The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs continue on Sunday, October 17, with a trip to Texas Motor Speedway. Kyle Larson, the winner of the Charlotte Roval race, will lead the field to green as the Busch Pole winner while Denny Hamlin joins him on the front row.
NASCAR released the starting order for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC), confirming that Larson will start at the front of the field for the ninth time in 2021. He had the fastest lap (15% of the formula), he finished first (25%), Hendrick Motorsports finished first (25%), and he took the top spot in the points standings (35%).
Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney will line up behind Larson and Hamlin while forming the second row in the starting order. Joey Logano and Chase Elliott will line up on the third row while Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. will round out the group of playoff drivers fighting for a spot in the championship four.
Busch Has Favorable Odds to Reach the Championship 4
Larson will enter the race weekend at Texas with a sizable lead in the points standings. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro sits 42 points above the cutline while Busch is one point below.
Despite sitting in need of points, Busch has favorable odds to win and reach the championship four for the sixth time in his Cup Series career. According to BetMGM, the driver of the No. 18 faces 7-1 odds to win, placing him third behind Hamlin (6-1) and Larson (11-4).
Busch has four wins at Texas Motor Speedway in 30 starts, along with a total of 14 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. His most recent Cup victory at the track was the playoff race on October 28, 2020.
If Busch can reach the championship four, he will break a tie with one of his fellow drivers. Both he and Kevin Harvick sit in a tie with five appearances in the championship four, the most in the Cup Series. The driver of the No. 4 fell below the cutline after a crash at the Charlotte Roval and did not make it to the Round of Eight. He is no longer eligible for the championship chase while Busch can still move on.
Martin Truex Jr. Continues To Fly Under the Radar
With the Round of Eight starting at Texas Motor Speedway, there are debates taking place about the drivers that will reach the championship four and fight for the Bill France Cup at Phoenix Raceway.
Larson and Hamlin are at the forefront of the conversation due to their combined four playoff wins in 2021. Elliott has drawn equal attention as the defending champion, as well as his ongoing feud with Harvick, while Busch always sparks comments about whether he will win a third title.
Martin Truex Jr., however, has remained a minor part of the conversation despite continuing to perform consistently. He won at Richmond in the Round of 16 and finished top-10 at Darlington, Bristol, and Las Vegas. He added a 12th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway.
The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry is currently six points above the cutline after Joey Hand spun him late at the Charlotte Roval and relegated him to a 29th-place finish. Now Truex will head to Texas, a track where he has not won. Though he has 17 top-10 finishes and five top-fives in 31 starts. This list includes a runner-up finish behind Busch in the 2020 playoff race.
Truex has some points to make up, but he has a history of producing during the final cutoff round of the playoffs. He reached the championship four in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019. Truex also won the Cup Series championship in 2017 while driving for Furniture Row Racing.