Texas Motor Speedway is the site of this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race.
It has been 23 years since the very first Cup race at the 1.5 mile speedway. As old as the facility is starting to get, the track itself seems fairly fresh from a driver’s perspective. That’s because the track recently was given a brand new reconfiguration that gave turns one and two more banking than turns three and four. Like Kentucky last week, this makes it hard for the crew chiefs to make a car that will turn perfectly on both sides of the track.
With the current Cup Series rules package, combined with the new track configuration, passing at Texas has become much harder. Clean air is king at most tracks on the schedule, but it’s especially effective at a track like Texas.
Another big factor for the race is going to be just how hot the track is going to be. Air temps for the area will be in the upper 90’s at the start of the event, and with a 2 pm local start, those temperatures are only going to get warmer before they start to cool off a bit if the race ends late.
One thing I’m doing different this week is not picking Kevin Harvick. Harvick-free week on the Forecast. The reason for this is that it gets boring writing about picking Harvick every single weekend. With how little track time these cars are getting now, there really doesn’t seem to be much parity up in the upper tier of the field, and Harvick is generally head-and-shoulders above the rest of his competition when it comes to overall fantasy value.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, it allows you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 334-lap race will have a total of 33.4 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on mid-pack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for Sunday afternoon’s race.
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Denny Hamlin ($13,300)
Career at Texas: 28 starts, 3 wins, 7 top fives, 13 top 10s
Average Finish at Texas: 13.8
Well, if I couldn’t choose Harvick, Hamlin is the next best choice.
Hamlin was largely irrelevant at Kentucky last week, but this is after winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway way back in June. Toyota in general seemed fairly irrelevant last week at a track they typically dominate at, so they’ll be looking to change that outlook at this crucial track type as the playoffs begin to appear in the distance.
The Daytona 500 champion is also the defending winner of this race. Hamlin is very hot-and-cold at Texas; he’ll get a top 3, then finish in the 20’s the very next race. Case in point: he finished 28th in the fall race last year after getting that win in the spring. So if we’re playing on San Francisco Giants rules, does that mean Hamlin follows that up with a win on Sunday?
Joey Logano ($11,500)
Career at Texas: 23 starts, 1 win, 10 top fives, 12 top 10s
Average Finish at Texas: 14.0
The 2018 Cup Series champion’s lone win in the Lone Star State came six years ago. But unlike Hamlin, Logano’s recent resume at Texas comes with one huge plus: consistency.
Outside of a 17th in this race last year, Logano hasn’t finished outside of the top seven at Texas since the start of 2016. That level of consistency should make him an automatic get if you want to pick a Team Penske Ford, as neither of his teammates have even won at Texas just yet.
Aric Almirola ($10,600)
Career at Texas: 18 starts, 0 wins, 1 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average Finish at Texas: 18.1
Almirola enters this hot race on a hot streak. The Floridian has five top five finishes in the past six Cup point races. And he’s not just riding around out there; Almirola led 61 out of 130 laps at Pocono, then followed that up with 128 out of 267 at Kentucky last week.
With Almirola’s pole by random draw, expect this team to rocket out and lead a ton of laps, with how hard it is for these teams to pass. Leading a few laps isn’t that big of a deal in FanDuel, but we’re talking about 16 or so points just from that alone if Almirola can lead a little under half of the race again. And this is at a track where the “Cuban Missile” finished second at last fall. All of these pros makes Almirola a very good value at this price.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Christopher Bell ($9,000)
Career at Texas: 0 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average Finish at Texas: N/A
Bell really seems to be starting to get into a rhythm with this Leavine Family Racing team. They’ve started to show consistent top 10 speed every week for the past month or so. The hot and slick conditions have generally seemed to effect drivers from Bell’s sprint car background in a positive fashion, due to their excellent sense of car control. Tony Stewart in particular used to always come alive in these scorching conditions. And with how hot this race will be, Oklahoma may well come into Texas and win more than just the football game this year.
BARGAIN TIER: $5,999 and below
Michael McDowell ($5,500)
Career at Texas: 20 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average Finish at Texas: 31.4
I know, I know. McDowell’s biggest moment in his entire career was a spectacular practice crash at Texas over a decade ago. But McDowell has had some surprising results this summer, and may well find himself in position for another surprisingly good finish if the heat leads to a high attrition rate for the top teams. Let’s just hope that Bubba Wallace doesn’t choose this week to dish out some revenge for the All-Star Race.