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April 13, 2024

What to Watch: Who ends Hendrick’s, Gibbs’ 2024 reign at Texas?


Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400

(⏰ Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET | FS1 | PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Weekend schedule | TV schedule | Weather tracker | NASCAR 101

Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Track length: 1.5 miles
Cup Series race purse: $9,397,736
Race distance: 267 laps | 400.5 miles
Stages: 80 | 165 | 267

Starting lineup: Kyle Larson to lead field to green flag
Pit stall assignments:
See where drivers will pit
Defending winner:
William Byron, September 2023

Key things to watch

Saturday sessions

Kyle Larson scorched his way to his third consecutive Busch Light Pole Award, edging out Ty Gibbs by 0.035 seconds to claim the top spot in Saturday’s qualifying session. His average lap speed of 190.369 mph marks the fastest pole lap recorded on a 1.5-mile track in the Next Gen era dating back to 2022, according to Racing Insights. Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe completed the top five ahead of William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace.

Gibbs was fastest in Saturday’s practice session on single-lap speed at 190.510 mph, besting Brad Keselowski, Larson, Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman. Reddick was quickest on 10-lap averages at 187.115 mph over Larson, Joey Logano, Byron and Chastain. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson will start at the rear after both crashing in practice. | Full Saturday recap

Kyle Larson poses for a photo following his NASCAR Cup Series pole victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
Brittney Wilbur | NASCAR.com

Big story line

Who poses the biggest threat to end the reign of Hendrick, Gibbs?

In eight NASCAR Cup Series races this year, a whopping seven have been won by drivers from either Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing — including each of the last six. But that sort of dominance likely won’t last forever, even though the red-hot William Byron already has a series-best three wins this year in addition to scoring the victory at Texas Motor Speedway last fall.

So, who has the potential to finally knock the two powerhouse teams off their pedestal? Perhaps we should look no further than Bubba Wallace, the 23XI Racing driver who dominated the playoff race back in September, scoring the pole and leading a career-high 111 laps. A late restart thwarted that effort, however, resulting in a third-place finish instead. The loss still sticks with Wallace, and it was fresh on his mind after a Martinsville top five one week ago. The No. 23 Toyota would be far from a surprise at the head of the field Sunday.

While his teammate Tyler Reddick would be another likely threat — winner of the 2022 race at Texas while driving for Richard Childress Racing — let’s sneak over to another team and manufacturer with the Fords from RFK Racing. Driver and team co-owner Brad Keselowski is one of just three drivers who have finished inside the top 10 in both Texas races featuring the Next Gen car and enters this weekend with a stunning series of five consecutive top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile oval.

Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion, has surprisingly never won in 28 starts in Fort Worth, his closest effort a runner-up twice (2012, 2015), but one of those five straight top 10s includes a fourth-place finish back in 2021. The No. 6 RFK Ford could also use a good rebound: Keselowski has finished 24th or worse in two of his last three starts, interrupted by an eighth-place run at Richmond Raceway. If everything’s bigger in Texas, maybe that includes Keselowski’s comeback.

History tells us…

If you’re going to win Sunday’s race, it might be better to lead late. According to stats provided by Racing Insights, the eventual Texas winner has not led until Lap 199 or later in four of the past five Texas races. Byron was the latest example of that phenomenon and only led the final six laps in September’s Round of 12 playoff race.

And if your driver hasn’t yet won at Texas, don’t fret. Each of the last seven Texas races has been won by a different driver, the longest streak of different Fort Worth winners since the track’s first 12 races were all won by different drivers.

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

Chase Briscoe. Briscoe is still seeking his second NASCAR Cup Series win but a good run may be in store for the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford at Texas Motor Speedway. In three Texas starts, Briscoe has never finished outside the top 15 with results of 15th, fifth and 10th.

Briscoe, winner of the spring race at Phoenix Raceway back in 2022, enters at 80-1 odds per DraftKings this weekend. But there’s reason to be optimistic for the SHR group. Briscoe has scored five straight top-20 finishes with two top 10s in that stretch, dating back to Phoenix in March, and enters Texas off a 10th-place finish at Martinsville Speedway. | Texas odds

Speed reads

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

– Turning Point: Trends from Martinsville, heading to Texas | Read article
– Larson alight at Indy: 2021 Cup champ continues Indy 500 pursuit, second at open test | Read article
– Welcome back, Seven-Time:
Hall of Famer Jimmie Johnson returns at Texas, embraces challenge | Read article
– CW joins the family in 2024:
Final eight Xfinity Series races of 2024 to be broadcast on CW | Read article
– Making it his own: William Byron discusses advice from Jeff Gordon in creating own legacy | Watch video
– All Texas, all the time: @nascarcasm provides what he considers his All-Texas team | Photo gallery
– Moments from Texas: Take a trip through history, memories | Photo gallery
– NASCAR Classics: Picks to click from our Texas video archives | Read article
– 36 for 36:
NASCAR survivor pool selections for Texas | Read article
– Fearless prediction:
Racing Insights projects Sunday’s final race results | Read article
– Fantasy Fastlane:
Lineup advice for Texas | Sleepers, drivers to avoid
– Paint Scheme Preview:
Scorching schemes in the Lone Star State | Pick a favorite
– Power Rankings: Ryan Blaney’s rebound leads to rise in updated list | Latest driver rankings

Fast facts

Race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Ford is winless through eight races in 2024. The last time Ford didn’t have a win through eight races was 2010 when Greg Biffle got its win in Race No. 21 at Pocono.
Each of the last six Texas races has produced at least eight cautions, including 11 yellow-flag periods in last year’s event, the first scheduled for 400 miles.
The average green-flag stretch was 32 laps or less in each of the last six Texas races.

MUST WATCH