The penultimate race of the Round of 8 is upon us as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will take to the Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN). While 40 drivers will be competing for the win, eight drivers will be racing with even more urgency as they’re trying to position themselves to make the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Here are the five favorites for this weekend’s race.
Martin Truex Jr.
While the tracks in the third round aren’t his strongest, his 69 playoff points are a sure way for him to advance to Homestead on points alone. But, Truex doesn’t want to do that. He’d like to win. He hasn’t had to use those playoff points yet and I don’t think he will this round either. 1.5-mile tracks are where Truex is his strongest. Take this stat for what it’s worth, Truex had seven career Cup victories entering this season. He’s already amassed seven wins in 2017 alone. Six of those seven wins have come on 1.5-mile tracks. That means he’s nearly doubled his career win total just on 1.5-mile tracks this season alone.
He’s won all three races on intermediate tracks in the playoffs and has done so even with committing mistakes in each. Why would he stop winning now?
Truex, has five straight top 10 finishes at Texas, including an eighth place run back in April and third place finish in this race last year.
Can Busch go two in-a-row? Busch, has been at his best on 1.5-mile tracks this year too. On top of that, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has seven top five finishes in his last nine Texas starts. I look for him to be strong on Sunday.
This is Johnson’s best chance at victory this round. Texas is a track that Johnson has owned over the course of his storied career. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has seven career wins on the 1.5-mile track, to go along with 15 top five finishes and 21 top 10’s. He has seven top two results in his last 11 starts there. He won at Texas back in April. He won this Fall race four of the last five years. This could be Johnson’s chance to steal another win.
While he’s yet to win a Cup race, this is a chance for Elliott to get to victory lane for the first time of his career. At the very least, he’s destined to be a contender and come away with a top five finish. Elliott, has finished in the top four in each of the three 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs this season, two of the three resulted in a runner-up. He has an average finishing position at Texas of 6.0. He’s never finished outside the top 10 in three career Lonestar state starts, two of which came in the top five.
While he will start 34th, Elliott is saying this is a must win race for him now.
Like Elliott, Harvick has been superb on 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs. He’s yet to finish outside the top 10 in them. If anyone can contend with the Toyota power, it’s Harvick. Plus, he has six straight top 10 finishes at Texas. While he’s never won there, he certainly will be a factor on Sunday.