If it’s not one thing it’s another… Qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway was ended after just one round thanks to lightning, and because of that we have Kurt Busch on the pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Kevin Harvick will start alongside, but the rest of the starting lineup makes things interesting for DraftKings players this weekend. Let’s just say that there are a lot of viable options on Sunday. As far as practice goes, there were two sessions on Saturday, but in the first session it was so cold that the general consensus was that the speeds didn’t mean much at all. A lot of teams practiced pit road entry during that practice. When the time finally rolled around for Happy Hour, the track was too wet for the cars, and by the time the track was ready, the drivers only got about 25 minutes to practice. So, with the conditions how they were for those two sessions on Saturday, it’s hard to put too much stock into those speeds. I’ll personally be focusing more on recent Texas history as well as recent races at other 1.5-mile tracks.
Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 race at Texas is scheduled for 334 total laps, which is a handful more than what we ran at Las Vegas last month and the same amount as the Atlanta race in February. With the 334 laps scheduled, that means there’s 83.5 FPTS up for grabs for laps led this weekend, and I’m estimating around 140 FPTS for fastest laps, depending on the amount of cautions. One thing to remember about Texas is that it doesn’t really matter where you start, so we should see a lot of comers and goers on Sunday–especially with the limited amount of “actual” practice time.
Should You Pay Up For Kevin Harvick?
The biggest question on everyone’s mind this weekend is simple: should you pay the premium for Kevin Harvick? DraftKings priced “The Closer” at $11,500 this weekend, which is nearly a full $1,000 higher than the 2nd-highest driver, Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,600). As is the case with any high-priced driver in this game, if you’re going to spend that much of your cap on one guy, you better make sure that he is going to get you those dominator points–and that’s exactly what Kevin Harvick is going to do this weekend. The race here at Texas last November was a statement race by Harvick and this #4 team, when they got the win over Martin Truex, Jr. with pure speed. In the two races on 1.5-mile tracks since then, Harvick has two victories and has averaged 71 fastest laps and 198 laps led per race. Pure domination. Harvick is starting 2nd for this Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and that says one thing: he’s going to lead early, and he’s going to lead often. The #4 Ford was the best in ten-lap average during Saturday’s final practice session, and Harvick has to be the favorite heading into Sunday’s big race. He led 115 laps in the two races here last year, and has wound up 6th or better in six of the last seven Texas races. The exception? A 10th-place effort in this race two years ago. Harvick costs a pretty penny this weekend but he, by far, has the highest projected FPTS for Sunday.
GPP DraftKings Drivers I Love For The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
Kyle Larson ($9,700) – Don’t count out Kyle Larson from grabbing a good amount of dominator points here on Sunday. Looking at the two Texas races last season, Truex and Harvick had the top fastest laps at this track (91 and 74, respectively), but Larson wasn’t too far behind, as he posted 72 fastest laps in the two races in the Lone Star State. Throw in 74 laps led in the fall race and Larson was actually one of the best drivers here at Texas last season. This weekend, the #42 Chevrolet looks speedy, as Larson was 6th-fastest in Happy Hour and also had the 4th-best ten-lap average during that session. Larson started 5th and finished 3rd in the Las Vegas race this season, and this weekend he’ll roll off the grid from 10th, giving him a little more room to get some place differential FPTS. I think he’ll ad da good amount of dominator points as well.
Ryan Blaney ($8,900) – It’s easy to look at the starting lineup for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and think, “well, it’s going to take a lot for anyone to get around Kevin Harvick.” Don’t look over Ryan Blaney, though. Remember, it was this race last season that Ryan really “broke out” in the Cup Series, as he led a race-high 148 laps before ultimately finishing 12th. Blaney followed that up with a 6th-place run in the fall race. This year, he’s in a little better equipment, and has momentum on his side, as the #12 Ford has came home 8th or better in all but two races so far. Blaney is averaging a finish of 8.5 on the 1.5-mile tracks this season and 7.5 fastest laps per race. If he can get ahead of Harvick on Sunday, though, you have to expect both of those numbers to improve–as well as laps led.
Erik Jones ($7,900) – After finishes of 11th and 8th at the two other 1.5-mile tracks this season (Atlanta and Las Vegas), I’m expecting a good race out of Erik Jones here at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Throw in the fact that he has already posted finishes of 12th and 10th in his young Cup Series career here and I’m really looking forward to how this #20 Toyota looks on Sunday. Erik will start 21st for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 but should be a top 10 car before it’s all said and done. He looked solid in both practice sessions on Saturday, and at the conclusion of Happy Hour, the #20 Toyota was 7th-fastest on the overall speed chart with the 2nd-best ten-lap average behind Kevin Harvick. Texas is a track that fits Erik Jones’ driving style really well, and let’s not forget that this #20 team has just one finish worse than 11th since Daytona. I don’t expect that to change on Sunday.
Texas Sleeper Options
Alex Bowman ($7,600) – Alex Bowman is in that price range where it’s kind of difficult to fit him into a roster, and when you throw in the fact that he qualified in that awkward 16th-place for Sunday’s race, that should keep his ownership percentage in DraftKings down. Hence the “Sleeper” designation. Bowman came away with his first top 10 finish of the season at Martinsville a couple of weeks ago, and, honestly, it wouldn’t be surprising if he grabbed another here at Texas on Sunday. Alex ran 13th here in the 2016 fall race while subbing for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and he recently came home 16th at Las Vegas–a track quite similar to Texas Motor Speedway. The Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets look to have a little more speed in them this weekend, too, and if that’s the case, Bowman could easily pull off another top 10 finish on Sunday.
Paul Menard ($7,300) – Paul Menard’s team was pretty confident that they would have qualified better for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 if the lightning would have stayed away. Unfortunately (for them) it didn’t, and they’ll roll off the grid from 19th. Fortunately for us, though, the lightning cancelled qualifying after the first round, which means we have the opportunity to roll the dice with Paul Menard on Sunday. Relatively speaking, Menard has raced really well in this #21 Ford thus far in 2018, he just sometimes runs into bad luck and still has a bad finish. That’s kind of what just happens to this Wood Brothers Racing team. As we saw at Las Vegas, though, Menard is capable of overcoming some bad luck and posting a good finish, as he wound up 9th in that race. As far as this weekend goes, Menard could have a car capable of a top 10 finish, but it really depends how this whole race plays out. Remember, Ryan Blaney drove this #21 Ford to 12th- and 6th-place finishes here at Texas last season, leading 148 laps in the 2017 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Salary Cap Relief at Texas
Texas Motor Speedway isn’t like Martinsville a couple of weeks ago where using a guy like Cole Whitt was the right move (by the way, where did those 31 fastest laps come from?). With that being said, with guys like Harvick, Truex, and Kyle Busch priced well above $10,000 for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, we’re obviously going to need some salary cap relief. The top choice here is Kasey Kahne ($6,100), who will start from 28th on Sunday but should be able to make up a handful of spots before it’s all said and done. Kasey finished 21st at Atlanta this season and came home 19th at Las Vegas, and because of that he’s going to be highly owned. Obviously this creates a great fade opportunity, but at the same time, there’s not many other drivers in this price range that can put up 30 FPTS on Sunday. Cole Whitt ($5,000) is, once again, the only punt play I would consider on Sunday, as he starts back in 34th but should finish top 30. He ended up 28th at both Atlanta and Las Vegas this year, the other two 1.5-mile tracks we’ve raced on thus far.
Fade That Pick!
The following drivers are starting too high on Sunday and have little chance at getting dominator points, so I will have very little exposure (if any): Kurt Busch ($8,500), Aric Almirola ($8,300), Clint Bowyer ($8,100), Darrell Wallace, Jr. ($6,600), A.J. Allmendinger ($6,300), Chris Buescher ($5,900), and Trevor Bayne ($5,800),.
One driver that starts a little further back who will probably be relatively high-owned is Jamie McMurray ($7,000). Yes, Jamie Mac is going to roll off the grid from 24th, which gives him plenty of room to move up and grab place differential FPTS, but let’s not forget how much this #1 team has struggled in 2018. McMurray has an average finish of 23.3 this season, and just to give you an idea of how bad that is, the following drivers are beating him in that category: Darrell Wallace, Jr., Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Chris Buescher, and A.J. Allmendinger–among others. Jamie Mac did finish 7th in this race one year ago, but that was when he could be trusted on these 1.5-mile tracks. I still plan on having some McMurray exposure on Sunday, but it’s not going to be much.
Driver Point Projections for Texas
The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Starting Position||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10,600||75.1||6||02.2||41||36||$141|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$6,900||29.6||26||20.2||0||0||$233|
|Darrell Wallace Jr||$6,600||16.2||15||21.4||0||0||$407|