The NASCAR playoff race is closer than ever heading into the first race of the Round of 8 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Chaos undoubtedly will unfold on the 1.5-mile track as playoff drivers scramble to land or stay above the cut line for the season-ending Championship 4 race.
Sixth-place driver Chase Elliott is 43 points behind first-place driver Kyle Larson, who won last week’s race on Charlotte’s Roval course. Elliott rallied to finish 12th in that race after being wrecked by Kevin Harvick. If the wreck hadn’t happened, Elliott would have had a chance at earning more points and securing a spot in the top four. Harvick himself crashed late in the race and was eliminated from the playoffs.
MORE: Harvick wrecks Elliott, then crashes out of playoffs
The feud between the two escalated at Charlotte after an incident three weeks earlier at Bristol. NASCAR took extra measures last week to ensure that the feud wouldn’t continue. It conducted a conference call Wednesday with both drivers, their crew chiefs, car owners and manufacturer representatives to warn of severe consequences if they didn’t squash their beef.
LINEUP AT TEXAS: Starting order, pole for playoff race without qualifying
Sporting News is tracking live updates and lap-by-lap highlights from NASCAR’s playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Follow for complete results from the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500.
NASCAR at Texas live update, highlights from Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
All times Eastern.
3:00: Larson takes the lead from inside and passes Byron before making it to turn three.
2:58: Larson creeps up on Byron and cuts his lead down to under a half-second.
2:50: Kyle Larson passes Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin for third at lap 77.
2:45: Chase Elliott makes his way to the fifth at lap 52.
2:38: Byron keeps his lead coming off the caution followed closely a small pack. Truex Jr. Reddick and Dibenedetto are all fighting for second.
2:32: Multiple drivers are done for the day, including Stenhouse, Newman, Preece, Haley, Ware and Gase. The crash marks the most cars ever involved in an accident at Texas Motor Speedway.
2:28: Bubba Wallace spins to crash into Ross Chastain and into the wall. The crash causes a huge wreck on the backstretch coming off the competition caution. Kyle Busch escapes with minor damages.
2:24: Byron leads off of pit road followed by Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Busch was called for speeding on pit road and will be sent to the rear.
2:22: Larson leads at lap 25 followed by Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Kyle Busch.
2:19: Larson holds a two-second lead over Joey Logano with three laps to go before the competition caution.
2:14: Kevin Harvick is seen struggling at 29th. Chase Elliott is creeping up at 22nd after starting from the rear.
2:11: Kyle Larson takes an early lead five laps in followed by Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
2:08: The Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 is underway in Texas.
2:00: Engines are fired ahead of the green flag at Texas Motor Speedway.
1:45: Bowman will also go to the rear for unapproved adjustments.
1:30: Chase Elliott will drop to the rear after failing twice.
NASCAR start time today
- Time: 2 p.m. ET
- TV channel: NBC
- Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App, Peacock, fuboTV
The green flag for Sunday’s NASCAR playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway is scheduled to drop at 2:08 p.m. ET.
How to watch NASCAR at Texas
- TV channel: NBC
- Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App, fuboTV
- Radio: PRN
NBC’s programming will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET with the network’s “Countdown to Green” prerace show, hosted by Marty Snider with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Daugherty. Rick Allen will handle the play-by-play call of the race. Earnhardt, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte will provide analysis.
Snider, Kelli Stavast and Parker Kligerman will be the pit reporters. Daugherty will provide additional reporting from around the track.
NASCAR Cup playoff standings
The Round of 8 field was set last weekend with the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kyle Larson exited that race with the win and a 42-point lead over Kyle Busch, the first driver below the cut line for the season-ending Championship 4 race.
The field is bunched tightly after Larson; the second- through sixth-place drivers are separated by just eight points. That closeness makes winning one of the next three races vitally important. A playoff driver who wins a race in the Round of 8 automatically qualifies for the Championship 4 race on Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway.
“You’ve got to be really good. You’ve got to do a good job every lap of every race. You’ve got to get your stage points,” Larson said of the challenge of being the front-runner. “You can’t let your guard down and lose ground on guys that are gaining points on you. Yes, it’s nice to have the (65) bonus points that we have but I’m hoping we don’t have to lean on them like we did at Talladega, or going into (Charlotte).”
Larson finished 37th at Talladega after wrecking. That result cost him more than half his lead over the first driver below the cut line, which was Kevin Harvick for the Charlotte race.
Five past Cup Series champions are in this year’s final eight: Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||4029|
NASCAR starting lineup at Texas
NASCAR used a mathematical formula to set the starting lineup for Sunday’s playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500. Thirty-nine cars were entered for the race, which is one short of a full field. Playoff drivers are denoted by a “P” next to their names.
Per NASCAR’s playoff rules, the top eight spots in the field went to the eight remaining playoff drivers, but the starting order was based on the mathematical formula NASCAR has used for the majority of its races this season.
|Start pos.||Driver||Car No.||Team|
|1||P-Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports|
|2||P-Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|3||P-Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|4||P-Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske|
|5||P-Joey Logano||22||Team Penske|
|6||P-Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports|
|7||P-Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske|
|8||P-Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|9||Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing|
|10||Chris Buescher||17||Roush Fenway Racing|
|11||Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|12||William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports|
|13||Matt DiBenedetto||21||Wood Brothers Racing|
|14||Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports|
|15||Austin Dillon||3||Richard Childress Racing|
|16||Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports|
|17||Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|18||Bubba Wallace||23||23XI Racing|
|19||Daniel Suarez||99||TrackHouse Racing|
|20||Cole Custer||41||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|21||Erik Jones||43||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|22||Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|23||Ryan Preece||37||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|24||Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|25||Ross Chastain||42||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|26||Chase Briscoe||14||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|27||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|28||Anthony Alfredo||38||Front Row Motorsports|
|29||Corey LaJoie||7||Spire Motorsports|
|30||Quin Houff||00||StarCom Racing|
|31||Ryan Newman||6||Roush Fenway Racing|
|32||Justin Haley||77||Spire Motorsports|
|33||Josh Bilicki||52||Rick Ware Racing|
|34||Cody Ware||51||Petty Ware Racing|
|35||BJ McLeod||78||Live Fast Motorsports|
|36||Garrett Smithley||15||Rick Ware Racing|
|37||Joey Gase||53||Rick Ware Racing|
|38||David Starr||66||Motorsports Business Management|
|39||Timmy Hill||13||Motorsports Business Management|
Tom Gatto contributed to this report.