O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
After slowing things down with a short track race at Martinsville last weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to a high-speed oval this weekend. Texas Motor Speedway will host Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, and the 1.5-mile track is always among the fastest on the schedule.
There won't be as many points available in the dominator categories this weekend as there was last Sunday at Martinsville, but with 334 laps scheduled, there are still plenty of valuable points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories. When building a DFS lineup, these need to be your main focus.
Like many of the 1.5-mile tracks, many of the lap leaders at Texas tend to start up front. Looking at six races over the last three years, there have been seven drivers that led more than 100 laps in a single race. All seven have started in the Top 10, and six have started in the Top 5.
During the same stretch, ten drivers have led 70-plus laps in a race, and nine of them have started in the Top 5. The Top 2 spots have been particularly valuable. Over the last three seasons, one of the front row qualifiers has led at least 96 laps in all six races at Texas.
Needless to say, the formula for the winning lineup will likely include a couple of big names who qualify at the front who can carry the dominator categories, paired with a few mid-priced and cheaper options who can take advantage of the place differential category.
Make sure to check back for updated driver picks after qualifying and practice, but in the meantime, here is a closer look at the drivers I will likely be targeting this weekend at Texas.
While he didn't end up in victory lane, Busch had the dominant car last weekend at Martinsville and three weeks ago at Phoenix. He has been getting the job done for DFS fantasy owners, and the trend should continue at Texas. He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he has seven Top 5s in his last eight starts here, including five straight. Busch also ranks second in both dominator categories at Texas.
Martin Truex Jr.
His win at Las Vegas earlier this year was a reminder that Truex is still one of the best in the business at 1.5-mile ovals, and Texas is one of his best tracks. He ranks fifth in laps led at Texas, and he has finished in the Top 10 in four straight starts. Last year, Truex led a race-high 141 laps in the spring race here, and he followed that up by leading 66 in the fall event.
Week in and week out, Keselowski has had one of the fastest cars on the track, and I don't expect him to slow down this weekend. He ranks in the Top 5 in both dominator categories at the track, and he has led 20-plus laps in six of his last nine starts here. Keselowski has three Top 5 finishes in his last five starts here, including a second-place run in the fall of 2015 when he led 312 of the 334 laps.
Logano has been a force at Texas since joining Team Penske. He has six Top 5 finishes in eight starts at the track, including finishes of third and second last year. He has led over 100 laps twice during that span, including a race-high 178 laps last fall.
He is not having the best start to 2017, but you can't ignore Johnson at Texas. He is a six-time winner here, and five of those wins have come in his last nine starts. Johnson also ranks first in both dominator categories at Texas, and he led over 120 laps in five of his last ten starts here.
Elliott has wasted no time establishing himself as one of the best drivers at the intermediate ovals. He has finished fifth at Atlanta and third at Las Vegas so far this season, and last year, he finished in the Top 5 in both of his starts at Texas. A breakout performance could be on tap Sunday, and I think he is a great contrarian play to win the dominator categories.
Even with all the hype surrounding him, Jones is exceeding any reasonable expectations. Since being caught up in a wreck at Daytona, the rookie has reeled off five straight Top 15s. He has already shown he can run well at Texas, finishing 12th while subbing for Matt Kenseth in the fall of 2015. Jones could be a Top 10 driver this weekend.
It is all about qualifying for Kahne, and when he qualifies outside the Top 15, he has been an excellent DFS play at 1.5-mile tracks in recent years. He has always been solid at Texas, and he has finished 11th or better in six of his last eight starts here. Last year, Kahne finished eighth in both races at Texas, gaining a combined 32 spots. Cross your fingers that he doesn't qualify well.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Consistency hasn't been his strong suit this season, but with three finishes of 13th or better, Stenhouse clearly has upside. He has finished 16th or better in three of his last four starts at Texas, and he is someone I'll be keeping in mind in GPPs, especially if he qualifies in the middle of the pack.
He doesn't have the highest ceiling, but Almirola has reeled off four straight Top 20 finishes heading into Texas, and he has started 28th or worse in three of those races. If he qualifies poorly, he has shown he can be a safe source of cap relief. Expect the trend to continue at Texas where he has a 19.0 average finish over his last ten starts.
Whitt has quietly been one of the better punt plays this season, particularly at the 1.5-mile tracks. He gained 17 spots and finished 20th at Atlanta and gained five spots and finished 28th at Las Vegas. As long as he qualifies outside the Top 30 again this weekend, Whitt will be worth considering as a source of serious cap relief.