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September 22, 2023

What to Watch: Round of 12 kicks off in the Lone Star State

Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway

(⏰ Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET | 📺 USA, NBC Sports App | 📻 PRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas, the 30th points-paying race of the 2023 Cup Series campaign.

Weekend schedule | TV schedule | Weather tracker | Texas playoff race 101

📍 Location: Fort Worth, Texas
📐 Track length: 1.5 miles
🎟️ Buy tickets: Find weekend passes, seats for the race
💰 Cup Series race purse: $8,955,060
📏 Race distance: 267 laps | 400.5 miles
🔢 Stages: 80 | 165 | 267

📋 Starting lineup: Wallace on pole at Texas
🚗 Pit stall assignments:
See where drivers will pit
🏆 Most recent winner: Tyler Reddick, fall 2022

Key things to watch 🔑

Saturday’s sessions

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace put the No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota on the pole for Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App). Wallace scored the second pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career and will look to keep his championship hopes alive after advancing to the Round of 12. This ends Christopher Bell’s streak of three consecutive poles, and he will roll off the grid ninth in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Starting alongside Wallace on the front row is Texas native Chris Buescher. Completing the top five in the Lone Star State: Brad Keselowski, Ty Gibbs and Ross Chastain. | Read the full practice, qualifying recap

Big story line

Will Christopher Bell’s impressive qualifying speed finally translate into a race win?

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Ryan Blaney remains Team Penske’s lone title contender — now what? Ryan Blaney remains Team Penske’s lone title contender — now what?

In the last 10 Cup Series races, Bell has won the pole five times, including three in a row to sweep the Round of 16. While the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has shown up big time in qualifying, the team has struggled to put a complete race weekend together without issues and end up in Victory Lane. Bell has only experienced an incident-free weekend two times in the last 12 races when he earned a pair of third-place finishes at Watkins Glen and again at Bristol last Saturday night. The results for Bell at Texas Motor Speedway have been up and down in his four career starts at the 1.5-mile track. Bell has two top fives and two finishes 21st or worse. The No. 20 team certainly has the tools to win, but Sunday’s result will ultimately come down to execution and staying out of trouble.

History tells us…

Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 team have a good shot at a top-10 finish.

Since winning the Coca-Cola 600 in the month of May, Blaney’s No. 12 team has not looked the same as Team Penske continues to navigate a tough year. Austin Cindric is enduring a challenging sophomore year in the Cup Series and defending champ Joey Logano was eliminated from the postseason in the Round of 16. So, Blaney is the last hope for Penske to repeat as the title-winning team. In the last 14 races, Blaney has 10 finishes of 12th or worse. He traditionally runs well at Texas Motor Speedway so that is a welcome sight for the driver of the No. 12 Ford.

In the last six of 10 Texas races, Blaney led a total of 432 laps. This includes five straight finishes of eighth place or better. While Blaney has a victory at Texas in the 2022 All-Star Race, he has not gone to Victory Lane there yet in a points-paying event. He scored his best result of second place in the 2018 fall race and finished fourth here last year. If there is any track on the schedule for the No. 12 team to rediscover its form shown at Charlotte, a trip to the Lone Star State is coming at the perfect time. Blaney’s history at Texas suggests that a top 10 is certainly doable. | Preview Show: Twelve-way shootout in Texas

He may not be the betting favorite to win, but watch out for…

Joey Logano.
After getting eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, all the pressure is off and Logano can solely focus on race wins through the end of 2023. The defending Cup Series champion has battled through a tough season of trying to defend his title, which came to a halt last Saturday night at Bristol after being involved in a wreck. While this year is certainly far from matching his 2022 championship-winning season, Texas Motor Speedway provides the No. 22 team with an opportunity to get a good result. Logano enters Texas with odds of 30-1.

In the last five Texas races, Logano has four top-1o finishes in the Lone Star State. Meanwhile, in the last 11 races here, Logano led 321 laps in eight of those races. His only career Cup Series win at Texas occurred in the spring of 2014. Flashing back to last fall’s race, he earned a runner-up finish. Based on Logano’s overall performance this year, Sunday could be another frustrating day. But never count out the two-time series champion, who may respond well with less pressure and spoil the show for the Round of 12 title contenders. | Logano eliminated from playoffs after Bristol crash

Familiar favorites ⭐️

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

– At-track photos: Sights and scenes from Texas Motor Speedway | Photos
– Bubble Watch: Playoff twists and turns for Texas | Read more
– Fantasy Fastlane: Can Ryan Blaney get back on track at Texas? | Get the advice
– Paint Scheme Preview:
See the schemes for Texas | Pick a favorite
– Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin bringing the heat — on track and with the fans | Latest driver rankings
– Stacking Pennies:
Corey LaJoie discusses the partnership between Spire Motorsports and Trackhouse Racing | Listen to the podcast

💎 NASCAR 75: Learn more about the history of the sport, from pioneers to current stars | Visit NASCAR 75 hub

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– Fantasy Live: Participate in interactive gameplay from week to week | Choose your lineup
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– Going the distance:
2023 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

🔮 Advance to Victory Lane: Racing Insights projects the finishing order