After last weekend’s drama-filled race at Martinsville, you can expect a much more tame AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway this Sunday. But at the same time, there are a couple questions that are unanswered heading into the weekend. The first question mark–and biggest one–is whether Chase Elliott will try and get revenge on Denny Hamlin. There were vague threats made last weekend, but it’s rare for those to come to fruition. Still, nobody can forget the race here at Texas that Matt Kenseth took away Joey Logano’s championship hopes. The second question of the weekend is how this track is going to behave. If you remember back to April, the Cup Series drivers had a very hard time getting the hang of this “new” Texas Motor Speedway that was repaved last offseason.
Yahoo! A Group Picks and Rankings for Texas 2
Martin Truex, Jr. (2 starts remaining) – If you’re questioning why Martin Truex, Jr. is the top Fantasy NASCAR option this weekend, welcome to the wonderful world of NASCAR, because I’m sure this is your first or second race. Truex is the master of 1.5-mile race tracks and has an average finish of 2.8 on tracks that size this season. Also, this #78 team isn’t locked into Homestead yet, so there’s no reason for them to hold back this weekend. Truex has never won a race here at Texas Motor Speedway, but he’s finished between 3rd and 9th in each of his last five starts here and has led a combined 256 laps in his last three. The only way Truex isn’t going to contend for at least a top 5 finish here on Sunday is if he has mechanical issues. There’s no reason to go against him.
Kevin Harvick (4 starts remaining) – Like Truex, Kevin Harvick has never won at Texas Motor Speedway, and while the #4 team is not as comfortable in the points standings as the #78 team currently is, a strong, solid run out of Harvick and crew here on Sunday will go a long way to securing a spot at Homestead. Despite having a down year on speed this season, Harvick has actually been solid on 1.5-mile tracks in 2017, averaging the 2nd-best finish (9.4) as well as 74.3 laps led per race. Additionally, Kevin currently has six straight top 10s here at Texas, and five of those were results of 6th or better. The #4 Ford won’t dominate this weekend’s AAA Texas 500, but Harvick should be a contender.
The 2nd-best option in the A Group this week is still Kyle Busch. I used my final Rowdy start at Martinsville last weekend, though, so he won’t be on my roster. And now that he’s locked into Homestead, Busch can push the envelope even harder in these final two races. Here at Texas, Kyle is a two-time winner in the Cup Series and has posted a top 5 finish in seven of his last nine starts at this track. Surprisingly enough, though, Rowdy is averaging just seven laps led per race here at Texas over his last seven starts. With that being said, the #18 Toyota should be a pole contender this weekend, as well as an overall race contender.
We’re down to the final three races of the season so that means it’s time to watch out for whatever Jimmie Johnson and the #48 crew have up their sleeve. Johnson went to victory lane here at Texas back in April and has also won six of the last ten races here. Even more impressive is the fact that “Six Time” has went to victory len in four of the last six Texas races. With that being said, the #48 team has just one top 5 finish in the last 19 Cup Series races overall. Still, can you go against that record? Typically I like Jimmie Johnson as an off-sequence pick, but as of Thursday evening, he was on nearly 30% of Yahoo! rosters, and that’s almost too high.
One driver that could be a potential off-sequence pick this weekend, however, is Brad Keselowski. This #2 team is coming off a very strong race at Martinsville last weekend, and they seemed to have stepped up their qualifying game over the last month as well–which would pay dividends here at Texas. Brad has never won here in the Lone Star State but he has finished inside the top 10 in seven of the last ten races here.
Pre-Lockdown A Group Rankings: (1) Martin Truex, Jr., (2) Kyle Busch, (3) Kevin Harvick, (4) Jimmie Johnson, (5) Brad Keselowski, (6) Denny Hamlin, (7) Matt Kenseth, (8) Joey Logano, (9) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Notes: Watch out for Denny Hamlin this weekend. That #11 Toyota qualified on the outside pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, and looked to have race-winning speed in both practice sessions on Saturday. If I had Hamlin on my roster this weekend, I’d probably start him. Kevin Harvick also looks to have pretty good speed, and he qualified 3rd. If the #4 Ford can get to the lead on Sunday, Harvick can lead a lot of laps. Of course, the “no-brainer” pick is Martin Truex, Jr., who will contend for the win before this race is all said and done. Personally, I have Harvick and Truex on my roster this week, and I’m leaning toward a differentiation strategy and going with Harvick.
Post-Practice A Group Rankings: (1) Martin Truex, Jr., (2) Kevin Harvick, (3) Denny Hamlin, (4) Kyle Busch, (5) Jimmie Johnson, (6) Brad Keselowski, (7) Matt Kenseth, (8) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., (9) Joey Logano
My Starter: Kevin Harvick over Martin Truex, Jr.
Yahoo! B Group Picks and Rankings for Texas 2
Ryan Blaney (1 start remaining) – The young guns are probably going to need a win if they want to make it to the final round of this year’s playoffs, but who’s to say that that won’t happen? If you remember back to the first race at Texas this season, Ryan Blaney probably had the best car in the field for much of that race, and he led 148 of the 334 laps. Unfortunately, pit road problems relegated Blaney to a 12th-place finish, but he had a much better car than that. Also, for what it’s worth, the #21 Ford has the 4th-best average finish on 1.5-mile tracks this season with 10.8–behind only Martin Truex, Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott.
Chase Elliott (1 start remaining) – Denny Hamlin taking out Chase at Martinsville last weekend has pretty much put the #24 team into a “must win” situation if they want to keep their championship hopes alive, but if anyone currently on the outside looking in for the playoffs is going to visit victory lane, it’s going to be Chase Elliott. The #24 Chevrolet has been a legitimate race contender in about half of the playoff races thus far, and Texas Motor Speedway is arguably one of Elliott’s best tracks on the circuit. In three career starts here, Chase has an average finish of 6th, and he wound up a career-best 4th in this race one year ago.
Kyle Larson (1 start remaining) – The same strategy stays true this weekend: Kyle Larson will be on my Yahoo! team for possible qualifying bonus points, but I’m only going to start him if he can dominate the race. Larson has already made eight career starts here at Texas in his young Cup Series career, and his 2nd-place finish back in April has been his best result thus far. Overall his average finish at Texas Motor Speedway is 16th, but he should be much better than that on Sunday. Kyle is tied for the 5th in the series when it comes to average finishes at 1.5-mile race tracks (11.2).
Jamie McMurray (1 start remaining) – The driver tied in average finish with Kyle Larson on 1.5-mile race tracks is none other than his teammate, Jamie McMurray. And while Jamie Mac did disappoint most recently at Kansas, there’s no reason to bet against him this weekend at Texas. McMurray wound up 7th when we last raced here back in April and has finished inside the top 10 in four of his last six starts at this track. When you pair that with the fact that the #1 Chevrolet has been a top 10 contender at every 1.5-mile venue, it makes McMurray quite a solid backup plan in case your B Group studs don’t look extremely fast on Saturday.
If you feel like going with a boom or bust pick, Kurt Busch is your guy this weekend. Just from watching the races this year, the #41 Ford has been a top 5 contender in quite a few races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2017, but usually seems to have some kind of issue during the race. However, as we saw at Kansas a couple weeks ago, Kurt is still capable of getting the good result, as he finished 2nd there. Here at Texas, Kurt is a previous winner (2009) and has wound up 10th or better in four of his last six starts here, including the race here back in April of this year.
Clint Bowyer‘s crew chief is suspended for this weekend’s race at Texas, but that’s not overly concerning. We’ve seen other Cup Series teams do just fine without their typical guy atop the pit box this year and there’s no reason to think that this #14 crew will be any different. As far as 1.5-mile tracks go this season, Clint actually has the 11th-best average finish in the series (14.1) and here at Texas he came away with an 11th-place result back in April.
One B Group driver that disappointed yet again at Kansas a couple of weeks ago was Ryan Newman. Now in 2017 “The Rocketman” has an average finish of 27.2 on 1.5-mile race tracks. Yes, 27.2. David Ragan, Landon Cassill, Paul Menard, A.J. Allmendinger, and Michael McDowell have all fared better on that track length this season. Still, Newman is going to be a popular pick in Yahoo! this weekend, simply because he is capable of coming away with a halfway decent finish. With that being said, Newman has just one top 10 finish in the last seven Texas races, and there’s 0% chance he makes my roster for the AAA Texas 500.
Pre-Lockdown B Group Rankings: (1) Chase Elliott, (2) Kyle Larson, (3) Ryan Blaney, (4) Jamie McMurray, (5) Clint Bowyer, (6) Kurt Busch, (7) Austin Dillon, (8) Ryan Newman, (9) Kasey Kahne, (10) Trevor Bayne, (11) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., (12) Aric Almirola, (13) Danica Patrick, (14) Paul Menard, (15) A.J. Allmendinger, (16) Chris Buescher
Notes: Honestly, even though he’s starting in the back this weekend, Chase Elliott is a threat to win the AAA Texas 500, and if I had more than one start left with him, I’d use him this weekend. However, Phoenix is next week, so I’m going to save Chase for that race–remember, he led over 100 laps there earlier this year. Kyle Larson is another driver that could contend on Sunday, but I don’t see him leading the most laps, so I’m going to continue to save him for Homestead. One driver that should be a must start if you have him is Kurt Busch. Not only is he on the pole for Sunday’s race, but the #41 Ford showed really good speed during the practice sessions on Saturday. Don’t forget how important track position was here at Texas back in April…
Post-Practice B Group Rankings: (1) Chase Elliott, (2) Kyle Larson, (3) Kurt Busch, (4) Ryan Blaney, (5) Jamie McMurray, (6) Clint Bowyer, (7) Austin Dillon, (8) Kasey Kahne, (9) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (10) Ryan Newman, (11) Trevor Bayne, (12) Danica Patrick, (13) Aric Almirola, (14) Paul Menard, (15) A.J. Allmendinger, (16) Chris Buescher
My Starters: Ryan Blaney and Jamie McMurray over Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson
Yahoo! C Group Picks and Rankings for Texas 2
Both Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones are capable of top 10 finishes here at Texas on Sunday, but if you’re like me, you’re down to either one or zero starts left with each. I’m personally left with just one Suarez start in these final three races, and I plan on using him whenever he looks at least top 10 good. Other than that, the strategy remains the same in the C Group for the rest of the way, and that’s maximize the points with the other guys. Ty Dillon and Michael McDowell are the obvious choices here, although it is worth noting that David Ragan did finish 17th at Kansas a couple of weeks ago. Here at Texas back in April, Ty Dillon was the best C Group driver that day and finished 17th, while Suarez came home 19th, Jones 22nd, and McDowell 23rd. Don’t forget, though, that the #95 team did qualify 13th that day, and if they do that again this weekend, McDowell might be able to turn that into a decent run.
Pre-Lockdown C Group Rankings: (1) Daniel Suarez, (2) Erik Jones, (3) Ty Dillon, (4) Michael McDowell, (5) David Ragan, (6) Landon Cassill, (7) Matt DiBenedetto, the rest
Notes: Both of the C Group studs have really fast cars this weekend, and because of that I’m going to be using my final Erik Jones start on Sunday. Typically whenever he starts up front he’s good for at least a top 10 finish, and it’s hard to overlook the fact that the #77 Toyota was top 5 in speed during both practice sessions on Saturday. As far as every other C Group driver, it’s pretty much the same story as other weeks, although a few drivers had their qualifying efforts inflated thanks to all the cars that didn’t make it through inspection on Friday.
Post-Practice C Group Rankings: (1) Erik Jones, (2) Daniel Suarez, (3) Ty Dillon, (4) Michael McDowell, (5) David Ragan, (6) Landon Cassill, (7) Matt DiBenedetto, the rest
My Starter: Erik Jones over Ty Dillon