The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, and with just three races to go in season, it is time to get all you can get in your season-long Fantasy NASCAR leagues.
Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 is the 10th race of the year at a mile-and-a-half track, and the big names and top teams usually deliver at this type of track. In the Driver Group Game this means using any starts you have left from the Big 3 and high-end Group B drivers. For Fantasy Live, I’m going to have at least two members of the Big 3 at my disposal, and my non-playoff options are going to be big names, as well.
If you do want to gamble a bit this weekend to try to gain some ground, I don’t recommend getting too crazy with your picks. If you are fading the Big 3 in the DGG, I’d stick with either Kyle Larson or the Team Penske guys. At Fantasy Live, I’d much rather use any of the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers or someone like Erik Jones before throwing a dart and a complete longshot. It is still possible to go against the grain without throwing a Hail Mary.
For Slingshot, I tend to sacrifice a little place differential upside to roster some more proven options. Yes, you can occasionally find some surprise drivers who will have strong runs at 1.5-mile tracks, but it certainly isn’t as common as it is at a short track or plate track. I’d rather have a weekly Top 10 driver who is starting 12th than a mid-pack driver starting 23rd this weekend.
Check out all my season-long Fantasy NASCAR picks for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 and help make sure you finish the 2018 season on a high note.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kyle Busch (Playoff)
He had a great car at Texas back in the spring, leading a race-high 116 laps on his way to the win. Busch finished second and fourth in the two stages of that race, and looking at his speed this weekend, a repeat performance could be on tap. He leads all drivers with a 3.9 average finish at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, so you will have a tough time finding a driver with a higher floor this weekend.
Kevin Harvick (Playoff)
Harvick has been fast at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, and Texas has always been one of his best tracks. He has three straight Top 5 finishes here, winning the fall race last season and finishing first or second in the two stages. Harvick won the opening stage in the spring race this season and recovered from a green flag pit stop for a loose wheel to finish second. After qualifying third and showing tons of long-run speed, I’m picking him for the clean sweep this weekend.
I thought long and hard about using Kyle Larson, but he is starting back in 22nd and Keselowski qualified in the Top 5. Both drivers showed strong practice speeds, so Keselowski’s track position ended up tipping the scales in his favor. He also earned points in both stages in the spring race before being caught up in a late wreck, and he finished sixth and fifth in the two races at Texas a year ago.
Blaney finished eighth and third in the two stages at Texas last fall on his way to a sixth-place finish, and he picked up a Top 5 finish in the spring race despite an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel. After grabbing the pole for Sunday’s race, another strong finish and plenty of stage points seem like a given.
Garage Driver – Erik Jones
I had Martin Truex Jr. penciled in for this spot until news of his engine change. I’m not sure he will get many points in Stage 1, if any, starting from the back. Instead, I will have Jones available, and back in April, he finished 10th and fourth in the two stages at Texas while leading 64 laps. He starts 12th, and he showed excellent long-run speed in final practice.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kevin Harvick (A)
I’ve got a couple of starts left with Harvick, and I’m using one this weekend. He has eight straight Top 10s at Texas, and he has six Top 5s during that streak, including his win in the fall race last year and runner-up effort this spring. Starting third with a car that was one of the best in practice Saturday, anything less than a Top 5 will be a surprise.
Aric Almirola (B)
I was expecting to use Erik Jones this weekend, but Almirola has been solid at the 1.5-mile tracks all year, and he has shown up with a fast car this weekend. He qualified fourth, and he topped the charts the in the opening practice Saturday. Almirola has three straight Top 10s at mile-and-a-half tracks, and he looks ready to extend that streak in a big way this weekend.
Ryan Blaney (B)
Texas has been one of Blaney’s best tracks, so it was an easy decision to use him after he grabbed the pole for Sunday’s race. He finished sixth in the fall race here last year and fifth back in the spring, and Blaney should be back in the mix for a Top 5 finish this weekend.
William Byron (C)
Chris Buescher was my other option, and while I think he has a great shot at a Top 20, I’m going to gamble on Byron’s upside. He finished 10th in his Texas debut in the spring, albeit in a race that featured high attrition, and he has shown solid speed this weekend. After qualifying in the Top 10, Byron showed Top 15 speed in practice. He hasn’t had the best luck at 1.5-mile tracks in general this year, but this late in the year, I’m going to swing for the fences a bit.