Now there is drama. Joey Logano’s win in the Hollywood Casino 400 means that he will automatically advance to the Cup Championship Playoffs finale at ISM Raceway in Phoenix with a chance to win. All of the sudden, Chase Elliott finds himself on the chopping block with two races to go. This week’s race is the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, henceforth to be referred to as the AEA 500 because Autotrader Echopark Automotive 500 is way too much to write out each time. This isn’t a high school history essay where we need to reach a word count. Sunday’s race is the 34th of the season, which means that we only have three races to go. Let’s break it all down for you with odds from MyBookie Sportsbook:
KEVIN HARVICK +220
DENNY HAMLIN +450
JOEY LOGANO +700
CHASE ELLIOTT +800
MARTIN TRUEX JR. +1000
RYAN BLANEY +1000
KYLE BUSCH +1200
BRAD KESELOWSKI +1200
ERIK JONES +2000
ALEX BOWMAN +2000
KURT BUSCH +2500
ARIC ALMIROLA +3300
CLINT BOWYER +3300
WILLIAM BYRON +4000
JIMMIE JOHNSON +4000
AUSTIN DILLON +5000
TYLER REDDICK +5000
MATT DIBENEDETTO +6600
CHRISTOPHER BELL +10000
COLE CUSTER +10000
MATT KENSETH +12500
RYAN NEWMAN +20000
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. +25000
BUBBA WALLACE +40000
CHRIS BUESCHER +50000
TY DILLON +50000
JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK +75000
MICHAEL MCDOWELL +100000
RYAN PREECE +100000
DANIEL SUAREZ +100000
COREY LAJOIE +100000
BRENNAN POOLE +200000
JOSH BILICKI +300000
JJ YELEY +300000
GARRETT SMITHLEY +400000
QUIN HOUFF +400000
CHAD FINCHUM +400000
JOEY GASE +400000
TIMMY HILL +400000
REED SORENSON +400000
Evidently Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin won’t be playing around this weekend. Harvick is a +220 favorite and Hamlin is lined at +450. Even though we are on a traditional 1.5-mile track, only four drivers have single-digit odds, due in large part to the really short prices on the two favorites.

Playoff Picture

Just to be safe, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Harvick or Hamlin to win a race. Harvick is probably going to advance to the next round no matter what, but Hamlin, who is 21 points behind Harvick and 12 points ahead of Brad Keselowski, could be knocked out of the final four if two more playoff drivers not named Harvick win a race. The win for Logano took up one of the four playoff spots. Harvick’s points edge for all intents and purposes has locked up another. The remaining drivers in the playoffs outside of those four are Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr., and Kurt Busch. Elliott currently sits fourth in points and Logano’s win was the most hurtful to his chances. Bowman, Truex, and Busch all had uphill climbs anyway.

Texas Motor Speedway

Everything is allegedly bigger in Texas, but this track looks a lot like last week’s Kansas Speedway layout. This is a 1.5-mile oval with 20-degree banking in Turn 1 & Turn 2 and 24-degree banking in Turn 3 & Turn 4. This is a pretty straightforward race all in all. This has been a twice-a-year stop for the NASCAR Cup Series since 2005. Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with seven career wins here.

Texas Three-Step

The dance may be the Texas Two-Step, but Kevin Harvick has won this race three years in a row. Jimmie Johnson actually won it four times in a row from 2012-15, so Harvick is going for that record plus a guaranteed spot at Phoenix, where he will be the clear-cut favorite on his most successful track. Ironically, those are Harvick’s only three wins here in 35 races. He’s got 12 top-five finishes, but that ranks fourth behind Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch. Kenseth actually has the highest average finish here in his 31 career races, but he only has one top-five finish here in his last 10 starts. Harvick has seven top-five finishes here in his last 10 starts, including those three wins. He has averaged a finish of 4.1 and is the only driver in that span with 10 lead lap finishes, all in the top 10. Joey Logano hasn’t won here in his last 10 starts, but he does have six top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes. Martin Truex Jr. is second to Harvick in laps led here over the last 10 races with 389. Harvick’s 550 easily pace the field. Interestingly, Ryan Blaney is third on that list with 382, despite no wins and only two top-five finishes.

Picks

I’m going to go off the board here with a pick and take Kyle Busch at +1200. This is a short price for a guy that hasn’t won, but he was fifth last week and sixth at Las Vegas. He was second at Bristol. He’s gotten back on track to some degree in the oval races and he was fourth in the summer at this track. He’s got two wins and five top-five finishes in his last 10 starts here. I’ll also take Joey Logano at +700 to get that first Texas win since 2014. Logano has nothing to lose now and he is at his best when he can be aggressive. He might as well get another big paycheck for a win. The only concern would be wrecking the car at this point, but that can be fixed. Coverage of the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 will be on NBC Sports Network on Sunday October 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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