The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs point standings have been reset and the eight drivers advancing to the Round of 8 have had a sort of mental reset as well with their season hopes now turning to Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

With the NASCAR All-Star Race moving to the spring Texas date, this week’s race will be the first championship points-paying race of the 2021 season on the Lone Star State’s famous high banks.

The championship leader, seven-race winner Kyle Larson won the All-Star Race this spring over Kyle Busch, who is the defending playoffs race winner at Texas.

Busch, who sits fifth in the playoffs standings — one-point behind fourth-place Ryan Blaney — is the winningest active driver at Texas with four Cup Series wins. And that’s in addition to a record 10 Xfinity Series and five Camping World Truck Series victories.

Larson, who in addition to a career-best victory total (including last week at the Charlotte ROVAL), has also won the most stages (15) and led the most laps (2,011) in his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this season. But while he holds a sizable 42-point edge on the Championship 4 Round cutoff, the rest of the championship-eligible drivers are in a tight points situation.

Denny Hamlin, who is second to Larson in the Round of 8 playoffs standings, only holds a seven-point edge on Kyle Busch, who is ranked fifth the first spot outside the Championship 4 Round cutline. Martin Truex Jr., who finished runner-up to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch in the 2021 Texas Playoff race, is only six points above the cutoff line.

Blaney trails Truex by only five points and is a mere single point up on Busch in the fourth and final transfer position. Blaney is only two points up on reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, and 11 points and 16 points ahead of his Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, respectively.

When it comes to Texas Motor Speedway, Hamlin’s two previous victories are second most to Busch among the playoffs drivers. Logano won at Texas in 2014 in the Cup Series, and Elliott earned his career first Xfinity Series win at Texas in 2014 and Keselowski has a pair of Xfinity Series wins at the 1.5-mile track as well.

Interestingly, the top three average finishes at Texas among the playoffs drivers belong to Busch (10.9), Elliott (12.0) and Logano (13.4) — all currently ranked below the cutoff line. The worst average finish among this group of eight championship-eligible drivers belongs to Larson (19.7).

“We’ve been good on the intermediate tracks this year and we have two to start this round,” Larson said of Texas and next week’s Kansas Speedway race.

“We weren’t as good as I would have liked at Texas, but we were able to get the victory in the All-Star Race. And we led a lot of laps at Kansas, so we are looking forward to getting back there. We ran top five at Martinsville (Va.) and that is a track where I don’t have much success but feel positive about it because of how we ran in the spring.”

Elliott, who has already equaled his career best mark of top fives (13), is eager to get back on the right side of the playoffs line. His crew chief Alan Gustafson leads all active crew chiefs in playoffs wins (12) — a mark second all-time to Hendrick Motorsports’ Chad Knaus (29).

“Texas, obviously, has been a real tough place for us,” said Elliott, who has only a pair of top-five finishes in 10 previous starts at the track.

“I feel like the good news is we had a really good run there at the All-Star Race for the first time since the re-pave, so that was really encouraging. Sometimes you’ve got to be careful about having a good run and going back because it doesn’t always work out. The way we’ve performed at all three of the upcoming tracks earlier in the year, I feel like we can go and have a shot to win at any of them really.”

It will be worth keeping an eye on Kevin Harvick, who was eliminated from the playoffs last week at the Charlotte ROVAL but not before some heavy contact with rival Elliott. As does Busch, Harvick is a winner in all three NASCAR national series at Texas with three Cup wins, five Xfinity Series wins and a Camping World Truck Series victory. And when it comes to the fall playoffs race, Harvick’s three wins is most in the field. Only Busch (2020) and Hamlin (2010) have won playoffs races here among the current playoffs drivers.


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