300 & #AutotraderEchoPark400 in 5 DAYS! Who's ready to see the #NoLimits fight for the spot in Victory Lane?— Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) September 18, 2023
🎟 https://t.co/hqfJBvs4HF pic.twitter.com/0NlIzumDCF
I’ll be tuning in and hoping to be proved wrong but as for predicting a winner, I’ll go with Martin Truex Jr. The driver of the #19 suffered some horrible luck in Round One and still managed to advance. He’s due for a bounce-back performance.
Check out the schedule below so you don’t miss any on-track action from Texas Motor Speedway!
NASCAR Xfinity Series Qualifying – 10:05 a.m. CT on NBC Streaming
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – 12:20 p.m. CT on USA
Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 (NASCAR Xfinity Series) – 2:30 p.m. CT on USA
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 (NASCAR Cup Series) – 2:30 p.m. CT on USA