No matter if you like Joey Logano’s “bump and run” move on the last lap of the NASCAR race at Martinsville or not … his win following the move locked him in the Championship Four with a chance to win the championship at Homestead-Miami in a few weeks. The remaining seven drivers still in the playoffs will be doing everything they can to win this weekend to earn that same automatic advance to the Championship Four. There are three drivers that are on the edge of a “must win” scenario based on numbers to have a shot at the 2018 title. Take a look at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Leader Board below.
After a week of beating and banging, with very little room to pass on the short track last week, the drivers will be able to run wide-open with plenty of room to pass at Texas Motor Speedway. That is if their car has the speed to make the pass. The cars will also need great handling and drivers will need to be mistake free. If either of these two factors are not there the result could be catastrophic for the chance to win the race.
Pit crews will also need to bring their “A game.” A mistake while servicing the car can result in time lost on the track. That time might not be able to be made up by the driver for a chance to win. That will come into play even more importantly near the end of the race.
Let’s take a look at the definitive data about Texas Motor Speedway and the AAA Texas 500 that every driver and team will be dealing with.
Texas Motor Speedway Data
Track Size: 1.5-mile
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 20 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 24 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 2,250 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,330 feet
AAA Texas 500 Data
Season Race #: 34 of 36 (11-04-18)
Race Length: 334 laps / 501 miles
Stage 1 & 2 Length: 85 laps (each)
Final Stage Length: 164 laps
Here’s a look at the top active drivers in NASCAR’s top division at the track.
Top 10 Active Driver Ratings at Texas
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 104.1
Matt Kenseth………………………. 103.8
Kyle Busch…………………………. 101.9
Chase Elliott…………………………. 95.3
Kevin Harvick……………………….. 94.4
Martin Truex Jr……………………… 94.2
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 89.7
Kurt Busch…………………………… 89.2
Erik Jones……………………………. 89.2
Brad Keselowski……………………. 88.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2018 races (27 total) among active drivers at Texas Motor Speedway.
Driver names in RED are playoff drivers in the Round of Eight.
Jimmie Johnson has been eliminated from the playoffs. However, he is driving to keep his streak of at least one win a year alive since he came to the cup series. He is at the top of the list of active drivers in driver rating at the track. He is also the active driver with the most wins on his resume at the track with seven Texas victories. Will he be able to finally get his first 2018 win this weekend? There are good odds for it.
Kyle Busch can lock his spot in the Championship Four with a win this week and therefore a chance at winning the championship. Kyle won the 2018 spring race at the track which was his third career win in Texas in the cup series.
Denny Hamlin is looking to keep his own streak of consecutive years with at least one win alive like Jimmie Johnson. Also like Jimmie, Denny has been eliminated from championship contention. You can bet that Denny will doing all he can to play spoiler to the Round of Eight drivers by winning his third NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in his career this week.
Three of the four active drivers with a single win at Texas are also drivers in the Round of Eight. Kevin Harvick’s win came in this race last year. He will try to punch his ticket to the Championship Four by winning back-to-back AAA Texas 500s.
Joey Logano is locked in the Championship Four. However, getting another win for momentum heading toward that championship race will definitely be on his mind. There is no pressure for him at this point with nothing to lose. These facts mean he could be very aggressive to get his second win at the Texas.
Kurt Busch is just below the cutoff line for the Championship Four at this point. He needs to be more cautious during this week’s race to avoid being in a “must win” scenario next week. If he can get his second Texas win of his career that pressure disappears for next week.
Ryan Newman failed to make the NASCAR Playoffs this year. He has a single win at Texas during his career. He never cuts any driver; rookie or veteran, playoff driver or not, any slack on the track. He races hard every lap and if you pass him you have earned the position. He will have no problem taking the win and will do everything he can toward that goal.
There are plenty of story lines that will be playing out when the green flag waives to start the race this weekend. The one with Martin Truex Jr. will be foremost in everybody’s minds if you ask me. It has been announced that Martin’s team will close its doors at the end of this season. He is the defending 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion. How aggressive will he be to ensure his spot in the Championship Four? Will he take the chance to get payback on Joey Logano for the last lap from last week’s race if the opportunity presents itself?
These questions and many more will be answered during the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, November 4th starting at 2 PM central time (3 PM eastern time).
By: Buck Stevens