The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 kicked off this weekend. The Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 took place at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. The race had everyone trying to capitalize and get stage points early and often so that they might help their championship hopes going forward. In the end, one driver was able to clinch his spot into the Championship 4. Kyle Larson picked up his second consecutive victory and eighth win on the 2021 season overall with an impressive NASCAR performance at Texas.
NASCAR Cup Series Recap | Kyle Larson Wins at Texas
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Stage 1
Fresh off of his win last week at the Charlotte ROVAL, points leader Kyle Larson started on the pole and led the field to the green flag. A pair of rivals made headlines once again as Kevin Harvick fell back a lot and Chase Elliott, who had to start from the rear, gained several spots early. On Lap 25, the competition caution came out to bunch up the field and let them get a change of tires. Kyle Busch earned himself a speeding penalty on pit road to put him at the rear. William Byron took two tires to win the race off pit road.
On the restart, as they were coming off of Turn Two, Bubba Wallace got loose and collected Alex Bowman and Ross Chastain among others in a wreck that involved ten cars. Some drivers made the call to come in and top off on fuel during the caution. The cars who did not come in at the end of that caution for fuel had to do so late in the stage. Kyle Busch was able to save enough fuel to get the Stage 1 victory.
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Stage 2
Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson led the field back to the green to start Stage 2. Larson, with some help from teammate William Byron, took the lead away from Busch. Chase Elliott reported that he had a vibration, so he had to pit slightly before the regular green flag pit window opened. A caution came out for debris to help him get back on the lead lap when the leaders pitted. Kyle Busch fell from second to tenth after the restart as Larson earned the stage win.
Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Final Stage
Kyle Larson started the final stage out in front and quickly got away from the field. Denny Hamlin remembered Indianapolis and gave no room to Chase Briscoe, putting him into the wall to bring out a caution. Joey Logano blew an engine with 35 laps to go. Shortly after, Kyle Busch spun Chris Buescher. While Buescher somehow managed to save it, the same cannot be said for Anthony Alfredo, who spun himself out and into the wall. The red flag came out as the fuel in Alfredo’s car started leaking and caught fire.
On the ensuing restart, Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick made it three-wide through Turns Three and Four. The Nos. 11 and 12 cars made contact heading into the front stretch. The contact cut Hamlin’s tire down and around he went. After the next restart, Martin Truex Jr. tried to cut down in front of Daniel Suarez. That resulted in Truex going up and pounding the wall, ending his day. Buescher and Hamlin made contact giving Hamlin some damage and sending the No. 17 car into the inside wall.
None of that fazed Larson as he was able to lead throughout all of the chaos in the final stage. With their eighth win of the season, Larson and the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team became the first to officially clinch a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs Championship 4.
Final Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Thoughts
The on-track racing was honestly pretty bad. They ruined Texas Motor Speedway when they changed the layout four years ago. The saving grace for this race was the chaos that happened in the last 50 laps. That was pretty much the only excitement that took place. However, the results of this race did alter the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs picture going forward. While several drivers now have their work cut out to make the Championship 4, Kyle Larson can just enjoy the next two weeks.