After the only rest day of the regular season, the Cup returns to competition on Sunday (5:00 pm ET, NBC) with a 399-mile race at the Nashville Super Speedway near Lebanon, Tennessee.
The race will be the second round of the Cup on a 1.33 mile track. Kyle Larson took a landslide victory in the track’s debut Cup last season. The Xfinity and Truck series have previously raced in Nashville. They are also on the schedule for this weekend.
The cup race will begin with a 10-week, 10-race race before the end of the regular season. The 10-race playoffs are due to begin on September 4 at Darlington Speedway in South Carolina.
- Points position: 7th
- Last three races: 15th in Sonoma; 12th at the gate; 9th in Charlotte
- Past in Nashville: Won in 2021
Larson actually defines the term “favorite” in Nashville. Last year, he led 264 of the 300 laps of the race and won by 4.33 seconds, almost a calendar page ahead of the runner-up. Ross Chastain.
Larson is on a 14-race winless streak and will work in Nashville with interim crew chief Kevin Mindering, who will replace Cliff Daniels, who was suspended after Larson’s Chevrolet lost a wheel at Sonoma.
- Points position: 2nd
- Last three races: 7th in Sonoma; 8th at the gate; 15th in Charlotte
- Past in Nashville: 2nd in 2021
Chastain, one of four drivers with multiple wins this season, finished second to last year’s winner Kyle Larson in Nashville as a result of fuel consumption.
In the last eight races of the season, Chastain finished eighth or higher five times. He has seven A’s (including two wins) in his last 14 tournaments.
- Points position: 8th
- Last three races: 9th in Sonoma; 19th at the gate; 32nd in Charlotte
- Past in Nashville: 3rd in 2021
Byron, who has won this season in Atlanta and Martinsville, has been relatively quiet lately. During the year he led 570 laps, but 482 of them were registered in the first eight races. In the last eight races, Byron led just 88 laps.
However, his run in Nashville last year puts him on the watch list for this weekend. Despite starting the race from behind due to an incorrect setup, he rolled across the field and finished third.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
- Points position: 12th
- Last three races: 4th in Sonoma; 33rd at the gate; 3rd in Charlotte
- Past in Nashville: 5th in 2021
Harvick remains the standout driver still on the sidelines looking for a playoff spot. He is the first rider below the points cutoff line, seven points behind. Aric Almirola. Harvick has appeared in 12 consecutive playoffs, the most among active drivers.
The season has been difficult for Harvick, but he has finished fourth or better twice in the last four races and finished in the top ten in five of the last seven. He performed well last year in Nashville, finishing in fifth place after running out of gas on the last lap and falling behind in fourth place. He owns two Xfinity track victories.
Harvick leads a 59-race winless streak in which he finished second four times.
- Points position: 17th
- Last three races: Won in Sonoma; 23rd at the gate; 25th in Charlotte
- Past in Nashville: 7th in 2021
So, Daniel, can you do it again? Suarez broke into the winning circle at Sonoma and finished in the top 10 four times in the last 14 races. Now he needs to prove that he can fight for the big ovals.
Suarez was seventh last year in Nashville after starting 22nd.
- Points position: 6th
- Last three races: 26th in Sonoma; 6th at the gate; 12th in Charlotte
- Past in Nashville: 22nd in 2021
Truex remains winless this season after a 2021 series in which he won four times. So far, he’s had six top fives last year; now he only has two.
Truex is currently 14th in playoff points, penalized twice during last year’s Nashville race, finishing 22nd after a pit stop with 10 laps to go.