We’re back at Texas Motor Speedway, your standard 1.5-mile intermediate track. So far in 2019, these tracks have been dominated by the Fords, specifically Penske Racing, who got the win at Atlanta with Brad Keselowski and at Las Vegas with Joey Logano. Don’t overlook Kevin Harvick though, who led a large number of laps at those venues this year. This track was repaved/reconfigured before the 2017 season, and in the four races since then, Harvick has led 379 laps and finished 4th, 1st, 2nd, and 1st. The other two winners in those races were Kyle Busch, and Jimmie Johnson, who despite no longer seeming to be a frontrunner…sits on the pole this week. All of that sets us up for a great race this Sunday!
Qualifying was once again marred by the rules Nascar is using this season (expect more changes in the weeks to come). Aside from that, there were a number of surprises. The starting grid is littered with top drivers in the middle of the field, opening up value across the board. JJ and his pack of Chevys surprised everyone with their overall speed and JJ’s grabbing of the top spot. Big names such as the Busch brothers, Harvick, Bowyer, and Almirola are scattered throughout the middle of the field. One team in particular…Team Penske…didn’t fall in qualifying as they all start near the front of the field. As a result of all of these circumstances, my core lineup this week will be more of a core grouping. I will break down the field into 3 core groups, which I will be using to build my lines. The groups will consist of “priority targets”, “secondary targets”, and last, but certainly not least “the last pieces”, where I will look to round out my lines from the lower tiers in order to fit in all of the top-heavy value.
As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.
Priority Targets –
Kurt Busch (9500) – Kurt is one of only three drivers who have finished in the top ten in every race here at Texas since the reconfiguration. His average finish during that stretch has been 8.3, having started on the pole in last year’s spring race when he led 40 laps. He’s been strong all year and run very well on the two intermediate tracks Nascar has already visited, with a 3rd and a 5th already in the books. If he even comes close to his averages here as well as his finishes to this point of the season, he’ll pay huge dividends. He was 2nd fastest at 10, 15, and 20 lap averages in happy hour. He is priority number one for me this week and he should be on everyone’s radar.
Kevin Harvick (10700) – Harvick is the latest winner here at Texas and this week’s race provides him with a fantastic opportunity to get his first win of the season. He’s won twice here since they reconfigured the track (4 races ago), and sports a 2.0 average finish in that time frame. He swept both stages en route to winning here last fall. He has two 4th place finishes on 1.5 mile intermediate tracks so far this year, and I expect him to contend for the win this week. DK has been kind enough to underprice him again and given his starting position, he’s firmly on my radar as one of my top two plays.
Aric Almirola (8400) – Almiorla continues to impress this year. He has a pair of top tens on intermediate tracks already this year, and finished 8th in last fall’s race here at Texas. It should be noted he managed consecutive results in the mid teens here two years ago while driving for Petty Enterprises in a far less competitive situation. All of those numbers combined point to Almirola being a solid pick this week at Texas. He qualified in the middle of the field, making his value jump even more. Then he went out in happy hour and posted the 4th fastest 20 lap average. Don’t overlook him this week.
Kyle Larson (9200) – Larson is most likely glad to see Martinsville in his rear view mirror. Heading back to Texas is sure to put him squarely back on everyone’s radar. He’s run strong here, but his results have not been incident free. He finished 5th here in the most recent race last fall, but penalties and other mishaps have led to misleading finishes in the other races here, despite him running in the top five in each event. He led 74 laps here back in the fall of 2017. He qualified 22nd, which gives him top five value this week. Work him into a few lines if you can.
Secondary Targets – (I’ll have a share or two of each of these guys)
Martin Truex Jr. (11300) – Despite being considered by many as Nascar’s premier 1.5 mile track specialist, Truex Jr. has never won at Texas. He’s run well again this year at both intermediate venues, and I think he’s a threat to win any time the green flag drops on a 1.5 mile track. His races here on the new configuration have been filled with incidents, but he’s been a strong contender otherwise. In the fall of 2017, he led a race high 107 laps here, and led 49 laps in the spring race that year, too. Truex is second only to Harvick among 10k plus salaries this week value-wise, but I want as many top drivers as I can get into my lines, so I’ll have him rostered, albeit in just a few lines. He struggled in happy hour which could slow him getting dialed in on race day until later in the race.
Clint Bowyer (8900) – Bowyer had a great week, as expected, at Martinsville. With the exception of a pit road penalty, he was a frontrunner all day. He’s been solid on intermediate tracks this year, hovering right at a a finishing average of 10th. I think that’s a reasonable median projection this week. He’s the biggest risk of the priorities, but comes with tremendous upside. Think high risk, high reward when buidling lines. It doesn’t hurt that he’s ticked off at how qualifying went.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (7600) – Stenhouse Jr. has finished consistently in the 10th – 15th range in 3 of the 4 races on the new configuration at Texas. Depending on starting position, if he can replicate that this week, he’ll more than pay off salary and be a fantastic play. He’s done very well with the new intermediate track rules package this year, and has been competitive in each race. I think he has a larger projection window than most drivers, somewhere in the 10th – 20th range. His value took a hit when he qualified 17th, so I’m not sure if he’ll make any of my lines. There are a lot of fast cars behind him, but if he fits as the last piece, I won’t hesitate to use him.
Kyle Busch (12200) – Busch is a contender every week, and Texas will be no different. Gibbs Racing always adapts quickly to new rules packages and this year has been the same. Busch won here last year in the spring race, leading 116 laps along the way. His history here hasn’t been incident free and is instead dotted with penalties and wrecks, but he’s a frontrunner whenever he’s managed to avoid mishaps. Expect him to compete for the win on Sunday, despite his starting spot of 16th. His salary this week is an obstacle due to several factors, which will limit my usage of him to a single line or two.
Erik Jones (8200) – Jones has been very solid at Texas with two 4th place finishes in last year’s races here. He led 64 laps in the spring race, and will be someone to keep an eye on this week. He qualified higher than I would have liked, but his salary of 8200 puts him in that range of being usable if you’re trying to do a more balanced line.
The Last Pieces – (I’ll be using combinations of these four drivers to round out my lines.)
Ryan Preece (6100) – Preece has been very similar to another RoY contender (Hemric) on intermediate tracks this year. He was good in Atlanta, but very average at Las Vegas, which has more similarities to Texas. He finished 25th in Las Vegas, and I have him projected similarly to Hemric with a high teens to mid 20’s range this week. He starts 27th, and if he hits anywhere near his ceiling, he may be one of the best values out there. I’ll have quite a few shares of Preece this week.
David Ragan (6000) – Full disclosure…Ragan was a miss for me last week. At Texas, he has been historically good for a low 20’s result. I think his ceiling is slightly higher than that, but his floor is definitely lower. Like so many other drivers in his range, it all comes down to where did he qualify? This week it was 28th, which leaves a little room for positional points. C
Matt DiBenedetto (6300) – DiBenedetto has largely disappointed this season. I had him pegged to have a breakout year, and it looked like that might happen after Daytona but he’s struggled on intermediate and larger tracks since. He had a nice week in Martinsville, but I’ll be proceeding with caution on the bigger tracks until I see more results in the manner of Daytona. I currently have him projected for a low to mid 20’s finish at Texas. I still wonder, like so many others, whether or not Gibbs dialed back some of the support and/or equipment DiBenedetto’s team was receiving following the stellar outing at Daytona. Starting 26th on Sunday, there’s not a lot of room for positional points, but he may make some of my lines as the “last piece”.
Ross Chastain (5600) – There’s really nothing good about this pick, other than he starts 35th and only needs five positions gained to pay off value at 5600. He’s a last case scenario if you absolutely have to get under 6k to make a line work. His average finish this year at 1.5 mile tracks is 32nd. I have his ceiling in the high 20’s due to the possibility of attrition and that’s the only reason he’s on this list.
Some drivers notably left out of my groups this week are Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, and Elliott. Before the green flag drops, I may throw together a single line with each in it, because they’re in line to be dominators this week, and all of them have outstanding history here. I’m still not certain what I will do with them however, due to the incredible value other drivers present this week. My pick to win this week (read on) includes one of them, but I’m not sure about his overall value. I won’t fault anyone choosing to follow the domination of Team Penske and roster these drivers, or Elliott, but they will need just that (Dominator points) to pay off against the likes of the other driver values this week at Texas. Another driver that was cut from my lists at the last minute was Alex Bowman, who went to a backup car and didn’t find any speed in happy hour.
Dominator potentials this week are Logano, Harvick, Keselowski, and Kyle Busch.
Fades for me this week are Byron, Ty Dillon, Hemric, Bubba, and McDowell.
Movers this week are Kurt Busch, Harvick, Larson, Truex and Almirola.
My pick to win the race this week is Brad Keselowski. I had Harvick slotted here because nobody has been better than the #4 at Texas in recent races, but Keselowski and Team Penske are on a different level right now. Keselowski has been nothing short of dominant on the 1.5 mile intermediate tracks so far this season with a 1st, and a 2nd to show for it.NASCAR