Dust off your Cowboy hats, the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are headed to Texas

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They say it’s always bigger in Texas and this weekend we agree as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway on October 17 at 2 p.m. ET (on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 the first race in the Playoffs’ Round of 8.

The inception of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series was in 2004 and Texas Motor Speedway was added to the postseason schedule in 2005 – at the time replacing Darlington Raceway – and the famous facility has been hosting Playoff events ever since. Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) is a 1.5-mile paved oval located in Fort Worth, Texas and is equipped with 20 degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2 and 24 degrees of banking in Turns 3 and 4.  

The 2021 season will mark the first time since joining the Playoff schedule in 2005 that Texas Motor Speedway will not host the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2005-2020) but instead will host the seventh race of the postseason. This weekend, Texas Motor Speedway will become the fifth different track to host the seventh race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; joining Atlanta Motor Speedway (2004-2008), Talladega Superspeedway (2009-2010), Martinsville Speedway (2011-2019) and Kansas Speedway (2020).

Eight different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Texas Motor Speedway, led by Jimmie Johnson with five victories (2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers with three Texas Playoff wins (2017-2019).

Texas Motor Speedway Playoff Race Winners
TrackPlayoff Race WinnersDate
TexasCarl EdwardsSunday, November 6, 2005
TexasTony StewartSunday, November 5, 2006
TexasJimmie JohnsonSunday, November 4, 2007
TexasCarl EdwardsSunday, November 2, 2008
TexasKurt BuschSunday, November 8, 2009
TexasDenny HamlinSunday, November 7, 2010
TexasTony StewartSunday, November 6, 2011
TexasJimmie JohnsonSunday, November 4, 2012
TexasJimmie JohnsonSunday, November 3, 2013
TexasJimmie JohnsonSunday, November 2, 2014
TexasJimmie JohnsonSunday, November 8, 2015
TexasCarl EdwardsSunday, November 6, 2016
TexasKevin HarvickSunday, November 5, 2017
TexasKevin HarvickSunday, November 4, 2018
TexasKevin HarvickSunday, November 3, 2019
TexasKyle BuschSunday, October 25, 2020

Three times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series Texas Motor Speedway Playoff race has gone on to win the title later that same season: 

  • In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the eighth starting position at Texas Motor Speedway and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series title later that season. The Playoff win at Texas was his third of four consecutive victories in the 2007 Playoffs – the only driver to win four straight in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix).
  • In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the fifth starting position at Texas Motor Speedway and went on to win his third NASCAR Cup Series championship later that season. The Texas Playoff win was Stewart’s fourth of his record setting five NASCAR Cup Series Playoff wins in a single postseason run in 2011 (Chicago, New Hampshire, Martinsville, Texas, Homestead-Miami).
  • In 2013, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Texas Motor Speedway and went on to win his sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship later that season. The Texas Playoff win was Johnson’s second postseason victory (Dover, Texas) in 2013.

Three times a non-Playoff driver has won the Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway:

  • In 2006, Tony Stewart was ranked 11th in the point standings at the time of his Texas Playoff race win.
  • In 2014, Jimmie Johnson was 11th in points at the time of the win. Johnson had made the Playoffs in 2014 but was eliminated in the Round of 12. 
  • In 2015, Jimmie Johnson was 12th in points at the time of the win. Johnson had made the Playoffs in 2015 but was eliminated in the Round of 16. 

A total of 10 different drivers have won the seventh race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, led by Jimmie Johnson with four victories (2004 Atlanta, 2007 Atlanta, 2012 Martinsville and 2016 Martinsville). Joey Logano leads all active drivers in victories in the seventh race of the postseason with two (2018 Martinsville, 2020 Kansas).

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Race No. 7 Winners
TrackPlayoff Race WinnersDate
AtlantaJimmie JohnsonSunday, October 31, 2004
AtlantaCarl EdwardsSunday, October 30, 2005
AtlantaTony StewartSunday, October 29, 2006
AtlantaJimmie JohnsonSunday, October 28, 2007
AtlantaCarl EdwardsSunday, October 26, 2008
TalladegaJamie McMurraySunday, November 1, 2009
TalladegaClint BowyerSunday, October 31, 2010
MartinsvilleTony StewartSunday, October 30, 2011
MartinsvilleJimmie JohnsonSunday, October 28, 2012
MartinsvilleJeff GordonSunday, October 27, 2013
MartinsvilleDale Earnhardt JrSunday, October 26, 2014
MartinsvilleJeff GordonSunday, November 1, 2015
MartinsvilleJimmie JohnsonSunday, October 30, 2016
MartinsvilleKyle BuschSunday, October 29, 2017
MartinsvilleJoey LoganoSunday, October 28, 2018
MartinsvilleMartin Truex JrSunday, October 27, 2019
KansasJoey LoganoSunday, October 18, 2020

Four times the winner of the seventh NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race has gone on to win the championship later that same season: 

  • In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the sixth starting position at Atlanta Motor Speedway and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series championship.
  • In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the fourth starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his third NASCAR Cup Series championship.
  • In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his record tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship.
  • In 2018, Joey Logano won from the 10th starting position at Martinsville Speedway and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Three non-Playoff drivers have won the seventh race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs:

  • In 2006, Tony Stewart won the seventh race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he was 11th in points at the time of the win.
  • In 2009, Jamie McMurray won the seventh race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway, he was ranked 22nd in the points at the time of the win.
  • In 2010, Clint Bowyer won the seventh race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway, he was 12th in the points at the time of the win.  

The worst finish by a driver in the seventh NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race that later went on to win the title that same season was a 42nd-place finish by Kurt Busch in 2004 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The finish was due to engine failure. 

The worst finish by a driver in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway that later went on to win the title that same season was a 38th-place finish by Jimmie Johnson in 2009. The 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano, finished third in the 2018 Texas Playoff race and in 2019, series champ Kyle Busch finished seventh in the Texas Playoff race. Last season’s champion, Chase Elliott, finished 20th at Texas in the Playoff race.  

Eight drivers advanced to the third round of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and will battle it out this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway: Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Expect the competition intensity to keep bubbling over in this round as five former series champions make up the elite eight.

Cup Series expects to be Texas two-stepping on Sunday 

The stage is set for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway for another great weekend of racing action on the 1.5-mile high-speed oval.  

In total, Texas Motor Speedway has hosted the NASCAR Cup Series 40 times producing 25 different pole winners and 20 different race winners. The inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway was on April 6, 1997 and the race was won by Jeff Burton driving for Roush Fenway Racing (Ford). Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kurt Busch leads the series in poles at Texas with three (2015, 2017, 2018) and Jimmie Johnson leads the series in wins at Texas with seven victories (2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 sweep and 2017) in 34 starts. Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in wins at Texas with four victories (2013, 2016, 2018, 2020).

This weekend’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 (Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be 334 laps (501 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages will be 105 laps each and the final stage will be 124 laps. 

The starting lineups for this weekend’s Playoff race at Texas were set by Metric Qualifying and as a result Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson will start from the pole and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will join him on the front row. Four of the 40 NASCAR Cup Series races (10%) at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the pole or first starting position: Kasey Kahne (2006), Jimmie Johnson (2012), Kyle Busch (2013) and Kevin Harvick (2019).  And seven of the 40 series races (17.5%) at Texas have been won from the front row.

Clinch Scenarios in the Lone Star state

Following an intense Round of 12, Texas Motor Speedway is set to kick off the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 and much like every first race of a new round in the postseason the clinch scenarios are simple – ‘Win and You’re In’.  But only four drivers will advance to the next round and heading into this weekend the drivers straddling the Championship 4 Round cutoff are separated by only one point.

Already Clinched

No drivers have clinched a spot in the 4-driver field of the next round.

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following the Charlotte Road Course
RankDriverPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff
1Kyle Larson (P)4,0657156542
2Denny Hamlin (P)4,030210307
3Martin Truex Jr. (P)4,02945296
4Ryan Blaney (P)4,02434241
5Kyle Busch (P)4,0232623-1
6Chase Elliott (P)4,0222422-2
7Joey Logano (P)4,0131513-11
8Brad Keselowski (P)4,008128-16

Kyle Larson gets seventh win this season, joins rare company

Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson has several nicknames, but the one heard most frequently this season in the NASCAR Cup Series is winner. Larson overcame several obstacles last weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course to clutch his seventh win of 2021 season – series-most. Now the 29-year-old is looking to make it the Championship 4 Round for the first time in his career.

Larson’s most recent victory makes him the 21st different driver in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) to win seven or more races in a single season and just the sixth different active driver to accomplish the feat joining Denny Hamlin (2010, 2020), Kevin Harvick (2018, 2020), Kyle Busch (2008, 2018), Martin Truex Jr. (2017, 2019) and Ryan Newman (2003).

The record in the Modern Era for the most wins in a single Cup season is 13 by NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (1998) and Richard Petty (1975). Petty also holds the all-time record for most Cup wins in a single season at 27 in 48 starts in 1967.

Larson returns to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend as the most recent winner at the track, taking the NASCAR All-Star Race victory back in June. In total, Larson has made 13 series starts at Texas posting three top fives and four top 10s. 

Playoff Bubble: The Elite Eight at Texas

Since the NASCAR Cup Series introduced the elimination-style format in 2014, Texas Motor Speedway Playoff race winner has advanced to the Championship 4 Round in four of the seven races (2014-2020) – Carl Edwards in 2016 and Kevin Harvick in 2017-2019. Eight Playoff drivers are vying for four spots in the next round and four of the eight are former series winners at Texas.

Kyle Larson continues to be red hot this season grabbing his seventh win of 2021 and his second of the Playoffs last weekend at the Charlotte Road Course. Larson is currently the Playoff standings leader with 4,065 points, 42 points up on the Championship 4 Round cutoff. He is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first time in his career. Larson has made 13 series starts at Texas posting three top fives and four top 10s. His average finish at Texas is 19.7. 

Denny Hamlin remains one of the top performers this season having put up two wins, 17 top fives and 23 top 10s. He is currently ranked second in the Playoff standings with 4,030 points just seven points ahead of the Championship 4 Round cutline. Hamlin is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the fourth time in his career (2014, 2019, 2020). Hamlin has made 30 series starts at Texas amassing three wins (2010 sweep, 2019), seven top fives and 13 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.5-mile track is 13.8.

Martin Truex Jr. was the final driver to advance on points into the Round of 8 last weekend at the Charlotte Road Course, but 2017 series champion is no stranger to postseason adversity. To this point in the season, he has posted four wins, 11 top fives and 17 top 10s. Truex is currently third in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings a mere six points ahead of the Championship 4 Round cutoff and is looking to make the final round for the fifth time in his career (2015, 2017, 2018, 2019). He has made 31 series starts at Texas putting up five top fives and 17 top 10s. His average finish at Texas is 13.6. 

Ryan Blaney leads the Team Penske brigade into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 8. Blaney has collected three wins, 10 top fives and 18 top 10s this season. The 27-year-old is currently fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings – the final transfer spot to the Championship 4 Round – and only one point ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch in fifth. Blaney is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first time in his series career. He has made 12 series starts at Texas posting three top fives and six top 10s. His average finish on the 1.5-mile track is 17.2. 

Kyle Busch, the only active multiple series champion (2015, 2019), enters the NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 for the sixth time in his career (2015, ’16, ’17, ’18, ’19, ’21). In 2021, Busch has put up two wins, 13 top fives and 19 top 10s. The Las Vegas native find himself one point back from Ryan Blaney in the fourth and final transfer position to the Championship 4 Round. Busch has qualified for the Championship 4 Round in five of the last six seasons. His five Championship 4 Round (2015-2019) appearances are tied with Kevin Harvick for the NASCAR Cup Series most and if he makes the final around again this season, he will break that tie and become the NASCAR Cup Series sole leader in Championship 4 Round appearances at six. Busch has made 30 series starts at Texas Motor Speedway and leads all active drivers in wins with four (2013, 2016, 2018, 2020). He has also put up 14 top fives, 17 top 10s and an average finish of 10.9 at Texas. 

Chase Elliott managed to overcome an on-track feud with Kevin Harvick to barely scrape into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 last weekend at the Charlotte Road Course, and now the 2020 series champion finds himself sixth in the Playoff standings just two points back from Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney in the fourth and final Championship 4 Round transfer spot. This season, Elliott has been superb, collecting two wins, 13 top fives and 18 top 10s. The 25-year-old, Elliott, is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the second time in his career (2020). He has made 10 series starts at Texas posting two top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at the 1.5-mile track is 12.0. 

Joey Logano advanced to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 8 this last weekend at Charlotte; It was the seventh time in his career has advanced out of the second round (2014, ’15, ’16, ’18, ’19, ’20, ’21). Logano has been impressive this season grabbing one win, 10 top fives and 17 top 10s. Now the 31-year-old is ranked seventh in the Playoff standings 11 points behind his Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney in the fourth and final Championship 4 Round transfer spot. Logano is looking to make the final round for the fifth time in his career (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020). The 2018 Cup champion has made 25 series starts at Texas posting one win, 11 top fives and 14 top 10s. His average finish at Texas is 13.4. 

Brad Keselowski currently occupies the eighth and final position in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 and is 16 points behind his teammate Ryan Blaney in the final Championship 4 Round transfer spot. Keselowski has put up one win, eight top fives and 14 top 10s this season. The Michigan native advanced to the Round of 8 for the fifth time in his career (2014, ’15, ’17, ’20, ’21) and now is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the third time in his Cup career (2017, 2020). Keselowski has made 25 series starts at Texas posting five top fives and 10 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.5-mile track is 16.8.

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