The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competes at Texas Motor Speedway this week for the AAA Texas 500. The race can be seen Sunday at 2pm ET on NBC Sports Network. This will be the second race in the Round of 8. Who will be the next driver to punch his ticket to Homestead?
Wow, what a race at Martinsville! I do not agree with what Denny Hamlin did to Chase Elliott but that is what NASCAR is going to get when they put so much on the line at a short track in the playoffs. Hamlin did make a BIG mistake and it was not simply spinning out Elliott. He did it too early!! When you take out a driver with 10 laps left in the race you are sending a message to the other drivers that you feel wrecking a driver to win the race is expectable. Guess what… when the green flag is waived it is now your turn to get sent up the track. If Hamlin would have waited until 1 lap to go to take out Elliott he would have been in Victory Lane Sunday night.
Now onto Texas…
The MENCS last competed at Texas in April. The race was dominated by Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick. The two drivers combined to lead 225 of the 334 laps. Jimmie Johnson had the best car on the long run and he was able to take the lead and win for the seventh time at Texas. Here is the Texas Race Rewind.
This week I used past performance at Texas, results from the last four races on 1.5-mile tracks and current momentum to determine which drivers are the best for your fantasy team. I also weighted the drivers who have something to race for a little more this week. Here are the top 15 drivers in my model…
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kevin Harvick
- Chase Elliott
- Kyle Busch
- Kyle Larson
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brad Keselowski
- Matt Kenseth
- Jamie McMurray
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Denny Hamlin
- Kurt Busch
- Daniel Suarez
- Ryan Blaney
- Clint Blower
Pick to Win
Martin Truex Jr. has to be the favorite to win this week. The No. 78 car has won 6 of the 11 races on the 1.5-mile tracks, including all of the races in the playoffs (Chicago, Charlotte and Kansas). Truex has also led a NASCAR record 1,023 laps in these races. There is no need to try and be cute this week. Select Truex for your fantasy team and enjoy watching him lead the most laps Sunday.
Kyle Busch is the first driver to clinch a spot in the final four at Homestead. So will he be testing this week or will he be all out for the win? I think it will be a little bit of both. The No. 18 team will probably use some of their practice time to try a setup that may work at Homestead but when the green flag is waived I expect Busch to race for the win. He has finished 5 of his last 6 races at Texas in the top 5. I expect another top-5 finish Sunday.
Kevin Harvick does not have the results that Martin Truex Jr. has on the 1.5-mile tracks but he has been just as dominant since the playoffs started. Harvick qualified 4th, led 59 laps and finished 3rd at Chicago. He qualified 3rd, led 149 laps and finished 3rd at Charlotte. The No. 4 car qualified 2nd, led 37 laps and finished 8th at Kansas. Harvick had the best car in the last race at Texas. I expect him to qualify in the top 4 and finish in the top 3 this week.
Kyle Larson does not have the best stats at Texas but ignore what he did in the past at Texas. The No. 42 team is a lot better this season then they were in Larson’s first 3 seasons. Larson has finished 6 of the last 12 races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2nd place. Yes, he was runner up in 50% of the races! It does not get much better than that unless your name is Martin Truex Jr. Larson started 32nd and drove his way through the field for a 2nd-place finish in the last race at Texas. I expect him to bounce out f his slump in the Lone Star State.
Chase Elliott has come so close to winning his first race. Could this be the week he finally gets the job done? The No. 24 car is no stranger to Victory Lane at Texas and they have had the speed to get the job done. Elliott has been one of the most consistent drivers on the 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs. He finished 2nd at Chicago and Charlotte and he finished 4th at Kansas. I expect another top-5 finish from Elliott in the AAA Texas 500.
Jimmie Johnson really needs something to go his way. A trip to Texas may be just what the crew chief ordered. Johnson has seven wins at Texas including the race this season. He has won 4 of the last 6 races at the track so he should be a great pick this week. I doubt Johnson will qualify up front but this race is 500 miles and that suites the No. 48 team perfectly. They will work on their car and at the end of the race Johnson will be in the top five.
Ryan Blaney dominated the last race at Texas. He qualified 2nd and led 148 laps but fell outside the top 10 at the end of the race. The Wood Brothers Ford has had a lot of speed on the intermediate tracks. Blaney finished 11th at Chicago, 8th at Charlotte and 3rd at Kansas. I expect Blaney to qualify up front and run up front Sunday.
Jamie McMurray does not have a lot of momentum coming into this race but the No. 1 team has been very strong on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. McMurray has finished 9 of the 11 races this season on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 10. He qualified 6th and finished 7th in the first race at Texas. I expect similar results from McMurray this week.
Clint Bowyer was one of the drivers who stood out when I watched the tape of the last race at Texas. It seemed as though the No. 14 car was always up front. He qualified 3rd and his average running position was 6th. He lost a lot of spots in the pits with 35 laps to go and finished 11th. Bowyer is still looking for his first win with his new team and I doubt it will happen Sunday. I do expect him to run in the top 10 again at Texas.
Daniel Suarez may be the most overlooked driver in NASCAR. He is often overshadowed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates and the driver competing with him for the Rookie of the Year award (Erik Jones). Suarez has been getting a better in each race at the 1.5-mile tracks. He only finished 19th in the first race at Texas but the Toyotas are running a lot better now than they were at the beginning of the season. Saurez is a good pick for your fantasy team this week.
Erik Jones actually has more experience at Texas then he does at the other 1.5-mile tracks. He drove the No. 20 car for Matt Kenseth in this race in 2015. He started 6th and finished 12th in that race. The No. 77 has been pretty consistent on the 1.-5mile tracks this season. How can you fail when you are sharing notes with Martin Truex Jr. Jones should qualify inside the top 10 and run inside the top 10 Sunday.
I will have my picks updated on my website (Fantasy Racing Tips) after final practice Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR).