The starting lineup for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway was set by applying the statistical formula NASCAR is using for the majority of Cup races in 2021.
Drivers’ starting positions for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500, the first race in the Round of 8 and the seventh race of the 2021 Cup Series playoffs (2 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), were based on four factors:
NASCAR is conducting qualifying for just eight of the 36 Cup Series points-paying races in the 2021 season. Seven of those races have already been run; the one remaining race with qualifying is the season-ending Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 7. NASCAR cut back on qualifying to limit time spent at the track and reduce costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below is the starting lineup, which was set without qualifying, for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval.
Who won the pole for the NASCAR race at Texas?
Kyle Larson was awarded the pole for Sunday’s playoff race based on NASCAR’s formula. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is coming off a win in the Round of 12 elimination race on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval on Oct. 10. The victory was his seventh of the season and his second of the playoffs.
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Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin will join Larson on the front row. Hamlin and Larson have battled for the series points lead most of the season. Larson enters the Round of 8 with a 35-point advantage over second-place driver Hamlin.
NASCAR Cup playoff standings
The Round of 8 field was set last weekend with the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kyle Larson exited that race with the win and a 42-point lead over Kyle Busch, the first driver below the cut line for the season-ending Championship 4 race.
The field is bunched tightly after Larson; the second- through sixth-place drivers are separated by just eight points. That closeness makes winning one of the next three races vitally important. A playoff driver who wins a race in the Round of 8 automatically qualifies for the Championship 4 race on Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway.
“You’ve got to be really good. You’ve got to do a good job every lap of every race. You’ve got to get your stage points,” Larson said of the challenge of being the front-runner. “You can’t let your guard down and lose ground on guys that are gaining points on you. Yes, it’s nice to have the (65) bonus points that we have but I’m hoping we don’t have to lean on them like we did at Talladega, or going into (Charlotte).”
Larson finished 37th at Talladega after wrecking. That result cost him more than half his lead over the first driver below the cut line, which was Kevin Harvick for the Charlotte race.
Five past Cup Series champions are in this year’s final eight: Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
NASCAR starting lineup at Texas
NASCAR used a mathematical formula to set the starting lineup for Sunday’s playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500. Thirty-nine cars were entered for the race, which is one short of a full field. Playoff drivers are denoted by a “P” next to their names.
Per NASCAR’s playoff rules, the top eight spots in the field went to the eight remaining playoff drivers, but the starting order was based on the mathematical formula NASCAR has used for the majority of its races this season.
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