The first round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is complete and now it is time for the Round of 12. The 12 drivers compete for the championship includes William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace. There is a lot of the line at Texas for these drivers, because the last thing they want to do is to try and climb out of a hole at Talladega or the Charlotte Roval (the other two races in the Round of 12). It should be fun to see how it all plays out. Here is the weekend schedule for the racing at Texas…
Texas has been known as the worst intermediate track on the schedule, but the Gen-7 car changed that. There were an incredible 36 lead changes and 16 cautions in the race last year. Martin Truex Jr. brought out the first when he spun out on lap 40. Texas is the worst intermediate track for Truex, so that was no surprise. Kyle Busch was the next driver to spin out. That should not surprise people either, because Rowdy either runs up front or spins out at Texas. Christopher Bell spun out, and was caught up in a wreck later in the race. It was not a good race for the No. 20 team. Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman also wrecked during the race. In the end it was Tyler Reddick who dominated the race (he led a race-high 70 laps) and went to Victory Lane.
You can watch the highlight of last year’s race at Texas here: TEXAS RACE REWIND
CUP SERIES PLAYOFF STANDINGS
The points for the playoffs are reset for the start of the Round of 12. William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. enter this round as the leaders, but Truex Jr. proved in the last round that no driver is safe. Bubba Wallace had and emotional race into the Round of 12, but now he is back on the bottom of the points standings. There will definitely be a lot of movement in the standings following the race at Texas.
STATS FOR TEXAS
Texas is a 1.5-mile intermediate track similar to Las Vegas, Kansas and Charlotte. We can learn a lot by looking at the cars that had speed at the intermediate tracks in 2023. I will use the data from those races, with the race at Kansas two weeks ago getting extra weight in the rankings. I will also add in the data from the race at Darlington to show which drivers have momentum on the intermediate tracks. Finally, I will use the data from the Gen-7 car race at Texas last year to add track history to the model.
Here are the Driver Rankings from the races on the intermediate tracks this season and the race at Texas last year…
The strategy for the Driver Group Game is to play your studs. The cream typically rises to the top on the intermediate tracks so we want to use our top drivers this week. Group A should be a decision between Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and William Byron. You really cannot go wrong with any of these drivers. Tyler Reddick is a lock in Group B. You can pair him with Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. or Bubba Wallace. Group C is the tough decision. Ty Gibbs should be a lock, but he hasn’t finished in the top-12 on any intermediate track this season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Carson Hocevar are all in play in Group C.
The strategy for Fantasy Live is easy this week. Simply play the best drivers. I will be shocked if Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, William Byron and Tyler Reddick are not in my starting lineup. They have clearly been the best drivers this year on the intermediate tracks and they all have good track history at Texas. I will look at Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott as drivers I want to pair with the drivers from the first group.
The strategy for DFS Contests on intermediate tracks is to typically play two or three dominators in your lineups and try to score the bonus points for leading laps and the fastest laps. That may not be the best strategy this week. I plan to build balanced lineups where I can fit four or five drivers who qualified up front into the lineup. There were 36 LEAD CHANGES last year at Texas. Six drivers were able to lead at least 23 laps in the race. Our lineups will have a good chance of returning a nice profit if we’re are able to find four drivers who lead 25+ laps Sunday.
EARLY WEEK PICKS FOR TEXAS
ONE & DONE PICK: TY GIBBS
DRIVER GROUP GAME PICKS: DENNY HAMLIN, KYLE LARSON, TYLER REDDICK, BRAD KESELOWSKI, BUBBA WALLACE, TY GIBBS, RICKY STENHOUSE JR.
FANTASY LIVE PICKS: DENNY HAMLIN, KYLE LARSON, WILLIAM BYRON, TYLER REDDICK, BRAD KESELOWSKI, (GARAGE) RYAN BLANEY
Good luck this weekend!
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