ADVANCING through the NASCAR Playoffs: Texas analysis

Staff Report
·3 min read

The NASCAR Cup Series continued its Round of 8 in the 2020 NASCAR Playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway with the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500. Sunday marked the second of three races in this postseason round. At the end of it, four drivers will be eliminated from playoff contention and the Championship 4 will be set for the title race Nov. 8 at Phoenix Raceway.

WINNER

Kyle Busch. The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at the 1.5-mile track in Fort Worth, Texas. It marked the reigning NASCAR Cup Series championship’s first win of 2020 and 57th in his career. Busch is not title eligible, though. He was eliminated after the Round of 12.

RELATED: Unofficial race results

WHO’S HOT

Alex Bowman. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is still below the cutoff line, but his No. 88 Chevrolet made a jump in the standings. Bowman now ties for the first elimination spot rather than being two out. The misfortunes of teammate Chase Elliott helped Bowman’s postseason outlook when it comes to points. Bowman was third in Stage 2 and finished fifth.

Brad Keselowski. The Team Penske driver didn’t have a standout race, but his No. 2 Ford did enough to keep his spot above the cutline. He even added to his points cushion. Keselowski was fourth in Stage 2 and finished sixth.

WHO‘S NOT

Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was involved in a wreck on Lap 60. His No. 11 Toyota nudged the rear of Matt Kenseth’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, sending it spinning and into the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevy of Bubba Wallace. Those two sustained substantial damage, ending their days right then and there, but Hamlin carried on after pit-road repairs. He finished ninth.

Chase Elliott. The Hendrick Motorsport driver had tire issues late in Stage 2. His No. 9 Chevrolet had to make an extra, unscheduled stop to pit road. Elliott ended up 27th at the conclusion of the second stage. He later finished 20th and now ties his teammate, Alex Bowman, for the first spot below the cutline.

BUBBLE WATCH

Rank

Driver

Points to cutoff

1.

Joey Logano

WIN

2.

Kevin Harvick

+42

3.

Denny Hamlin

+27

4.

Brad Keselowski

+25

——-

CUTOFF LINE

———————

5.

Chase Elliott

-25

6.

Alex Bowman

-25

7.

Martin Truex Jr.

-36

8.

Kurt Busch

-81

NEXT RACE

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway on Sunday for its final race in the Round of 8 — the Xfinity 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

WHO IT FAVORS

Martin Truex Jr. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was hit with a a pre-race penalty that dug the 2017 champ into an even deeper points hole, so Martinsville is coming at the perfect time. Truex won the last two races at the “Paperclip” and has earned the most points (271) over the past six races there. He’s in must-win mode in order to make the Championship 4, and Martinsville lines up as a strong venue for him to make it happen.

WHO IT HURTS

Alex Bowman. The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet carries the worst Martinsville average finish — 22.0 — among playoff drivers. In Bowman’s nine starts there, he has no top-five and two top-10 finishes, though he finished sixth there earlier this season. Still, he was 30th in this race last year and has never led a lap at Martinsville.