The NASCAR Cup Series heads west for its first trip to Texas Motor Speedway in 2020. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 was originally March 29, but the race was postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the action is set to be made up Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and mark the premier series’ 14th event since it returned to racing.
Texas will actually host all three of NASCAR’s national series this weekend — with the Xfinity Series (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (8 p.m. ET on FS1) taking over Saturday and the Cup Series being the main feature Sunday.
Here’s a primer with helpful information for the 18th of a scheduled 36 Cup Series races this year.
Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval with a minimum width of 58 feet. The banking is 20 degrees in Turns 1 and 2 and then 24 degrees in Turns 3 and 4, with five degrees of banking in the straightaways. The frontstretch is 2,250 feet long, while the backstretch stretches 1,330 feet. The asphalt surface was repaved and the track was reconfigured before the spring race in 2017.
Jeff Burton won the first Cup Series race in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 6, 1997 — the Interstate Batteries 500. Burton led 60 of the 334 laps and beat Dale Jarrett to the finish line by 4.067 seconds. Terry Labonte led a race-high 104 laps but finished fourth.
Sunday’s 334-lap race will be the 39th race for NASCAR’s top division at the Texas track.
Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 105, Stage 2 at Lap 210, and the final stage is slated to conclude on Lap 334.
The NASCAR Cup Series race will be held without practice and qualifying as the sanctioning body tries to limit exposure for on-site personnel to control the spread of coronavirus. Sunday’s starting lineup was determined by a random draw among groups in the team owner standings:
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points
Pit-stall selection is based on the finishing order from last Sunday’s event at Kentucky Speedway.
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for intermediate-sized tracks will be in effect with a tapered spacer used to achieve a target of 550 horsepower. The cars will use aero ducts in addition to other aerodynamic devices to increase downforce.
Teams in all three NASCAR national series will run the same tire setup. This will be the first time teams run these Goodyear tire codes at Texas Motor Speedway, though they ran them at Kentucky Speedway last weekend and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in February. For Cup Series and Xfinity Series, the setup features a compound change to add more grip on the left side and a construction update on the right side. For the Gander Truck Series, the setup will have construction updates on both sides but the compound change for more grip on the left side.
“Repaved tracks create their own set of challenges for us and the teams of NASCAR,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “At places like Texas, high tire wear is not the issue. In fact, it’s the opposite. After being repaved just a few seasons ago, Texas’ track surface is still very smooth, so we have to design our tread compounds to wear. Tire wear is a good thing and is especially important on a smooth surface. When a tire wears, that means the tread is shredding rubber and allowing some of the heat generated to be dissipated from the tire. That makes the tire run cooler with better grip and performance.”
The Cup Series will be allowed nine sets for the race. The Xfinity Series will have five sets. And the Gander Truck Series will have four sets.
STATS TO KNOW
— Kevin Harvick has won three of the last six races (fall 2017, fall 2018 and fall 2019) at Texas Motor Speedway since the track was repaved and reconfigured in 2017, including two of the last three. Otherwise, three different drivers made a trip to Victory Lane: Jimmie Johnson (spring 2017), Kyle Busch (spring 2018) and Denny Hamlin (spring 2019).
— Sixteen of the last 18 races at Texas Motor Speedway were won from a top-10 starting position. Three of the victories came from the polesitter (Jimmie Johnson, fall 2012; Kyle Busch, spring 2013; Kevin Harvick, fall 2019).
— The driver who led the most laps won three of the last nine races at Texas Motor Speedway. Also, the race winner led more than 115 laps in three of the last four Texas races.
— The final green-flag stretch was 30 laps or longer in four of the last six races at Texas Motor Speedway. Both of the 2019 events had a final green-flag run of 74 laps or longer.
— Team Penske has won three times at Texas Motor Speedway, but the last was the spring race of 2014 by Joey Logano. All three of the team’s drivers have won at least one race this season. Logano and Brad Keselowski each have two wins, while Ryan Blaney has one.
— Erik Jones, who has yet to win a race in 2020, boasts the best average finish (9.43 in seven starts) at Texas Motor Speedway among all active drivers.
Source: NASCAR statistics, Racing Insights
Tune in to television coverage Sunday on NBCSN (3 p.m. ET) or on the NBC Sports App. For full radio coverage from Texas Motor Speedway, listen in to PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on-air.
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
Denny Hamlin won the first of two Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2019. His No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led 45 of the 334 laps and beat Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to the finish line by 2.743 seconds. Kyle Busch was out front for a race-high 66 laps but ultimately finished 10th in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.
RELATED: 2019 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 recap
ACTIVE TEXAS WINNERS
Jimmie Johnson (seven); Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch (three); Matt Kenseth (two); Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman (one).