NASCAR Playoffs in Texas: How to Watch, Stream, Preview, Picks for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500

If the results of the first round are anything to go by, the 2022 Cup Series playoffs have been indicative of a changing NASCAR landscape. Four drivers who are in the Round of 12 had never before competed for a Cup championship, while the four drivers eliminated after the Round of 16 included two future Hall of Famers with three championships between them. And for the first time in NASCAR’s playoff era, not a single playoff driver won a race in the Round of 16, as the rest of the field has given its all as well as the drivers competing for the championship.

The relative lack of championship pedigrees in the playoff field and goosebumps in the win column for playoff drivers means the Round of 16 marks a great opportunity for someone to strike first and establish themselves as perhaps the favorite for the Cup championship. That process begins this week at Texas Motor Speedway, where the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 will open the Round of 12.

How to watch the NASCAR playoffs in Texas

  • Date: Sunday, September 25
  • Location: Texas Motor Speedway — Fort Worth, Texas
  • Weather: 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time
  • TV: USA Network
  • Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

what to see

a sticky situation

Just over a quarter-century ago, Texas Motor Speedway served as the physical embodiment of NASCAR’s expansion in the late 1990s, as it represented a period of opulence and prosperity in racetrack construction. But in recent years, the track has lost a lot of its shine, in part because it has become a warning of what can happen if you try to artificially treat a racing surface.

After Texas was resurfaced and reconfigured in 2017, the track began liberally applying PJ1 traction compound to its corners as a means of creating more high-groove grip and more usable racing lanes on a new surface. But as the tarmac on the track has aged, the application of PJ1 has done more harm than good.

The darker surface where PJ1 has been applied reacts differently to heat and can easily become a slippery no-go zone if it doesn’t pick up rubber. And PJ1 has been applied so thickly in the past that it has managed to stain the asphalt in a way that you can’t really clean it off. The end result has been single-file processional races that have been criticized by fans and the media, including an All-Star Race disaster last May.

In an effort to try to make the track more usable, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller told SiriusXM earlier this week that Texas would be treated with resin and a tire dragon before this weekend, and that runway preparation efforts would increase. a higher lane at turns 3 and 4.

“It may not turn into a racing room, but if they get off the beat, at least there will be something to hold on to,” Miller said.

twenty is something

This weekend marks a proud homecoming for Prosper, Texas native Chris Buescher. Last week at Bristol, Buescher became the 19th different driver to win a Cup race this season, tying the all-time record for most different winners in a single season that was previously set in 2001.

What has been remarkable about the 2022 season, especially as it has unfolded over the last month, has been the sheer speed at which the different drivers have gone to Victory Lane. In 2001, there were 15 different winners in the first 29 races, and it wasn’t until Robby Gordon won the season finale at New Hampshire that the mark of 19 winners was set. Now, there are still seven races to go so there are 20 different winners or potentially even more.

If the record falls this weekend, the natural candidate to become the 20th different winner this season is Ryan Blaney, who won the All-Star race at Texas in May and remains the only playoff driver not to win a race. . But if Blaney wants to do it, he will have to do without his usual crew chief: after a disastrous race at Bristol, crew chief Jonathan Hassler and two members of Blaney’s pit crew have been suspended for the next four races after an improperly installed wheel fell off Blaney’s car and rolled down pit road.

Beyond Blaney, the chances of a new winner at Texas will be greatly aided by the premium Texas places on track position, and whether or not a driver who has yet to win can use the right strategy to get there. in front. That was the case in August 2020, when Austin Dillon took just two tires on his final pit stop to take the lead late in the race and stay there.

Everything is longer in Texas

While it doesn’t have the history or prestige of races like the Southern 500 or Coca-Cola 600, it should be noted that this weekend marks the final 500-mile race of the season on a non-high-speed track. That makes Texas one of the longest races left this season at a track where the Next Gen car hasn’t been put to the test for the long haul. With the All-Star Race in May utilizing a special format, the current generation of Cup cars have only experienced Texas in short bursts thus far.

After a series of mechanical failures during the round of 16 and a high rate of tire failures last week during the first race in Bristol’s concrete setup, watch as the Next Gen car and its parts, not exactly on the good grace of Kevin Harvick or Martin Truex Jr., resist the test of 500 miles in Texas.

choose to win

(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

Christopher Bell (+800): Since passing on this track is so difficult, whoever wins on Sunday will probably be the driver who can find a way to come out ahead at the end of the race. But if we pick someone based on raw speed, I really like Christopher Bell’s chances. Not only was he very fast in the All-Star Race before a mid-race spin, but he was outstanding in the round of 16 and seems to be peaking at just the right time of the season. Bell also has a great history at Texas, with two third-place finishes in his last two starts at this track.

During the first three races of the playoffs, Bell earned finishes of fifth, third and fourth and also led 149 laps. That makes me feel safe suggesting that he could secure a spot in the Round of 8 this week at what amounts to the Norman, Oklahoma native’s home track.

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