Last week at Kentucky, it was all about what side of the coin you were on with Kyle Busch. Would he dominate, or would he disappoint? That was what was going to win you money in the Bluegrass State. And then 18.79% owned Aric Almirola came out and surprised most by leading 128 laps and putting up a total of 50 DraftKings dominator points.
Now we’re in the Lone Star State at Texas Motor Speedway with a similar pre-race predicament: what will you do with the three main potential dominators? Everyone is talking about Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, and Kevin Harvick this week. How many should you put in your lineup? Is it smart to put all three on there? If you don’t put all three, which should you leave off?
I went over the second question in my Projections article, so I recommend checking that out. But before we really dig into the drivers this week, let’s talk about the track. Honestly, there’s a little bit of uncertainty coming into Texas, simply because we’ve never raced here in the summer. It’s going to be incredibly hot for the drivers on Sunday, and the track is going to be slick. There’s going to be a competition caution on lap 20, and the traction compound will be applied to the upper groove just like it was last year.
Looking at the 2019 Texas races, the lower groove was still where all the passes were made, but I will note that there was actual racing and passes going on throughout those events. If a driver had a faster car, he could time it up to get around the guy ahead of him. Be sure to check out my special post this week detailing the best and fastest cars on the 1.5-mile tracks this season (click here).
My DraftKings Projections for Texas were posted on Friday and I highly recommend checking out that article in conjunction with this one. Click here to get to the Projections article for Texas.
Driver-by-Driver Breakdown for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas
- Aric Almirola ($8,100) – 53.0 Projected FPTS
– This week on the pole we have the driver that’s been on absolute fire over the last six races (average finish of 4.5), who is coming off of 128 laps led last week at Kentucky, and who finished 2nd here at Texas last fall after leading 62 laps and posting 50 fastest laps. He’s priced at just $8,100, so you know what means: massive ownership. You should know how my brain works by now, where I like to be contrarian, so I like being underweight on Almirola this weekend, but nothing too crazy (I’m thinking around 30% exposure). All it’s going to take is an early mistake for a lot of lineup to get wiped out on Sunday…
- Ryan Blaney ($8,900) – 63.0 Projected FPTS
– I wrote up Ryan Blaney in my Projections article. Click here to read my thoughts there. With that being said, I’m going to continue to monitor the industry and see if Blaney continues to get talked up. I obviously think he’s a great pick but if his ownership is going to be sky high there’s obviously some potential strategy there…
- Kurt Busch ($7,900) – 45.3 Projected FPTS
– I wrote up Kurt Busch in my Projections article. Click here to read my thoughts there.
- Kyle Busch ($9,300) – 35.9 Projected FPTS
– If you’re relying heavily on past statistics here at Texas, Kyle Busch is a great pick. He’s averaging 31.3 fastest laps since the repave as well as 34.5 laps led (those are 2nd- and 3rd-best in the series). But here’s why I don’t like Kyle Busch this weekend: he has yet to show good speed on 1.5-mile tracks. His only top 5 Green Flag Speed ranking was at Atlanta, and his average ranking of 13.3 on this track type in 2020 is just 13th-best in the Cup Series. With him starting 4th, it’s going to take some dominator points and a top 5 finish for that salary to be worth it. He’s averaging 4.92 DraftKings dominator points on 1.5-mile tracks this year. I’ll have extremely low Kyle Busch ownership on Sunday. I trust my algorithm when it has a driver of Rowdy’s caliber ranked outside of the top 12.
- Kevin Harvick ($11,300) – 99.1 Projected FPTS
– The top pick on the slate. It’s going to come down to Almirola or Harvick on who is the highest owned on Sunday, but you have to think it’ll be Aric because of the lower salary. Again, there’s a strategy play here to go underweight on Harvick this weekend, but even my contrarian brain doesn’t like that. Harvick will be on a significant percentage of my lineups–I’m talking 70% or more.
- Brad Keselowski ($9,700) – 42.8 Projected FPTS
– Keselowski is a safe overall Fantasy NASCAR pick at Texas this weekend, but I don’t necessarily love him in DraftKings. His salary paired with his 6th-place starting spot isn’t ideal, and it’ll require a better-than-average performance by Kez to pay off (he’s averaging 10.8 fastest laps and 13.8 laps led on low wear 1.5-mile tracks this year). Keselowski got a lucky break at Kentucky last week with a well-timed caution and led 34 laps, but can that happen two weeks in a row? Again, in most Fantasy NASCAR games, Brad is a great play this week, I just don’t think he’s worth the salary in DraftKings, although he’s a relatively safe option.
- Denny Hamlin ($10,800) – 32.5 Projected FPTS
– Denny Hamlin is like Kyle Busch in my book this week, although I like Hamlin even less because he’s priced so high. On the low wear 1.5-mile tracks, Denny’s best Green Flag Speed ranking is 10th, and that was at the second Charlotte race. Yes, Hamlin won the first Texas race last year, but I don’t care about last year. I’m perfectly fine with completely fading Hamlin on Sunday.
- Chase Elliott ($10,000) – 62.5 Projected FPTS
– Chase Elliott’s fall off at Kentucky last weekend is kind of worrisome for me, honestly. He went out and finished 2nd in the first Stage and then just faded. We typically only see that from one driver in the Hendrick stable, with that being Alex Bowman. That also marks the fourth time in the last five Cup Series races that Chase has finished outside of the top 10. But at the same time, can you really go against him? Chase is averaging a series-best 31.8 fastest laps on low wear 1.5-mile tracks this year, and he put up the 2nd-most fastest laps in the first Texas race last year (30).
- Joey Logano ($9,500) – 51.3 Projected FPTS
– Like his teammate, Brad Keselowski, I think Joey Logano is a pretty solid Fantasy NASCAR pick this weekend, but as far as DraftKings goes, it’s the same story: can he dominate any? Logano starts a little further back, so the place differential potential makes him a little bit better of an option than Kez, but it’s still concerning that the #22 Ford hasn’t put up more than 12 fastest laps in a 1.5-mile race other than Atlanta where tire fall off was so extreme. With that being said, Logano leading 26+ laps in four of the six 1.5-mile track races this season is enticing. He makes a solid pivot down off of Elliott or Truex. Here at Texas, Logano has finished between 3rd and 7th in five of the six races since the repave but he’s never had more than 17 fastest laps.
- Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,400) – 72.8 Projected FPTS
– If my betting jinx is real, then you should stay away from Truex this weekend, because I took him at 10/1. I couldn’t pass those odds up, though. This #19 Toyota is averaging the 3rd-best finish (8.8) on 1.5-mile tracks this year, and Truex also ranks 2nd in terms of average DraftKings dominator points per race (22.4). He’s also finished 9th or better in four of the six races on this new track surface. Truex was a race winning contender at Kentucky last weekend and should have another strong showing here at Texas this weekend.
- Matt DiBenedetto ($8,300) – 35.4 Projected FPTS
– I like having about 15% exposure of DiBenedetto this weekend. Here’s a crazy stat for you: on this tire combination, Matty D has finished 2nd (Las Vegas) and 3rd (Kentucky). Did he have that fast of cars in those races? No, but his restart power last week was ridiculous. If the #21 Ford is even close to that here at Texas, DiBenedetto could steal a win on Sunday. Seriously. What you really have to like about DiBenedetto, though, is how he’s averaging the 3rd-best in Green Flag Speed over the last six races. My only knock on him is that he hasn’t had more than 5 fastest laps in any 1.5-mile track race this year, which means we’re relying on another top 3 finish in order for the pick to pay off.
- Alex Bowman ($8,400) – 43.9 Projected FPTS
– I don’t know about you, but I’m done with Alex Bowman fading at the end of 1.5-mile track races. It makes no sense, yet it continues to happen. That’s why his average finish on this track type in 2020 is 18.8 (20th-best in the series). We’ve seen Bowman put up a good chunk of dominator points on 1.5-milers this year but it’s not extremely likely this weekend. I’ll probably limit my exposure to about 10% on Sunday.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,200) – 21.3 Projected FPTS
– Stenhouse should be low owned on Sunday, but I don’t mind going about 10% with him, honestly. You just never know when he’s going to Stenhouse one of these races and show up in the top 5 at the end. Here at Texas, Ricky has finished between 11th and 16th in four of the six races on the repaved track.
- Bubba Wallace ($7,100) – 13.7 Projected FPTS
– Bubba is kind of like Stenhouse but he’s even less likely to surprise on Sunday. He did it once this year on a 1.5-mile track, and that was his 6th-place finish at Las Vegas. You could also count his 13th-place run at Homestead, too, but those two are the only top 20 finishes Bubba has on this track type in 2020. Here at Texas, he wound up 8th in his first start back in 2018 but hasn’t finished better than 23rd since. I’d be more willing to take a risk on Bubba if he was about $1,000 less in salary, but since he’s not, I’ll likely have minimal exposure, if any.
- Ryan Newman ($6,300) – 18.3 Projected FPTS
– “The Rocketman” has now finished 17th or better in three of his five starts on 1.5-mile tracks this year. A 17th-place finish this weekend would equal 25 DraftKings FPTS. He’s finished 15th, 11th, and 18th in the last three Texas races. I don’t like the Newman pick this weekend but because of his low salary I know I’m going to end up with 15% exposure, maybe even higher.
- Chris Buescher ($5,800) – 24.7 Projected FPTS
– Buescher should be a top 20 driver here at Texas on Sunday. A 20th-place finish will net just 20 DraftKings FPTS. Is it worth it? Down in this price range you also have Ryan Preece, who just needs to finish 21st to exceed 20 DraftKings FPTS. The valuable difference in points between these guys will probably come down to track position and strategy. Buescher finished 11th at Charlotte, 14th at Las Vegas, and 20th at Kentucky this season, for what it’s worth.
- Clint Bowyer ($7,700) – 32.0 Projected FPTS
– The projections with Bowyer aren’t great, and neither is his rank in the algorithm predicted finishing order, but there’s hope here. Bowyer has finished 11th or better in four of the six races on the “new” Texas, including a 2nd-place run in the first race last season. What I don’t like about him is how he has zero top 10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks this year and has just 7 total fastest laps on the low wear 1.5-milers (four races).
- William Byron ($8,000) – 45.4 Projected FPTS
– Willy B has potential this weekend, as he’s finished 12th or better in three of the six 1.5-mile races in 2020. Here at Texas, Byron has two top 10 finishes in his four career starts, including a career-best 6th-place finish in the first race last year. There are quite a few great options in this price range for Sunday, and they’re all super close in the Projections. I’ll probably be close to the field when it comes to Byron ownership this weekend.
- Cole Custer ($7,400) – 36.8 Projected FPTS
– As I mentioned earlier, my bets tend to jinx drivers, so I’ll forewarn you that I put a decent sized bet on Cole Custer (+110) to finish better than Matt Kenseth on Sunday. But obviously I’m very confident in that, and I actually like Custer quite a bit in DraftKings this weekend–and not just because he won at Kentucky last week. Last year at Texas, Daniel Suarez finished 3rd in both races, so you have to think Custer can come home at least inside the top 10 this time around. Custer has just one result worse than 19th on the 1.5-mile tracks this year, and that was at Homestead.
- Jimmie Johnson ($9,000) – 51.3 Projected FPTS
– Give me Johnson as a pivot off of place differential play Christopher Bell. Now obviously with Jimmie starting back in 20th he has some place differential potential as well, but don’t forget he’s also averaging 12 fastest laps per race on the low wear 1.5-mile tracks. Last week at Kentucky, Johnson was wrecked while running inside the top 5, and here at Texas he ran 5th last season. I’ll more than likely be overweight on JJ this Sunday.
- Austin Dillon ($6,900) – 39.2 Projected FPTS
– New week, same story. Austin is Mr. Consistency when it comes to 1.5-mile tracks this season, and he hasn’t finished worse than 15th at one in 2020. On the low wear venues, his average finish is 10th, and here at Texas specifically he’s finished 14th or better in four of the last five races. A very safe DraftKings choice this weekend that could earn 45 FPTS with a salary under $7,000.
- Matt Kenseth ($7,600) – 33.6 Projected FPTS
– Here are Matt Kenseth’s finishes on 1.5-mile tracks this year: 26th at Charlotte, 23rd at Charlotte-2, 15th at Atlanta, 25th at Homestead, and 25th at Kentucky. Not exactly that great, is it? As far as Texas goes, Kenseth finishes 11th, 7th, 16th, and 4th in his four starts here on the new pavement while with Joe Gibbs Racing, but I don’t have much confidence he can replicate that this weekend. My exposure will be low.
- Erik Jones ($8,600) – 45.5 Projected FPTS
– Zero top 10s for Erik Jones on 1.5-mile tracks this year. Kind of surprising, isn’t it? Of course, this is still Erik Jones we’re talking about, so he could come out of nowhere and slap you in the face with a top 5 finish on Sunday, too. It’s worth noting he’s finished 4th in three of the last four Texas races and also hasn’t finished worse than 10th in the last five. As with most weeks, Jones is likely to disappoint on Sunday, but he could win you a bunch of money, too, especially considering he should go relatively low owned.
- Tyler Reddick ($7,800) – 46.3 Projected FPTS
– With Reddick you’re relying mainly on place differential and finishing position, as the only 1.5-mile race he’s put up more than a few dominator points was Homestead. With that being said, Reddick starts back in 24th so he’s obviously a viable option on Sunday. He came home 10th at Kentucky last weekend and could easily do that here at Texas as well. He’s the 8th-highest on my projections this week, for what that’s worth…
- Ryan Preece ($5,600) – 13.0 Projected FPTS
– I’m very curious to see Ryan Preece’s ownership here on Sunday. DraftKings priced him at $5,600, and with how lineups play out, those extra hundreds could be the difference between adding someone like Keselowski or Chase Elliott to your lineup. With that beign said, Preece hasn’t finished better than 23rd on 1.5-mile tracks this year, so his ceiling is low. I’m going underweight on him.
- Quin Houff ($4,600) – 04.4 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- Garrett Smithley ($4,500) – 01.4 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- John Hunter Nemechek ($6,000) – 24.3 Projected FPTS
– Nemechek is a solid option in DraftKings this weekend even though his salary got a bit of a bump. He disappointed fantasy owners at Kentucky last weekend but in all other 1.5-mile races this year he’s came home 24th or better. A result of 24th for Nemechek on Sunday would equal 24 DraftKings FPTS, which is decent for his salary of $6,000. To compare, Newman would need to finish 17th or better to outscore a 24th-placed Nemechek, while LaJoie would need a 27th-place result, and Preece would need to finish 22nd. Buescher would need to come home 18th to tie at 24 FPTS.
- Gray Gaulding ($4,700) – 06.2 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- Ty Dillon ($6,700) – 26.1 Projected FPTS
– I wrote up Ty Dillon in my Projections article. Click here to read my thoughts there.
- JJ Yeley ($5,000) – 13.0 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- Brennan Poole ($4,900) – 13.2 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- Christopher Bell ($9,100) – 42.1 Projected FPTS
– What is this!? Christopher Bell actually priced decently!? DraftKings got the hint with no one paying up so much simply for place differential, and now Bell becomes a viable option. He has three top 10s in the six 1.5-mile races this year, including a season-best 7th at Kentucky last weekend. The only thing I don’t like about Bell this week is how reliant you are on place differential when picking him, as Bell has just one race on this track type with more than one fastest lap, and it was three at Homestead. Pivoting to Jimmie Johnson gives you fastest lap potential, too, but I’ll still have a good chunk of C-Bell exposure on Sunday.
- Michael McDowell ($6,600) – 27.7 Projected FPTS
– Everybody’s favorite low-dollar place differential play got a much needed salary bump this weekend. He also drew an awful starting spot of 34th. McDowell is averaging a finish of 23.8 on 1.5-mile tracks this year and has just one result worse than 25th on them in 2020. Somewhat surprisingly, here at Texas, McDowell has top 15 results in his last two spring starts. I’ll have plenty of exposure this weekend but I still like Ty Dillon as a pivot.
- Joey Gase ($4,800) – 05.8 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- Corey LaJoie ($6,100) – 26.0 Projected FPTS
– LaJoie finished 28th at Kentucky last weekend, but that was actually worse than normal for him. At Las Vegas earlier this year he came home 16th, and then in the two Charlotte races he ended up 19th and 24th. Here at Texas, LaJoie has never finished better than 28th but that could change this weekend. He’s a safe cash lineup option on Sunday, but it’s hard to see him in the optimal lineup overall.
- Daniel Suarez ($6,400) – 23.9 Projected FPTS
– Suarez actually had a good day at Kentucky! Too bad it was still just 26th. With that being said, Danny has finished 28th or better on the last three low wear 1.5-mile tracks. With the pickings being so slim with the low-dollar guys this week, I actually don’t mind pivoting up to Suarez despite his higher-than-deserved strategy, although LaJoie or Nemechek is still my top pick down there.
- Timmy Hill ($5,200) – 10.4 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- BJ McLeod ($5,500) – 10.6 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.
- Reed Sorenson ($5,300) – 13.6 Projected FPTS
– Full fade.