The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is in the Lone Star State this week for the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The cars will be back to 550 HP with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and aero ducts to promote drafting. This is the same package used at Las Vegas and Auto Club Speedway. The race can be seen at 3 p.m. ET on Fox
Goodyear brought the same combination of tires that were used in both races at Texas last year. The track used PJ1 Traction Compound on the tract to try and promote racing in the higher grooves. They also used the Tire Dragon at add rubber to the track. If it rains this weekend, the track could be completely different from what the teams had in practice since the traction compound will likely wash away.
Cautions have been way down in 2019 but that could change Sunday. Texas has average 8 cautions over the last 6 races (since the repave), mostly because the track wears out the front right tire. This means that it could be a good idea to take a chance on some mid-level drivers in DFS who can make it to the front simply from other “good” cars crashing out of the race.
Chase Elliott: Elliott will have some momentum after his 2nd place finish at Martinsville. The Hendrick Motorsports cars have struggled using the current aero package though. Elliott finished 9th at Las Vegas and 11th at Auto Club. Not bad, but not great. Elliot said, “The entry was good and the entry had good grip. Just need to work on the balance of 1 & 2 vs. 3 & 4.”
Jimmie Johnson: Is it time to waive the checkered flag on the seven-time champion’s career? Johnson has a 20th average finishing position in the 3 races using the current aero package. Johnson was complaining the car was hopping all over the track. Johnson moved to P2 on the speed chart in practice but he was being pulled around in a large draft. Johnson posted the best long run speed in practice.
Alex Bowman: Bowman has been the 2nd-best driver for Hendrick Motorsports this year but that is not saying much. Bowman finished 15th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st at Auto Club. Bowman finished 14th and 28th in his 2 races at Texas last year. Bowman was having problems with his power steering in practice.
William Byron: Byron has consistently run between 16th – 20th at the tracks where the current aero package has been used this season. He finished 17th at Atlanta, 16th at Las Vegas and 15th at Auto Club. Byron finished 10th and 16th in his 2 races at Texas last year. The No. 24 car was too tight and bouncing all over the track.
Kyle Larson: If you want to predict where Larson will finish Sunday, you should probably pick 12th place. Larson finished 12th at Atlanta, 12th at Las Vegas and 12th at Auto Club. That is pretty consistent. Larson liked his car. He said, “Just a bit tight in 1 and 2 but I can run it open through 3 and 4.” At the end of practice Larson said, “It is pretty good. I can run just about anywhere. I would not touch it.”
Kurt Busch: Busch has been one of the best drivers using the current aero package. He finished 3rd at Atlanta, 5th at Las Vegas and 6th at Auto Club. Last year Busch finished 7th in both races at Texas. Busch made some long runs and said, “It is still twitchy like in qualifying. It takes a long time for the tires to get heat in them but she really takes off after about 7 laps.” Busch had the fastest 10-lap, 15-lap and 20-lap average speed midway through practice and then the No. 48 car beat his time.
Kevin Harvick: Texas has been one of the best tracks for Harvick. He has finished 1st, 2nd and 1st in his last 3 races in the Lone Star State. Harvick has been consistent using the current aero package. He finished 4th at Atlanta, 4th at Las Vegas and 4th at Auto Club. The team worked hard to get 4 more spots worth of speed for Sunday. Harvick made some long runs and said, “I can hold it wide open in 3 and 4 but the nose dives into the track in 1 and 2. Not bad. Just need to raise it up a tick.” The No. 18 team told Kyle… “The No. 4 car is making good time at the top of the track.”
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer had a horrible race in Auto Club using this aero package. His car was overheating and he finished 38th. The team said they diagnosed the problem and it will not be a concern for Sunday. Bowyer has been hit or miss at Texas. He finished 9th in the spring and 26th in the fall last year. Bowyer made a long run and said, “I do not know what to tell you. This is junk.” The team said, “Bring it to us. We will make some adjustments.”
Daniel Suarez: Suarez has been decent in the current aero package with his new team. He finished 10th at Atlanta, 17th at Las Vegas and 13th at Auto Club. Last year he finished 29th and 28th in his 2 races at Texas. I expect better results from him Sunday. Suarez was complaining his car was dragging the splitter in 1 & 2.
Aric Almirola: Almirola has been one of the most consistent drivers on the intermediate tracks. Almirola has finished the last 10 races on non-plate tracks in the top 11. Almirola finished 8th at Atlanta, 7th at Las Vegas and 9th at Auto Club. Almirola liked his car. He said it had good balance in both ends of the track.
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has been on fire in 2019. He won the races at Atlanta and Martinsville, finished 2nd at Las Vegas and 3rd at Auto Club. His average finishing position using the current aero package is 2nd. Keselowski will have an advantage this week since he will compete in the Xfinity Series race. Keselowski should have a good idea of how the tires will wear since both series are using the same tire compound. Keselowski told Paul Wolfe, “I am barely lifting in 1 and 2. Wide open around the rest of the track. The car does not like the sticky stuff so I need to keep it at the bottom until some rubber is worked in.”
Joey Logano: Logano will be looking to bounce back after a horrible race at Martinsville. Logano has been awesome while using the current aero package. He won at Las Vegas and finished 2nd at Auto Club. He also has a 4th-place average finishing position in the last 6 races at Texas. Logano was complaining the nose was hitting the splitter into 1 and 2. They were bringing him in to make some adjustments. Logano went back out and went to P7 on the speed chart.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney was awesome at Texas last year. He won the pole, led 40 laps and finished 2nd. Blaney ran well in the last race using the current aero package (finished 5th at Auto Club), but had pit road problems at Atlanta and Las Vegas. Blaney told his team, “The looseness is better than yesterday. I still need some rear grip but we are going in the right direction.”
Paul Menard: Menard has been a mid-pack driver using the current aero package this year. He finished 14th at Atlanta, 15th at Las Vegas and 20th at Auto Club. He finished 13th in the last race at Texas. Menard told his team his car was “plowing tight.”
Kyle Busch: How good has Busch been in 2019? He finished 2nd at Daytona, 3rd at Las Vegas, 3rdat Martinsville and won at Phoenix and Auto Club. His average finishing position is 2.7. Busch also won this race at Texas last year. He will get some extra track time this week since Busch is competing in the Truck Series and Xfinity races this week. Kyle Busch was complaining his car was too bouncy in practice.
Erik Jones: Jones has been fast this season but keeps having bad luck. Sooner or later his luck is going to change. Jones finished 4th in both races at Texas last year. Jones made some long runs. He had the same setup as the No. 18 car. At first the car was too bouncy into 1 & 2 but then the team made some adjustments. He went back out and said, “We are now connected at both ends.” He was P2 at the time.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been a lot better this season. He has finished every race in the top 11. Hamlin finished 11th at Atlanta, 10th at Las Vegas and 7th at Auto Club in the current aero package. He was horrible at Texas last year (finished 34th and 30th) both I would not be too worried about his results in 2018. He is a more motivated driver in 2019. Hamlin told his team, “It is really good in clean air. In traffic is builds tight.” The team was going to loosen him up. He was P1 at the time.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has finished 7 of his last 8 races at Texas in the top 10. He has also been pretty good while using the current aero package. Truex finished 2nd at Atlanta, 8th at Las Vegas and 8th at Auto Club. Truex made some long runs and said, “The two ends of the track are totally different. 1 & 2 are tight and 3 & 4 are loose.” Cole Pearn told him to bring it in and they will try another setup. Truex went back out and he said, “It is getting better.”
Matt DiBendetto: Dibenedetto told MRN Radio before the race at Auto Club, “Something clicked during the practice at Auto Club. My crew chief (Mike Wheeler) would tell me to try stuff and I did not exactly understand what he meant. Denny Hamlin explained it to me and now I got it. When you race for an underfunded team you do not try the stuff the big guys do. Now I know what to try to get speed.” DiBenedetto had his best finish (18th). He also finished 20th at Martinsville (His worst track). DiBenedetto was fighting a tight racecar in practice.
Daniel Hemric: Hemric has been a lot better in qualifying than he has been in the race with the current aero package. He finished 20th at Atlanta (but was running in the top 10 when he got a flat tire), 23rd at Las Vegas and 33rd at Auto Club. Hemric told his team, “The balance is not bad.”
Austin Dillon: Dillon has been the best driver at qualifying using the current aero package. He qualified 4th at Las Vegas and won the pole at Auto Club. He ran well in California (finished 10th) and he could be good again Sunday. Dillon was complaining his car was too tight in traffic. He was P12 at the time.
Ty Dillon: Dillon has not been very good this season while running the current aero package. He finished 25th at Atlanta, 29th at Las Vegas and 27th at Auto Club. Dillon finished 22nd in the last race at Texas. Dillon told his team, “I can run it wide open around 90% of the track. I just need some brake into 1 and 2.”
Ryan Preece: Preece has struggled his rookie season and I doubt his luck will change Sunday. Preece finished 35th at Atlanta, 25th at Las Vegas and 23rd at Auto Club. He will lean on his teammate (Chris Buescher) to find speed for the race this week.
Chris Buescher: This is a home race for Buescher. He finished 15th in this race last year. Buescher has also been good in the current aero package. Buescher finished 9th at Atlanta, 18th at Las Vegas and 16th at Auto Club. Buescher made some long runs and said, “It feels good. Not sure on the speed but it is connected in both ends of the track.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: The current aero package has really helped Stenhouse in 2019. He finished 18th at Atlanta, 6th at Las Vegas and 14th at Auto Club. The more the draft comes into play, the better Stenhouse runs. Stenhouse made some long runs and told his team, “It is better center up than it is at the bottom. It is just too tight for the bottom.”
Ryan Newman: Newman has underperformed with his new team. Newman finished 13th at Atlanta (one of his best tracks), 24th at Las Vegas and 22nd at Auto Club. Newman finished 27th and 18th in his 2 races at Texas last year. Newman told his team, “Junk, junk junk. It will not turn at all.” He was P31 at the time.
Front Row Motorsports: Nate Ryan (reporter for NBC) reported why Front Row Motorsports is lacking speed in 2019. He said, “I talked to officials at Front Row Motorsports and I was told that they lose the race before the cars are rolled off the haulers. The team has been split into 2 shops since the 3rd car was added. The engines and crew chiefs are in one building and the chassis and drivers are in another building. The communication is really lacking. Also, cars must show up to the track with a package that can compete. The larger funded teams have the Hawkeye Inspection System so their cars are inspected and tweaked 20 times before they reach the track. Our cars have to be loaded onto the hauler and taken to Roush Fenway Racing to be inspection. That means we only get only inspection before they reach the track. This is a tremendous disadvantage and the reason why we cannot finish inside the top 25.” Darrell Waltrip Jr. also said the lack of a Hawkeye Inspection System at Richard Petty Motorsports has his team behind on speed.
Cars that looked good in practice: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski
Good Sleeper Picks: Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson, Chris Buescher, Daniel Hemric and Ryan Preece
Click here for the Starting Lineup
Click here for Friday Afternoon Practice Results
Click here for Saturday Morning (Canceled)
Final Practice Speeds
Best 10-Lap Average Speed
Best 15 and 20 Lap Average Speeds
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