The NASCAR Cup Series last competed at Texas Motor Speedway in late July. The race had a surprise winner when Austin Dillon used pit strategy to sneak into Victory Lane. His teammate (Tyler Reddick) finished second. One of the best ways to evaluate which drivers will be fast Sunday is to look at what happened in the last race at Texas. Here are my notes from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500..
Race Rewind: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (2020)
– The Track: The last race at Texas was blistering hot but the slick track provided a good race. 11 drivers were able to lead a lap in this race and nine drivers were able to lead over 10 laps. Ryan Blaney dominated most of the race with 150 laps led. Austin Dillon took two tires after a caution with 33 laps left in the race. The gamble on pit road gave him the lead and helped the No. 3 car get to Victory Lane.
The track added PJ1 Traction Compound in the corners to provide another racing grove at the top of the track. The preferred grove was still at the bottom of the track but the cars slowly moved up the track half-way through the race.
– The 10 drivers who looked the best in the race: Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon
Stage / Race Results
|Stage 1||Stage 2||
|1. Ryan Blaney||1. Ryan Blaney||1. Austin Dillon|
|2. Kyle Busch||2. Joey Logano||2. Tyler Reddick|
|3. Kevin Harvick||3. Denny Hamlin||3. Joey Logano|
|4. Tyler Reddick||4. Kurt Busch||4. Kyle Busch|
|5. William Byron||5. Kevin Harvick||5. Kevin Harvick|
|6. Kurt Busch||6. Martin Truex Jr.||6. Erik Jones|
|7. Jimmie Johnson||7. Chase Elliott||7. Ryan Blaney|
|8. Alex Bowman||8. Aric Almirola||8. Kurt Busch|
|9. Chris Buescher||9. Erik Jones||9. Brad Keselowski|
|10. Martin Truex Jr.||10. Kyle Busch||10. Aric Almirola|
– Kevin Harvick has won the last three October races at Texas and he will have momentum after his second-place finish at Kansas last weekend. Harvick started 5th, led 40 laps, score 14 Stage points and finished 5th at Texas in July. The No. 4 team usually brings one of their best cars to Texas for this race. Harvick is averaging 148 laps led in the fall races at Texas in the 550 HP aero package. He will be tough to beat from the poll position Sunday.
– Chase Elliott was looking good to advance to Phoenix on points until Joey Logano won the race last week at Kansas. Now Elliott is 8 points below the cutoff. Elliott had one of the dominant cars at Kansas (led 48 laps and finished 6th). He will need to build on that momentum Sunday. Elliott has not finished in the top 10 at Texas in his last three races at the track. Elliott started 8th, did not lead any laps, scored 4 Stage points and finished 12th at Texas in July.
– Aric Almirola had a bad start to the last race at Texas. The No. 10 car had brake problems but they were able to bleed the brake under caution and it seemed to fix the problem. Almirola started on the pole, led 35 laps but only scored 2 Stage points. He finished the race in the 10th position.
– Clint Bowyer has been good but not great at Texas I his career. He started 17th, did not lead any laps or score any Stage points in the last race at Texas. He finished 11th in the race and it was his second consecutive finish in the 11th position at the track. Bowyer is a better pick for DFS because he is averaging 14 place differential points at Texas in the 550 HP aero package. He starts 21st Sunday so he should move up 10-12 positions in the race.
– Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has not had any luck at Texas recently. He finished 40th in this race last year and 38th in the July race at Texas. This track ranks as his worst non-roda course track. Stenhouse started 13th and he was running in the 16th position when he was involved in the “Big One” on lap 220. Stanhouse had a lot of damage to his car and it sent him behind the wall.
– Kurt Busch is good at Texas but he will need to be excellent Sunday. Texas ranks as the second-best 1.5-mile track for Busch (behind Atlanta). He has finished 7 races in a row at the track in the top-10. Busch started 3rd, scored 12 Stage points and finished 8th at Texas in July. His engine failure at Kansas last week has the No. 1 team 73 points below the cutoff line. Busch is in a must win situation so they will likely gamble on pit road to gain track position.
– Jimmie Johnson has not had much success at Texas in the last two seasons. His average finishing position at the track in his last 6 races is 23.6. Johnson was running 12th when he got loose on lap 118 and smacked the wall in the July race at Texas. He had damage to the left side of his car and the team spent a lot of time fixing it. Johnson finished the race in the 26th position. I would not recommend the No. 48 car in season long games but he is worth a spot in your DFS lineups since he starts 26th and should score some place differential points.
– Denny Hamlin won the race at Texas last year and he had one of the fastest cars at the track in July. Hamlin started 7th, led 11 laps, scored 8 Stage points and finished 20th. His poor finish was the result of being sent into the wall by Alex Bowman with 13 laps left in the race. Hamlin was running 4th at the time. The No. 11 team is only 20 points above the cutoff line so Hamlin will try to score as many Stage points as possible Sunday.
– Matt Kenseth has not been very reliable for fantasy teams this year. He started 30th last week and should have been a lock to score positive place differential points but Kenseth hit the wall and finished 40th. His last race at Texas was “OK”. He started 22nd, did not lead any laps, and did not score any Stage points, but finished 18th. Kenseth starts 32nd Sunday so he “should” be a good pick for DFS lineups.
– Erik Jones has been pretty good at Texas in his career. The track ranks as his best 1.5-mile track. Jones has finished 6th, 10th, 4th, 4th, 4th and 10th at Texas since his rookie season. He started 23rd, led 7 laps, scored 2 Stage points and finished 6th at Texas in July. Jones should be a good pick for season-long and DFS lineups since he starts 17th Sunday. Jones should have a good chance to score 8-10 place differential points this week.
– Brad Keselowski had his best finish in a long time at Texas in July. Keselowski entered the race with finishes of 39th and 36th in his two previous trips to the Lone Star State. He started 6th, led 15 laps and finished 9th at Texas in July. Keselowski ran up front because his team took two tires in the final Stage to gain track position. The late cautions ruined his strategy and allowed the field to catch him. He is a high-risk, high-reward driver for your fantasy team this week.
– Martin Truex Jr. in known as one of the best drivers on the 1.5-mile tracks but that has not been the case this season. Truex has not won a race on a 1.5-mile track since the race at Las Vegas in 2019. He has finished 4 of the 10 races in the top 5 this season. Truex started 10th and he was running 4th when he spun out on lap 220 while trying to battle for the lead on the restart. He had a lot of damage to his car and he finished 29th. The good news for Truex is that he is much better at Texas in October then he is in the spring or summer. Truex has a 5.6 average finishing position in October at Texas in the 550 HP aero package. He will start 6th Sunday.
– Kyle Busch had a fast car at Texas in July. He started 4th, led 11 laps, scored 10 Stage points and finished 4th. What was so impressive about Busch’s finish is that he spun through the grass on lap 220 while trying to battle for the lead on the restart. The team repaired the car and got Rowdy back to the front. His average finishing position at Texas in the 550 HP aero package is 7.8. He starts 9th Sunday so he will have the track position to run in the top 10.
– Christopher Bell will have some momentum this week after his 10th place finish at Kansas. His last race at Texas was good for DFS lineups but not so great for season-long games. Bell started 33rd because of his slow start to the season and his low ranking in the point standings. He had an average running position of 22nd and he finished the race in the 21st position. Bell scored 12 place differential points for fantasy teams in the race. This week he starts 15th so his ability to score positive place differential points are limited.
– Joey Logano is the first driver to secure a spot in the championship race at Phoenix. So how focused will the No. 22 team be on this race and will they sacrifice track position if it will help Brad Keselowski in the race? All of these questions are legitimate. Logano has a 5th place average finishing position at Texas since 2015 (that is the best in the series). Logano starts on the front row so he is a high-risk, high-reward driver for your team Sunday.
– Ryan Blaney completely dominated the first half of the race at Texas. That should not surprise anyone because that is what he does on the 1.5-mile tracks. Blaney started 2nd, led a race-high 150 laps, won both Stages and finished 7th. He was battling for the lead on a late race restart when he got loose. The No. 12 car was the best in the field at Texas in July.
– Alex Bowman finished 30th in the last race at Texas because he got loose and ran into Denny Hamlin with 13 laps left in the race. Bowman was running 8th at the time of the accident. I would not worry too much about his finishing position at Texas in July. Bowman is on fire right now with his 3rd place finish last week at Kansas and his 5th place finish at Las Vegas earlier in the playoffs. Bowman started 5th and finished 5th in this race last year. He will roll off from the 5th position again Sunday.
– William Byron was having a good race. The No. 24 car was running in the top 15 when there was an accident at the front of the field on lap 220. He had nowhere to go and ran into the back of Cole Custer. The damaged ruined the No. 24 car. Byron finished the race in the 37th position. Byron had a 12th place average finishing position at Texas before his poor finish in July. He does not have much value in DFS since he starts 11th Sunday.
– Austin Dillon snuck into Victory Lane at Texas in July. His car had good speed but it wasn’t the fastest in the race. Dillon had a 13.82 average running position in the race. The No. 3 team decided to gamble in the pits with 33 laps left in the race. They took 2 tires while most of the field took 4. The decision gave Dillon the lead and he was able to hold off the competition for the win. Dillon finished 11th last week at Kansas so he will start 12th Sunday. He is a better pick for season-long games then he is for DFS.
– Tyler Reddick had a similar race as his teammate (Austin Dillon) at Texas in July. Reddick started 24th immediately went to the front of the field. He led 5 laps and scored 7 Stage points in Stage 1. He fell back in the field in the second Stage. The No. 8 car had a 15.25 average running position in the race, but they decided to take fuel only under caution with 33 laps left in the race. Reddick started 2nd on the restart (right behind his teammate) and he played the role of good solider by blocking the traffic and helping Dillon to Victory Lane. Reddick starts 19th Sunday so he should be a decent play for your DFS lineup.
– Ryan Newman is a hard driver to trust in your fantasy lineup. His average finishing position this year is 20th. Newman started 15th, had a 17.24 average running position and finished 13th at Texas in July. It was his best finish on a 1.5-mile track this season. Newman starts 25th so he will be a good pick for your DFS lineup if he can finish anywhere near his 13th place finish in July.
– John Hunter Nemechek was not good at Texas in July but he was not bad either. He started 28th, scored 6 place differential points and finished 22nd. He is a decent pick for DFS when his price is low and he starts deep in the field. JHN will roll off the grid from the 24th starting position. He should be able score 2-4 place differential points for your DFS lineup. He certainly will not win you your contest, but he will not lose it either.
– Cole Custer entered the last race at Texas after a win at Kentucky. Custer started 19th and he was running in 14th place when he spun out and smack the inside wall on lap 220. He was simply a victim of the aggressive driving up front and was sent into the wall by Martin Truex Jr. The damage ruined his car. Custer finished 39th. He finished 14th last week at Kansas and 16th at Las Vegas. Custer starts 16th Sunday and should be able to finish in the top 15 at Texas.
Bubba Wallace had one of his better races of the season at Texas in July. He started 14th, had a 19.12 average running position and he finished 14th. The No. 43 team used the data from Richard Childress Racing to gamble in the pits and take two tires with 33 laps left in the race. Wallace started 6th on the restarted and was able to hang onto a top-15 finish. He starts 18th Sunday and his average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks in 2020 is 23.9. He does not have much value in season-long of DFS contests this week.
Follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR