NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series racing heads to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 after a race last week that saw Brad Keselowski sweep both stages and lead 446 of 500 laps in route to his second win of the season. Texas is a fast, slick race track that is very similar to other 1.5 mile racetracks, but has a few distinct and unique features that drivers love. With this new aero package, like at Las Vegas and Auto Club, we should see an exciting race with great restarts and several cars that can win the race.
Before I jump right in on this week’s race, it’s time to look back at how last week fared for yours truly. I had Hamlin to win and he might’ve had a shot had he not had an uncontrolled tire penalty, but he still was up front all day and scored a top five finish. As for DraftKings if you listened to me, I hope it paid off for you as Hamlin & Almirola both had good points days scoring top 10’s as did Austin Dillon who drove up from a start position of 30th. It really depends where you went at the top as Busch & Keselowski were so overpriced you couldn’t have a rock solid lineup top to bottom with more than one guy over $10K. Ty Dillon & Ryan Preece were other value plays last weekend. I cashed and turned a profit although I didn’t pick Keselowski to win.
Texas Race Preview:
Everything is bigger in Texas, so they say, and I expect the racing to be pretty exciting on Sunday as well. There is one driver who hasn’t missed a beat on this new aero package this season and it has translated to him on top of the points standings and already scoring a pair of wins, that’s Kyle Busch. The defending winner of this race, Busch is the only driver to score a top 10 every race this season and has double digit top 5’s at the track. The conversation of who wins this race on Sunday starts with Kyle Busch, it also shows why he’s the heavy Vegas favorite.
Kevin Harvick has won the last two fall races at Texas and led 264 laps in both races last year posting an average finish of 2.0 over the last four races at the track. Harvick and the No. 4 team have had results this season that many other teams would kill for, but it’s still not the Harvick we expect. Maybe its the new aero package or the new Ford Mustang, but Sunday in Texas could be when Harvick breaks through for his first win of the season. The winner at Las Vegas, Joey Logano, is also a guy to watch out for on Sunday. Over the last four races the driver of the No. 22 has an average finish of 4.75 and has finished in the top 10 every time, his lone win at the track came back in 2014. Penske teammate Ryan Blaney, who has been good most weeks and led a lot of laps, has a 6.25 average over the last two years and has led 188 laps second to only Harvick during that span.
How about what we saw out of 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson on Friday? Not only was the 48 fastest in opening practice, but swept all three rounds of qualifying in route to the pole. Overall, qualifying was more of the same this season with cars playing the waiting game and results more linked to where the car was in line rather than actual speed. That’s good news for savvy fantasy players though, but bad for these teams that have to work and pass a lot of cars early on. I’m expecting another good race with this new package, exciting restarts and several cars that can win the race.
O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Race Opening Odds:
-Kyle Busch 7/2
-Kevin Harvick 9/2
-Brad Keselowski 7/1
-Martin Truex Jr. 7/1
-Joey Logano 8/1
-Chase Elliott 11/1
-Kyle Larson 11/1
-Ryan Blaney 12/1
-Erik Jones 16/1
-Kurt Busch 20/1
-Denny Hamlin 20/1
Other odds: Almirola 25/1, Bowyer 25/1, Johnson 28/1, Suarez 50/1, Bowman 66/1, Stenhouse 66/1
Kyle Busch ($12,200): Busch has been awesome this season, loves this racetrack and should contend for the win on Sunday. I’ve already told you the numbers and he starts 16th on Sunday. Get him into your lineup, he already won the truck race Friday night, Xfinity Race on Saturday and is going for the sweep.
Kevin Harvick ($10,700): Top drivers aren’t cheap and affordable any more so you can’t really load up, but Harvick is a must on Sunday at Texas. He’s enjoyed great success here and rolls off 23rd on Sunday. No-brainer here.
Kurt Busch ($9,500): This is probably one of Kurt’s top tracks, at least in recent memory. He’s recorded 7 straight top 10’s at Texas and has had the most top 5’s this season of all Chevy drivers with 2. Starting 30th on Sunday, he’s must own.
Aric Almirola ($8,400): The 10 car has been Almir-olling this season with five straight top 10’s after the Daytona 500. He was top 5 in 15 and 20 lap consecutive average and starts 21st after the chaos of qualifying.
Jimmie Johnson ($8,000): Is this the week he finally breaks through? We saw this team find something and score a top 10 at Auto Club before struggling big time last week at one of his best tracks. It’s risky since he’s starting on the pole, but the speed in that car and the price is enough to get him into your lineup.
Value Plays: Bubba Wallace ($5,500) & Ty Dillon ($5,800). Both drivers scored a top 10 qualifying position and have been around the top 15 in speeds both practices. Wallace scored a top 10 at Texas last spring and was top 10 in 20 lap consecutive average. Dillon scored a top 15 last spring as well and the RCR cars have had speed. Both guys are risky in the place differential with their starting spots, but provide tremendous upside with their price.
Race Winner Prediction: Kevin Harvick
It’s a toss up here really between Harvick & Busch, but I like the No. 4’s chances to break through with his first win of the season on Sunday at Texas. They dominate at the track since the re-pave and appear to have wrapped their head around the new Ford Mustang.
Dark Horse: Jimmie Johnson
The active wins leader at Texas, Johnson has a fast Ally Camaro ZLI and opened at 28/1 in Vegas. I’m sure that has gone down in some places, but that team has turned a corner and hasn’t stopped giving their best effort week in and week out, Jimmie could get it done on Sunday.