When fans, media and competitors consider which of the races within the second round could be one with the potential to turn the NASCAR Playoffs upside down, they typically think of the second race in the set at Talladega Super Speedway or the third on the makeshift road course known as the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But perhaps not enough credit is given to the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at the Texas Motor Speedway as a possible fly in the ointment.
Yes, Talladega with its pack drafting and the ever present danger of the ‘Big One’ along with Charlotte and the tight confines of a road course in place not necessarily meant to house a road course have the potential to cause upheaval as the drivers make their way through the ‘Round of 12’. However, previous races indicate that TMS deserves perhaps even more consideration as a possible trouble maker for the championship contenders.
Of the the three tracks that make up the venues for this Playoff season’s second round, it was Texas that produced the most cautions in 2022. A whopping total of 16 yellow flags waved in Fort Worth during last year’s race on the 1.5-mile track. Talladega, on the other hand, produced six cautions and the Roval saw only four interruptions. Those cautions included the predetermined stage breaks.
The 2022 Texas race was not necessarily an anomaly in that the year before saw 11 yellows. Despite having the reputation of featuring single-file competition, any track that has the ability to produce 13.5 cautions over two years has to be considered a potential disaster in the making by those who hope to be crowned as champion at season’s end.
The 2022 Texas race was won by Tyler Reddick who had previously been eliminated from contention for a championship. Remaining hopeful Chase Elliott placed 32nd last year at Texas after failing victim to a crash while fellow Playoffs contender Christopher Bell ended his day in 34th after also being involved in an incident. Bubba Wallace, who was driving the owners points eligible No. 45 one year ago for 23XI Racing, finished a lackluster 25th in that race.
No race at any time or on any track can be considered a sure thing for a good finish. As a result, any track could provide pitfalls for those still in contention for a championship. But in a round that also features Talladega and the Roval, perhaps this weekend’s event at the Texas Motor Speedway might be overlooked by those who follow the sport. Almost certainly, someone will fall victim to the high speed track’s hazards. It’s just a question of which driver or drivers that will be and when.
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