Texas Weekend Preview: Elliott eyes rebound opportunity

Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

No one was more disappointed following last Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 opener at Martinsville Speedway than Chase Elliott.

The No. 24 driver held the lead at the Southern Virginia short track with three laps to go and looked well on his way to his first career win and a berth in the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Then, Denny Hamlin smacked Elliott’s back bumper, sent him into the wall, and ended his day.

“We had a great car today and we had an opportunity,” said Elliott after furiously confronting Hamlin following the race. “We had a good restart there at the end and felt like I was doing what I needed to do. And I can’t control his decisions and whatever the hell that was. We’re on to Texas.”

On to Texas Motor Speedway Elliott will go for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) – the penultimate race of the Round of 8. As a result of the Martinsville wreck, Elliott dropped to eighth on the Playoff Grid, 26 points below Kevin Harvick on the cutoff line. He essentially has to win one of the next two races – at Texas or Phoenix – to compete for the championship at Homestead.

In three starts at Texas, Elliott has finished fifth (spring 2016), fourth (fall 2016) and ninth (spring 2017). His 9.6 average running position at the 1.5-mile track ranks second among active drivers.

Elliott has finished fourth or better in the last four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at 1.5-mile tracks: third at Kentucky, second at Chicago, second at Charlotte and fourth at Kansas.

“Looking forward to getting back to Texas – it’s a fun place to go,” Elliott said. “I enjoy going there and after the good runs we had there last season, I’m definitely looking forward to returning. In the spring we had a pretty good car, our teammate won, so good things to look back to for that race when we go back.”

Xfinity Playoffs leader Allgaier wants Texas Playoffs win

Although he sits first on the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Grid – a comfortable 33 points above Matt Tifft on the cutoff line – Justin Allgaier knows fortunes can change in a hurry in the sport’s gauntlet postseason.

 Justin Allgaier
Justin Allgaier (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

The format of NASCAR’s Playoffs makes knowing what he has to do in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway (8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) straightforward.

“Our goal going into Texas is to win so we can lock ourselves into the Championship 4, but if we can finish this race strong and maintain the points lead, I’d be more than happy with that too,” Allgaier said.

The No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet driver enters Saturday’s contest riding a streak of six top-10 finishes in his last seven races. In 14 career starts at Texas, Allgaier has seven top-10 showings and a 12.4 average finish.

“I always look forward to racing at Texas,” Allgaier said. “It’s just a fun atmosphere, especially racing under the lights. There’s a lot on the line these next two races and we’re up against some tough competitors, but I know this team is up for the challenge.”

Rhodes wants win at Texas

With two races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Round of 6, Ben Rhodes holds the final transfer spot to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway by 11 points over Austin Cindric.

Ben Rhodes (NASCAR)
Ben Rhodes (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Although Rhodes is in good shape, he knows he still has work to do, beginning with Friday’s JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1). The No. 27 ThorSport racing driver hopes to get a victory for automatic advancement to the Championship 4.

“Our mile-and-a-half program has been our strongpoint this season, so I definitely think we can get a win,” Rhodes said. “The challenge is going to be once again with the new surface and making sure we qualify up front for track position.”

Rhodes won the last race at a 1.5-mile track – Las Vegas on Oct. 14. He placed fifth at Texas in June and owns a 10.3 average finish in three career starts there.

“Texas Motor Speedway is a very fast racetrack with a lot of grip,” Rhodes said. “And we’ve performed quite well at tracks that have a lot of grip.”

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: AAA Texas 500

Place: Texas Motor Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 501 miles (334 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 85), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on lap 334)

What To Watch For: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs rolls to Texas Motor Speedway for the penultimate race of its Round of 8. … Jimmie Johnson goes for his second straight Texas win and fifth Texas victory in his last seven starts at the 1.5-mile track. … Ryan Blaney tries to take the checkered flag at Texas after winning the first two stages there on a way to a 12th-place showing this spring. … Six non-Playoff drivers have won at Texas in the past and can play spoiler Sunday – Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts 300

Place: Texas Motor Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

What To Watch For: Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner William Byron goes for a win after finishing seventh at Texas earlier this season. … Brennan Poole, who currently holds the final transfer spot to the Championship 4 by five points over Matt Tifft, attempts to increase his advantage. … Cole Custer – the eighth-place driver on the Playoff Grid – finished fifth at Texas in April. … The NASCAR XFINITY Series could see its seventh first time winner this weekend, which would be the most since its inaugural season in 1982.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: JAG Metals 350

Place: Texas Motor Speedway

Date and Time: Friday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 220.5 miles (147 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 35), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on lap 147)

What To Watch For: Five-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner John Hunter Nemechek needs a victory to advance to the Championship 4. … Christopher Bell attempts to add to his series-best five wins by claiming a 2017 Texas sweep. … 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter attempts to defend his Texas fall race victory and gain a spot in the Championship 4. … Martinsville winner Noah Gragson tries for his second consecutive checkered flag.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.