Following last weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway, the Cup Series will make a stop at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, bookending Wednesday night’s All-Star Race at Bristol with a couple of races at mile-and-a-half ovals. In fact, this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be the seventh race of 2020 to be held at a 1.5-mile track.
I make it a point to mention this because almost every year, there is an undeniable correlation with how drivers perform across all of the events at mile-and-a-half tracks. Yes, there will be some ebb and flow throughout the course of the season, but you can count on a core group of the top drivers from the top teams to show consistent, high-end speed.
With six races at 1.5-mile tracks in the books, we can identify that core group of drivers for 2020 and take advantage when building our Fantasy NASCAR lineups. Equally as important, we can also identify the drivers who have separated themselves from the pack of midrange options at these tracks.
I still recommend loading up your lineups with plenty of heavy hitters at tracks like Texas, but we have reached the point in the season where it is a lot easier to sprinkle in a couple of alternative options and save some starts in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game without sacrificing a lot in the way of performance.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
He has been in a league of his own at Texas since the track was repaved and reconfigured, winning three of the six races while posting a 2.8 average finish. Harvick has also led 30-plus laps in five of those six starts, leading 70-plus laps five times. No driver has led more laps at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020 than Harvick, and starting fifth, he is in prime position to add to his impressive Texas resume and finish as the top scorer.
Blaney has been a force at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2020, posting a series-best 5.0 average finish in the six races and scoring the most points of any driver. He has also been stout at Texas, finishing 12th or better in five of his six starts and eight or better in three of his four starts here with Team Penske. Blaney has led at least 40 laps in two of the last three Texas race, and starting from the front row, he should a threat to win the stages and the race.
There is only one driver who has finished in the Top 10 in all six races at mile-and-a-half tracks so far in 2020, and that driver is Keselowski. His 7.2 average finish in those six events is the second best in the series, and he is one of six drivers who have scored more than 200 driver points in those starts. Keselowski is set to start sixth, which should only solidify his already high floor.
Someone like Chase Elliott or Denny Hamlin offers more upside, but you can’t argue with the high floor Busch has provided at Texas. He has yet to finish outside the Top 10 since the track was changed, posting an 8.5 average finish and scoring the third most points of any driver. Rolling off third, Busch should also have a shot at a decent amount of stage points.
Martin Truex Jr.
The No. 19 team has made its share of mistakes this season, but speed at the 1.5-mile tracks has been a constant for Truex. In fact, he ranks second in the series in points scored in the six races, leading more than 50 laps three times. Truex should pile up points and contend for the win again this weekend.
Garage Driver – Aric Almirola
I’ve been riding the hot hand of Almirola in recent weeks, and after he drew the pole for Sunday’s race, I’m not stopping now. He is coming off an impressive performance at Kentucky where he led 128 laps, and he has a 4.5 average finish over the last six races this season. Almirola also logged a pair of Top 10s at Texas in 2019, leading 62 laps and finishing second in the fall. If he hangs near the front in the first two stages, I’m sliding him in and saving a start from one of my starters.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kevin Harvick (A)
Harvick has led the most laps of any driver at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020, and I expect him out front again this weekend. Since Texas was reconfigured prior to the 2017 season, Harvick has notched three wins and posted a 2.8 average finish. He has also led a series-best 498 laps in that stretch. Rolling off inside the Top 5, a clean sweep isn’t of the stages and the race isn’t out of the question for Harvick.
Ryan Blaney (B)
As one of the elite Group B options, Blaney’s starts are precious, but I am going to use one up this weekend. No driver has been better at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2020, and Blaney has finished 12th or better in in five of his six starts at Texas, leading at least 40 laps three times. After drawing a spot on the front row, I’m expecting no less than a Top 5 finish and 10-plus stage points.
Aric Almirola (B)
Not only has Almirola been on a roll in recent weeks, but he has also enjoyed success at Texas in the past. He enters Sunday’s race having finished eighth or better in six straight starts, leading a race-high 128 laps at Kentucky last weekend. Last year, he finished seventh in the spring race at Texas and led 62 laps in a runner-up effort in the fall. From the pole, Almirola should at least be able to crack the Top 10 and pile up a decent chunk of stage points.
Tyler Reddick (C)
Even with Cole Custer winning at Kentucky, Reddick remains the class of this tier at the 1.5-mile ovals. He has three Top 10s and an 11.7 average finish in the six races, ranking 10th in the entire series in points scored and outscoring the closest Group C driver by 34 points. Custer and Christopher Bell are potential backups if you are drawing empty on starts for Reddick.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kevin Harvick ($13,000)
There isn’t much place differential upside with Harvick since he will start in the Top 5, but I’m banking on a win and 15-plus stage points. In the six races at Texas since the track was reconfigured/repaved, he has three wins and a 2.8 average finish. If you are looking to build a more balanced lineup, I also like Ryan Blaney from the front row at $11,000.
Martin Truex Jr. ($12,600)
This qualifying format limits the differential upside from the elite options, but Truex has more than most after drawing the No. 10 spot. He has also shown a ton of speed at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, accumulating the second most points in the six races. I expect him to be one of the main contenders Sunday while also chipping in 10-plus differential points and 10-plus stage points.
Christopher Bell ($9,400)
Bell’s bad luck in qualifying draws is bordering on a statistical anomaly, but he is set to start back in 33rd this weekend at Texas. Yes, he has been hit and miss overall during his rookie season, but since NASCAR’s return, Bell owns a 12.6 average finish in the five races at mile-and-a-half ovals, notching three Top 10s. He has too much upside in the place differential category to pass up.
Tyler Reddick ($8,800)
Reddick delivered for me at Kentucky last weekend, gaining 14 spots and finishing 10th. He now has an 11.7 average finish in the six races at 1.5-mile ovals this year and hasn’t finished worse than 18th. Starting 24th, I’m expecting him to essentially repeat his performance from last Sunday.
Corey LaJoie ($6,200)
LaJoie has a limited ceiling, but a bad qualifying draw has him starting 36th and makes him all but a lock to gain differential points. He has a 23.7 average finish in the six races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020, cracking the Top 30 in every start. LaJoie allows me to anchor my lineup with a pair of studs, and double-digit place differential points are definitely on the table.