Only three races remain in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season, and Sunday’s pivotal race at Texas Motor Speedway will go a long way in determining the eventual champion of this season.
While the winner of the race will be the headliner, there are various subplots to the race at Texas that make this race perhaps the most highly anticipated of the season.
Can Kyle Busch help break a record?
Kyle Busch has already punched his ticket into the final four, and he’ll race the championship at Homestead in Miami. But he also is only 27 laps led away from reaching 2,000 laps led for the season, and he’d join Martin Truex Jr. (2,068) as the only two drivers this season to lead at least 2,000 laps. The last time two Cup Series drivers each led for 2,000 laps in a season was in 1989 when Dale Earnhardt (2,735) and Rusty Wallace (2,020) accomplished the feat.
Dale Jr. racing for the last time, and others may be, too
The Dale Earnhardt Jr. farewell tour will continue as this will be the last time he races as a full-time driver at Texas. His first career Cup Series win came at Texas back in 2000, and he’ll receive a warm welcome at the track.
It could also be the last time Matt Kenseth or Danica Patrick race at Texas as full-time drivers. Neither will receive the fanfare of Earnhardt — Kenseth wouldn’t even want a big farewell anyway — but if this it for both or either, they’ll want to go out with a solid performance.
Will Chase retaliate?
Perhaps the biggest storyline to emerge from last week’s race at Martinsville was the feud between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. Fans and other drivers will be monitoring closely whether Elliott decides to retaliate on Sunday, and it’s clear the two drivers aren’t on the best of terms heading into the race.
Martin Truex Jr. has dominated this season, and he can probably advance to the championship race based on his points alone. But a win would erase all doubt, and he’ll be racing at a track where he’s never won. He’s had the fastest car of any driver this season, and he finished second last week at Martinsville.
Can Jimmie Johnson make it eight?
The one wild card at the race is Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time champion has won seven times at Texas, which is the most of any driver in the track’s history. He also holds the record for the most top-5s and top-10s at the track, and he won the spring race at Texas. His car hasn’t been as dominant this year as it has in recent years, but he’s still a threat and needs a win to advance into the next round.
Will Truex continue to dominate? Will Kyle Busch coast the next two weeks since he’s already in the next round? Truex is the favorite to win the race, but alt_driver is taking Jimmie Johnson to win in an upset of sorts on Sunday afternoon at Texas.