The second round of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs sees the most diverse trio of tracks in the 10-race quest for the Bill France Cup.
A 1.5-mile oval, NASCAR’s largest superspeedway and a road course await the 12 drivers vying for eight spots in the penultimate round of the postseason. Texas Motor Speedway is up first on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App), and if last year’s race was any indication, more drama awaits the title hopefuls. Before the weekend’s action begins in the Lone Star State, get the outlook for the Round of 12, trends to watch for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 and interactive ways to follow all the action.
ROUND OF 12 OUTLOOK 🔍
After the Round of 16 nearly saw the Regular Season Champion eliminated, there’s no telling who the four drivers will be under the elimination line when the checkered flag waves at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course in October.
Texas is likely going to favor the current drivers at the top of the playoff standings like William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. Drivers should be able to control their own destiny on Sunday, which means drivers Ross Chastain, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace will need to maximize stage points and get the best finish possible to avoid putting their backs against the wall heading to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.
Talladega is favorable for a two-team tandem like Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing drivers Keselowski and Chris Buescher. They finished 1-2 in the most recent superspeedway race at Daytona International Speedway and are usually toward the front at most superspeedways. However, Kyle Busch has finished well at superspeedways this season, which includes a victory at Talladega in the spring. Busch failed to advance beyond the opening round last year and even though he’s already accomplished advancing in his first postseason run for RCR, Talladega could be his key to reaching the Round of 8.
For the Charlotte Roval, Tyler Reddick is on the short list of great road-course racers left in the postseason. But Larson will be out for redemption after he was eliminated at Charlotte last season, and Christopher Bell could return to his walk-off ways if he enters the road-course, oval hybrid below the elimination line.
📉 TRENDS TO WATCH 📈
— The last six races at Texas were won by different drivers.
— Chevrolet drivers have won three of the last four at Texas.
— Five of the last seven Texas playoff race winners reached the Championship 4 in the same season.
— Two of the last four Texas winners got their first win of the season.
(Via Racing Insights)
CLASSIC TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY RACES 🎥
2000: Dale Jr. scores his first career Cup Series victory | WATCH
2014: Keselowski, Gordon have pit-road brawl after contact in closing laps | WATCH
2015: Keselowski dominates, but loses to Jimmie Johnson and fails to reach Champ 4 | WATCH
ON-TRACK SCHEDULE 🗓️
Saturday, September 23
— 12:35 p.m. ET: Practice (USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)
— 1:20 p.m. ET: Qualifying (USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)
Sunday, September 24
— 3:30 p.m. ET: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 (USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App)
RULE CHANGES/GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES
The GEICO Restart Zone returned to its 2022 dimensions after being extended for this season’s first five races.
After a tire test in July, Goodyear made a construction update to the right-side tires that will be unique to Sunday’s race. The left-side tires are the same that have been used at intermediate tracks this season. Teams will be allotted one set of tires for practice, one set for qualifying and an additional eight sets for the race.
Along the right-side door bars and extending toward the rear clip, teams are mandated to run a steel plate in addition to the chassis adjustments made for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The right-side door bar gussets and the removal of the front clip V-brace are changes that remain, in addition to the removal of other front-clip components, to create a softer and larger crush zone for frontal impacts.
Also included in the updates are front-bumper strut softening (modifications to existing parts), the requirement of an empty front ballast box and a modified cross brace. NASCAR incurs the cost of all these updates.
In the event of a lost wheel that is contained to pit road, the offending team will be subject to a pass-through penalty under green-flag conditions. If the infraction occurs during a caution period, the offending team will restart at the tail end of the field.
If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty plus a two-race suspension for two crew members. Each penalty is series-specific: Violations in one series will not impact those crew members’ eligibility to participate in other series.
RELATED: See rules changes for 2023
Fans can get in on the action all season long with NASCAR Fan Rewards, a free program that rewards fans for participating in the action when they watch races and play NASCAR Fantasy.
There’s no cost to join. Fans must be 18 years or older to participate in the program.
Earn points by checking into a race from home or at the track, setting your Fantasy Live lineup, making purchases on the NASCAR.com shop and more. Points can be redeemed for race tickets, merchandise and VIP experiences at the track, including pace car rides and waving the green flag at qualifying.
FOLLOW THE RACE 📲
NASCAR Mobile has now added support for fans to “Follow the Race” and access live leaderboard and race information from Live Activities in the current app release (v13.2.0), available now. Android users, we didn’t forget you — the same functionality has been custom-built for Android devices, as well.
How to access Live Activities on iPhones:
- Make sure your iOS device has been updated to 16.1 or higher.
- Available on the leaderboard of all NASCAR Series races.
- Click on the three-dot menu near the top right of screen.
- Select “Follow the Race.”
- Swipe up to access the home screen and you will see the Live Activities at the top.
- Lock the device and you will see Live Activities on the Lock Screen.
- To turn off, simply visit the leaderboard, click the three-dot menu and “Unfollow the Race.”
FANTASY LIVE 🏆
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which resets for the playoffs. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 2, and there is a $10,000 prize for the winner.
PLAYOFFS GRID CHALLENGE 🏆
During the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, fans have the opportunity to compete in The Playoffs Grid™ Challenge presented by Ruoff Mortage. Fans can enter by visiting The Playoffs Grid™ Challenge page beginning Tuesday, Aug. 29 and registering for a free NASCAR.com account before filling out a bracket. From there, choose from a list of playoff-eligible drivers round by round, and you’re on your way to compete for prizes!
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM 💻
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement to the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.