What to watch as NASCAR comes to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend

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NASCAR is returning to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.

It’s the middle race in the Round of 8 Cup playoffs, which get underway today at Kansas Speedway. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are the favorites to win the championship.

As always, TMS’ fall race weekend has plenty of built-in drama for fans to watch.

The track is open to the public for a double-header on Sunday Oct. 25 with a truck series playoff race (the SpeedyCash.com 400) at 11 a.m. followed by a Cup playoff race (the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500) at 2:30 p.m.

The Xfinity Series race (the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300) will run at 3:30 p.m. Saturday without fans.

Here’s a look at the always popular Turn 4 going into race week:

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TURN 1: PLAYOFF WATCH

If the winning driver is among the eight remaining championship contenders, he automatically secures one of four spots in the championship. Odds are that one of the eight drivers will emerge victorious. After all, there’s a reason they’re in the final eight.

Harvick has won the last three fall races at Texas and has been dominant this season with a career-best nine wins. Hamlin has seven victories this season, and won the 2019 spring race at TMS.

Kurt Busch and Joey Logano are among the playoff contenders who have won at Texas, while Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman are searching for their first Cup wins here.

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TURN 2: FAREWELL TOUR

NASCAR has seen some of its biggest names step away in recent years, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. The 2020 season will mark the end for a couple household names in seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and fan favorite Clint Bowyer.

Johnson is TMS’ all-time leader in Cup wins with six, but hasn’t been to Victory Lane in a Cup race since June 2017 at Dover. It would be fitting, though, if Johnson can find some of his old magic and muster out one more victory at TMS.

Bowyer, meanwhile, has never won at Texas but will be making his 30th career start. He has 12 top 10s and four top 5s at the track.

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TURN 3: BUSCH’S TIME?

Johnson is the winningest Cup driver in TMS history. Kyle Busch is the winningest all-around driver, visiting Victory Lane 17 times in his career (three Cup wins, nine Xfinity wins and five truck wins).

But Busch is in the midst of a forgettable season without a victory, leaving him on the brink of snapping his 15-year streak with at least one Cup victory. Maybe that changes at TMS.

This is a track he’s always contended on and has finished in the top 10 the past three races (finishing 10th, 7th and 4th).

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TURN 4: NEW RIDES IN ‘21

A number of NASCAR drivers will be changing teams or left without rides come 2021. Outside of the replacements for retiring drivers such as Johnson and Bowyer, there’s new teams being formed such as basketball legend Michael Jordan and Hamlin joining forces and pegging Bubba Wallace as the driver of their team.

Erik Jones, who won’t return to Joe Gibbs Racing, has been linked as a possible replacement for Wallace at Richard Petty Motorsports. Bowman is going from Earnhardt’s old No. 88 car to Johnson’s No. 48 at Hendrick Motorsports, leaving a spot to fill at one of the powerhouse teams.

Stewart-Haas Racing could find Bowyer’s replacement internally and promote Chase Briscoe to the No. 14 car.

And the list goes on, including whether a team gives a second chance to Kyle Larson, the disgraced driver who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing for saying the n-word during a virtual race in April.

It’ll be an interesting offseason for NASCAR, to say the least.

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