Exploring Cup stat trends at 1.5-mile tracks ahead of Texas

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Before the Cup playoffs started last month, the narrative surrounding races at 1.5-mile tracks was clear: “Big 3” or bust.

The trio of Martin Truex Jr. (six wins), Kevin Harvick (four) and Kyle Busch (three) combined to win the previous 13 races on 1.5-mile tracks.

Then the playoffs started.

While having strong performances, neither of the “Big 3” won at the two 1.5-mile tracks so far in the playoffs. Brad Keselowski won at Las Vegas after Truex led 96 laps. Chase Elliott won at Kansas when a pit penalty derailed Harvick from winning after he led 76 laps and won Stage 2.

Here’s a deeper look at trends at 1.5-mile tracks ahead of this weekend’s playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN).

Three of the last four races on 1.5-mile tracks were won from a starting position outside the top 10.

The exception is Truex’s win from the pole at Kentucky.

Only three of the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks so far this year were won from the pole. All three instances were from the “Big 3” – Harvick (Kansas I), Kyle Busch (Coke 600) and Truex (Kentucky).

In general in the playoffs, positive starting position hasn’t equaled wins. Only one of the seven playoff races was won from a top five starting position. That was done by Aric Almirola at Talladega when he was part of Stewart-Haas Racing’s qualifying sweep of the top four positions.

The last four races on 1.5-mile tracks were won by four different organizations – Joe Gibbs Racing (Busch, Chicagoland), Furniture Row Racing (Truex, Kentucky), Team Penske (Keselowski, Las Vegas) and Hendrick Motorsports (Elliott, Kansas).

All but Keselowski remain in the playoffs.

Three playoff drivers have active top-10 streaks of four or more races on 1.5-mile tracks: Kyle Busch (10 races), Truex (six) and Joey Logano (four).

Busch’s streak began in last season’s finale in Miami.

Busch will attempt to repeat his spring feat in Texas. He led 116 laps on the way to his win. Busch is the only driver in the last six Texas races who won after leading the most laps. Busch also finished second in Stage 1 and won Stage 2.

Harvick, who won this race last year, has scored 40 stage points in the three Texas races with stage racing, the most of any driver.