Playoff Bubble: New venue provides new opportunity to win In The NCS

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With 10 drivers already locked into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and one spot reserved for the points leader without a win (currently Denny Hamlin), that leaves just five spots still up for grabs by virtue of a win or on points as the series heads to the Circuit of The Americas this weekend. The NASCAR Cup Series has reached the halfway point in the 2021 regular season schedule and time is of the essence for teams to solidify their position in the postseason. 

One driver along the Playoff cutline riding the momentum right now is Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick. After dropping as far as 28th in the points following Atlanta (3/21), the 25-year-old from Corning, California has put up five of his six top-10 finishes this season and has clawed his way back up to 16th in the series driver standings – the final transfer spot for the Playoffs. With his eighth-place finish at Dover last weekend, Reddick is now 17 points up on Matt DiBenedetto in 17th in the driver standings – the first spot outside the postseason cutoff.

Of the drivers not already locked in to the Playoffs by wins or being the points leader but are above the postseason cutline – Kevin Harvick (+151 above Playoff cutline), Chase Elliott (+146), Austin Dillon (+60), Chris Buescher (+28) and Tyler Reddick (+17) – getting that first of 2021 season is crucial with the parity of the competition this season. With 13 races left in the regular season and already 10 different winners in the first 13 races of the season, the odds of five more different winners happening are not that farfetched.  Though it would be the first time more than 15 drivers have won in the NASCAR Cup Series since going to the elimination-style format in the Playoffs (2014-2021), the previous record for most wins during that time was 15 different winners in 2017. Last season the NASCAR Cup Series produced 13 different winners, led by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick with nine victories. Harvick is still looking for his first win of the 2021 season; he finished in the top-10 (sixth) at the Daytona Road Course earlier this season. 

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Matthew McConaughey named grand marshal at COTA – This week it was announced that Texas native Matthew McConaughey, an award-winning actor, bestselling author, co-owner of Austin FC and a professor and Minister of Culture at the University of Texas, has been named the Grand Marshal for the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. 

“We are thrilled to have Matthew McConaughey serve as the Grand Marshal for the much-anticipated inaugural EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix here at Circuit of The Americas,” said Bryan Hammond, executive director for NASCAR at COTA. “Matthew is beloved here in the state of Texas and makes his home right here in Austin when he’s not traveling around the world for work and passion projects. As a motorsport enthusiast of NASCAR and other forms of racing, we couldn’t think of anyone better to give the command to start engines for this historic race.”

It’s the second time McConaughey has served in a Grand Marshal role for a NASCAR race as he also gave the command to start at the Daytona 500 in 2005.

“I’m honored to be the Grand Marshal for NASCAR’s first visit to Circuit of The Americas here in my hometown of Austin,” said McConaughey. “There’s nothing more American than NASCAR racing and it’s wonderful to see the sport make its first visit to this challenging road course.”

William Byron surfs a top-10 hot streak to COTA – Hendrick Motorsport’s driver William Byron has been considerably consistent this season posting 11 consecutive top-10 finishes from the third race in the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he won to just last weekend at Dover International Speedway. Now the North Carolina native, Byron, heads to the Circuit of The Americas to keep the streak alive. Byron is tied with Joey Logano (2015) for the third-most consecutive string of top-10 finishes among active drivers with 11 each, behind Kevin Harvick (2020) and Kyle Busch (2018-2019) each with 13 consecutive top-10 finishes. 

Top Five Active Cup Drivers With Most Consecutive Top-10 Finishes

Active DriversConsecutive Top-10 FinishesSeason
Kevin Harvick132019-2020
Kyle Busch132018-2019
Joey Logano112015
William Byron112021
Brad Keselowski102015

Harvick and Busch’s streaks began in one season and ended in the next season, where as Logano and Byron’s were achieved all in one season. Logano’s streak of 11 straight top 10s also included five wins in 2015. 

The all-time NASCAR Cup Series record for the most consecutive top-10 finishes is 24 set by Herb Thomas in 1953 (5/17/1953 – 10/4/1953) and then later tied by Joe Weatherly in 1962 (7/17/1962 – 11/22/1962). 

NASCAR Hall of Famer and FOX Sports TV analyst Jeff Gordon holds the record for most consecutive top-10 finishes by a Hendrick Motorsports driver with 21 straight top 10s from 6/14/1998 – 2/14/1999, Gordon also put up 14 straight top 10s from 6/18/1995 – 10/1/1995.

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