After Wednesday night’s All-Star Race at Bristol, the Cup Series gets back to regular season action this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be the second points race in a row at a mile-and-a-half oval and seventh race at a 1.5-mile track in 2020.
When building my Fantasy NASCAR lineups this weekend, I am going to play close attention to the results from the other races at mile-and-a-half tracks. There is typically a lot of crossover among the drivers and teams who excel at these tracks, especially within the same season. Yes, you can usually count on all the top drivers from the big teams performing well, but even among this group, we have seen a hierarchy develop.
I also factor in how drivers have performed at Texas in the past, but it is important to keep in mind that the track underwent a repave and reconfiguration prior to the 2017 season. As a result, I really limited my historical data mining to the last six Texas races when building this week’s driver rankings.
1. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has been close to unstoppable since Texas was repaved, winning three of the six races while posting a 2.8 average finish. His worst finish in that stretch is an eighth-place effort, and he has led more than 30 laps five times and more than 70 laps four times. Throw in the fact that Harvick has led more laps at 1.5-mile tracks this year than any other driver, and he should be able to anchor any fantasy lineup this weekend.
2. Ryan Blaney
He continues to lead the way at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2020, scoring a series-high 277 points and posting a series-best 5.0 average finish in the six races. Blaney has finished sixth or better in five of those starts, and his worst finish is 11th. He has also finished 12th or better in five of his six starts at Texas, and in the other race, he led 45 laps before having an engine issue. I recommend using him in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
3. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has been a force at the mile-and-a-half ovals this year, scoring the second most points in the six races while compiling an 8.7 average finish. He has also led more than 50 laps in three of those starts. Truex should be one of the top options in season-long and DFS contests.
4. Chase Elliott
A pit road issue ruined his day at Kentucky, but Elliott still ranks third in points scored at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, leading at least 26 laps in five of the six races. He should be a Top 5 contender this weekend, if not a threat for the win.
5. Brad Keselowski
He has had some bad luck at Texas recently, but Keselowski has been the model of consistency at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2020. He is the only driver who has cracked the Top 10 in all six races, and his 7.2 average finish in those events ranks second in the series. He might not win, but he should be one of the safest bets for a strong finish.
6. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin won the spring race at Texas last year, and he has three Top 5s in the last four races at mile-and-a-half tracks this year, including a win at Homestead. He has a wider finishing range than some of the other big names, but Hamlin offers as much upside as any driver.
7. Joey Logano
His record at Texas since the repave is one of the best around, and Logano has cracked the Top 10 in five of the six races, posting a 6.7 average finish. I am a little concerned that he hasn’t had a Top 5 at a 1.5-mile track since Las Vegas, but Logano has led double-digit laps in five of the six races and has a knack for piling up stage points.
8. Kyle Busch
Busch won at Texas in 2018 and finished in the Top 10 in both races here last year, leading a combined 84 laps. However, he has been searching for elite speed all year, and he only ranks 11th in points scored at the 1.5-mile tracks. I think Busch can find his way to a Top 10, but I don’t expect to have a ton of exposure to him this weekend.
9. Kurt Busch
He has been one of the most reliable performers at Texas in recent years, and Busch is actually the only driver who has finished in the Top 10 in all six races at the track since the repave. His 8.5 average finish in that span ranks third in the series, and his 219 points scored are the third most. I like him in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
10. Aric Almirola
Few drivers have been running better than Almirola in recent weeks, and over the past six races, he owns a 4.5 average finish. He flexed his muscles at a 1.5-mile track last weekend when he led 128 laps at Kentucky, and he led 62 laps in a runner-up effort at Texas last fall. We’ve never seen this type of sustained performance out of Almirola, so you want to take advantage while you can.
11. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson has cooled off a bit in recent weeks, but he has shown Top 10 upside at the 1.5-mile tracks this year. He was also fast in both races at Texas in 2019, leading 60 laps and finishing fifth in the spring race and leading 40 laps in the fall race before crashing late. Johnson could be a sneaky fantasy force this weekend.
12. Erik Jones
He has struggled with consistency all year, but Jones has been stellar at Texas. He has five straight Top 10s at the track, finishing fourth three times. Jones has also led laps in three of the last four races here, leading at least 30 laps twice. He is a high-risk, high-reward fantasy option this weekend.
13. Austin Dillon
Dillon picked up Top 15s in both races at Texas last year, and he has been surprisingly strong at the mile-and-a-half ovals in 2020. He has cracked the Top 15 in all six races, posting a 9.5 average finish and scoring the seventh most points. Dillon is a legitimate Group B option in the Driver Group Game this weekend.
14. Alex Bowman
He led 11 laps and finished fifth in the fall race at Texas last fall, but Bowman has had a bad habit of struggling to finish off races at the 1.5-mile tracks this year. He ranks ninth in points in the six races, but he has an 18.7 average finish and has yet to crack the Top 10. Bowman should have a fast car Sunday, but there is no guarantee he will back up that speed with a solid finish.
15. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer has finished 11th or better in four of the six races at Texas since the repave, finishing second in the spring race last year and leading 36 laps in the fall event. However, he hasn’t been able to crack the Top 10 at a mile-and-a-half oval yet this year, so he is more of a boom-or-bust midrange play.
16. Matt DiBenedetto
He has shown a solid floor and some legitimate upside at the 1.5-mile ovals, posting a 12.7 average finish in the six races. DiBenedetto has cracked the Top 15 in four of those starts, logging a pair of Top 5s. Keep him in mind as a Group B sleeper in the Driver Group Game Sunday.
17. William Byron
He has been solid at Texas, albeit in a small sample size, posting a 12.2 average finish and notching two Top 10s in four starts. He has also been gaining momentum at the 1.5-mile tracks, finishing 12th or better in three of the last four races. Byron could be a sleeper Group B play in the Driver Group Game Sunday.
18. Tyler Reddick
Reddick has wasted no time making some noise at the 1.5-mile ovals, posting an 11.7 average finish and scoring the 10th-most points in the six races. He has cracked the Top 10 three times, finishing no worse than 18th. He also scored 34 more points than any other driver in the Group C tier at 1.5-mile tracks. If you have the starts to spare, he is the top play in his group for the Driver Group Game.
19. Christopher Bell
He has been trending in the right direction at the 1.5-mile tracks, posting a 12.6 average finish in the five races since the series returned to action. Bell has cracked the Top 10 in three of those starts, giving him as much upside as any Group C option in the DGG. For DFS contests, his terrible starting spots give him plenty of potential.
20. Ryan Newman
Newman has been a mid-pack performer at the mile-and-a-half ovals this year, posting a 21.0 average finish in his five starts and finishing no better than 14th. He did manage to crack the Top 15 in both Texas races last year, but I wouldn’t count on Newman for more than a Top 20 Sunday.
21. Cole Custer
The rookie is fresh off an upset win at Kentucky, and while another win isn’t likely to happen, Custer has been serviceable at the 1.5-mile tracks all year. His worst finish in the six races is 22nd, and he has cracked the Top 20 five times. He offers one of the safest floors among the Group C options in the DGG.
22. Chris Buescher
After being one of the top sleepers at mile-and-a-half ovals last year, Buescher appeared to be headed down the same road with finishes of 14th and 10th at Las Vegas and Charlotte. Unfortunately, he has finished 20th or worse in the last four races at 1.5-mile tracks, and it is hard to expect more than a mid-pack finish out of him Sunday at Texas.
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
He logged two Top 5s in the first three races of the year at 1.5-mile ovals, but Stenhouse has been trending in the wrong direction at these tracks. His 19.7 average finish at Texas since the reconfiguration isn’t terrible, but with the risk likely to outweigh the reward with Stenhouse, I would only consider him as an option in GPP contests at DraftKings.
24. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has struggled at the 1.5-mile tracks all year, posting a 22.8 average finish in five starts and finishing outside the Top 20 four times. As is the case at a lot of tracks, his career numbers at Texas are strong, but he just isn’t producing at the same level with this current package in the No. 42 machine. At best, Kenseth could sneak into the Top 20.
25. John Hunter Nemechek
The rookie crashed out at Kentucky last weekend, but Nemechek has still held his own at the 1.5-mile tracks this year. He has cracked the Top 25 in the other five races, notching three Top 20s. Nemechek is a sleeper Group C play for the Driver Group Game, and I love him as a source of cap relief at the DFS sites.
26. Bubba Wallace
While he has been putting up some of the best numbers of his career in 2020, Wallace remains inconsistent at the mile-and-a-half tracks. He has a 23.7 average finish in the six races this season, finishing outside the Top 20 four times. Wallace doesn’t offer enough upside to get my attention as a potential sleeper.
27. Ty Dillon
He has actually been decent at Texas in the past, finishing in the Top 25 in all six starts on the current configuration while compiling a 19.2 average finish. On the flip side, speed has been tough to come by for Dillon at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, and he has finished 25th or worse in four of the six races. If he starts deep enough in the field, he can be a low-priced, low-upside source of cap relief at DraftKings.
28. Michael McDowell
McDowell has been enjoying his best all-around season at the Cup level, but he continues to have limited value at the mile-and-a-half tracks. He has cracked the Top 25 in five of the six races, posting a 23.7 average finish overall, but his best finish is 15th. If he starts around 30th, he will have value at the DFS sites, but a Top 20 is probably his ceiling.
29. Ryan Preece
The 1.5-mile tracks have been a nightmare for Preece this season. He has finished 22nd or worse in all six starts, posting a 28.5 average finish. In fact, Preece has yet to finish on the lead lap at a mile-and-a-half oval in 2020. I don’t see using him in any fantasy format this weekend.
30. Corey LaJoie
After opening the year with three straight finishes inside the Top 25, including two Top 20s, at the 1.5-mile tracks, LaJoie has finished 27th or worse in the last three races. He is capable of sneaking into the Top 25, but he needs some serious attrition or cautions to fall in his favor to achieve much more. He has some value at DraftKings as a low-priced punt play, but even then, he will need to start outside the Top 30.