Texas Motor Speedway’s first race on the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series was originally scheduled to take place in the spring almost four months ago but like everything else in this country, COVID-19 forced a change of plans.
Sunday’s race date put the event in the heat of summer but in NASCAR’s defense regardless of where the series would have stopped at over the weekend, heat would have been a factor.
The temperature rose to 97 at Texas on Sunday with temperatures in the cars reaching a scorching 135 degrees and for one of the few times on the schedule, the race was a 500 mile event.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon not only had to overcome the heat but also hold off teammate Tyler Reddick on three late restarts for his third win of his career and the first since he won the 2018 Daytona 500.
It was the first 1-2 finish for RCR since 2011 when Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton claimed the top-two spots at Talladega.
Dillon’s win makes him the tenth winner this season and it guarantees him a spot in the sixteen-driver playoff field that will compete for the series title over the last ten races on the schedule.
The win comes just one week after Stewart-Haas Racing’s rookie Cole Custer captured the checkered flag at Kentucky. Dillion and Custer’s win now leaves just six spots left to be filled before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway which is the final race of the 26-race regular season portion of the schedule.
Thursday night’s Super Start Batteries 400 at Kansas Speedway will be the first of an eight-race stretch that will eventually set the playoff field and the names of drivers still looking for their first win of the season that would lock down their playoff spot contains some very big names. The defending series champion Kyle Busch is not only looking for his first win of the season, he is still looking for his first stage win as he yet to earn a playoff bonus point for either a win or stage win.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and former series champion Kurt Busch are also looking for a win and a spot in the playoffs. All three of these former champions now set inside the top-16 in points and are joined by Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto as drivers who would make the playoff field if it started this week.
Both Dillon and Custer were somewhat of longshots to make it to victory lane and with eight races still remaining before the field is reduced to sixteen, there is still a chance that another driver who sits outside of the top-16 at this point could find their way to victory lane and in the process knock another driver out.
The pressure continues to mount for those drivers on the bubble of making the playoff field as every point earned during a race could mean the difference on which side of the bubble that a driver ends up.
That makes the points awarded during the first two stages of a race more valuable which adds to the pressure of a driver and his team to hit the setup without any practice prior to the start of a race and in some cases having to overcome a poor starting position due to the blind draw used to set the starting field.