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Dustin Off the Next Race: Autotrader EchoPark 500

In a year that has been anything but typical, this weekend’s event at Texas seems to have a typical feeling for many of us.  Maybe it’s because that despite everything that has gone on this year with races getting cancelled, others rescheduled to be double-headers, and some tracks hosting two races in one week to make up for those that lost events, this one in essence hasn’t moved.

Ever since 2014 when the playoffs went to this elimination format, Texas has been a track that is in the middle of the third round, and has consistently delivered some drama and insanity.

That was pretty apparent in 2014 when a bump in the race meant a confrontation afterwards, and suddenly a shoving and grabbing match got under way with a pair of crews, and some trying to break it up.  Lord I will never forget the replays when Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon got their hands on one another, no thanks to a slight “bump” from Kevin Harvick, and the fight was on.

But what I remember the most in that brawl is seeing then-ESPN and current FOX pit reporter Jamie Little in the middle of it trying to break the two parties apart.  That is not in her job description, but I guess when the situation called for it, she did what I suppose many of us would do.

Talk about a brave woman.

Speaking of fights, who can forget the Jeff vs. Jeff fight years earlier when Gordon and Burton wrecked, almost under caution, and while the forward was heading to the ambulance, he saw the latter…and it was on.  Gordon and Texas never really had that great of a relationship ever since the track came on the schedule in 1997, so guess it was normal in a sense for something to occur and knock him out of the race.

That’s the nature of this track, but when I say this is a familiar race in the playoffs, it holds true.

Since 2014, this event has occurred in the Round of 8, or as it was called during the Sprint era, the Eliminator Round.  It has always been the middle race of the round, and it’s one of the few races that has been won by both playoff drivers, and non-playoff drivers.  This year, that certainly can hold true as some non-playoff drivers can truly take a victory here if the cards fall the right way.

Guys like Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, or even Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, they have a chance to steal away some of the spotlight from those title drivers.

Someone is gonna do some two-stepping at the end of the day, put on a cowboy hat, and fire off some six-shooters.  Let’s just hope one of those longhorn steers doesn’t get in the way.

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