Last Updated Sep 29, 2022, 9:15 AM

Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Picks, Predictions

The 30th race of the season at Texas Motor Speedway also kicks off the Round of 12 in the playoffs in Sunday’s AutoTrader Echo-Park Automotive 500. Four drivers were chopped from playoff contention last week while three non-playoff drivers won all three races in the Round of 16. There have been 19 different winners so far in what has been the most parity I’ve ever seen in NASCAR. The NextGen car has done its job. Erik Jones, Bubba Wallace, and Chris Buescher told the playoffs to hold their beer while winning the last three, and all at 20-to-1 or higher prices. That’s four straight high-odds payouts when including Austin Dillon’s Daytona win in the cutoff race.  

Let’s get to work and find this week’s Texas winners. I take at the top portion of the odds chart using odds courtesy of BetMGM.

AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTO 500 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Flip the switch, it’s playoff time. That’s what it looks like has happened. Denny Hamlin (6/1) gave a sign on the 1.5-and 2-mile tracks that he was ready to roll and then he started the playoffs with two runner-ups. It has to be one of his wildest seasons of his career, but he might just win his first championship and I can’t wait to see it. He has three Cup wins at Texas and a 13th-place average finish in 31 starts. He also gets a boost by getting Kyle Busch’s pit crew who has been one of the best this season. He thinks this Texas race is huge in this round. 

“This is going to be a very important race,” Hamlin said. “With the unknowns of Talladega and the (Charlotte) ROVAL, we’re looking at Texas as a place we can go run up front, try to maximize our points and be in contention for the win. Passing was very difficult in the All-Star Race though, so I expect that to be the case like it has been for the last few years at Texas, so qualifying up front and having a smooth day on the track and on pit road are going to be key for us to have a shot.”

Christopher Bell (13/2) is coming strong with three top-fives in the Round of 16. He leads all Toyota drivers with 10 Top-fives this season and he has a great track history on his home track with a 2017 Truck Series win and a 2019 Xfinity Series win. His next step in the progression is winning at Texas in the Cup Series. Caesars has him at 8-to-1 odds.

“The two ends of the track are completely different,” Bell said of Texas. “We have the All-Star race under our belt with the NextGen car and turns 3 & 4 have lots of throttle time, tons of banking, and lots of grip with the repave, and turns 1 & 2 have lots of grip but they don’t have the banking to hold you. Drastically different corners for sure. Long runs are where we’ve been really good and I’m excited to kick off the next round of the Playoffs at my home track.”

Christopher Bell has seen a Top 5 result in three straight races. (Getty)

Kyle Larson (7/1) won at Texas in the Cup Series for the first time last season after winning also winning the All-Star Race there. He was dialed in in 2021. They had a huge edge over everyone winning 10 times and winning the championship, but just two wins this season. What did he learn from last season’s incredible run that he can apply this week as he starts the Round of 12? 

"Be clean and let the other teams make the mistakes,” Larson said. “Honestly, if you can just finish you don’t have to do anything crazy in the first couple rounds. Don’t take yourself out of stage points or a good finish and you can advance. Once you get to the Round of 8, that’s obviously when you need to get some top-five finishes or a win. You just don’t want to take yourself out of any race or get any DNF or anything like that where you put yourself in a must-win situation because winning is really difficult to do. You just want to keep yourself in contention every race."

Chase Elliott (8/1) has the championship vibe going and leads all drivers in points (3040), wins (4), and is tied with his teammate with 11 top-fives. In 11 Cup races at Texas he has two top-fives and an 11.5 average finish.

"I’d love to go to Texas this weekend and have a good, solid run and start this round off on a high note. We didn’t get to run the full All-Star Race earlier this year, but I still feel like we got enough track time to have good notes as we head back there. We just need to put a good weekend together and execute a solid day. If we can do that, then we have as good a shot as anyone to get a win and lock ourselves into the next round."

AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTO 500 BETTING RESOURCES

Date: Sunday, September 25, 2022
Venue: Texas Motor Speedway
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Distance: 501 miles
Laps: 334
Network-Time: USA - 3:30 p.m.
Defending Champion: Kyle Larson

Martin Truex Jr (10/1) has five top-fives in 32 Cup starts at Texas and 17 top-10s with 674 laps led. He was the best on 1.5s for a few years and never won here. He’s definitely got more speed now like all the Toyotas on the big tracks. He was fifth at Kansas after leading 24 laps.

“I’m looking forward to the race,” Truex said. “As a whole, I feel like the Toyotas have ran really well on these types of tracks, so if we can put a full race together, I have a lot of confidence in what we’re capable of.”

Kyle Busch has failed to see a Top 10 result in 12 of 14 races. (Getty)

In 31 Cup starts at Texas, Kyle Busch (10/1) has four wins, 14 top-fives, 18 top10s, and 1,069 laps led. He also has 10 Xfinity Series wins and five Trucks Series win. He had a quick exit from the playoffs despite fast cars. He’ll be the weekly wild card, the unknown element of the betting equation. It’s important to realize that his only win came on the ridiculous Dirt Race at Bristol. I wonder if they learned anything from the All-Star Race they can use this week.

“I don’t know, we obviously were very fast there in the All-Star Race until we had the tire issue,” Busch said. “We’d like to think we can go out there and we’re fast and we have good strong racecars. As far as the track and the resin, I’m hoping we can dabble in it a little longer the outside way around, but it does seem to have grip and you can make some runs off the top of the corners and try to make some moves down the straightaway and such. Same old Texas, it looked to me there in the spring, from that standpoint.”

Ryan Blaney (10/1) dominated the All-Star Race at Texas in May after leading a race-high 84 laps. He won $1 million for the win, but it’s an unofficial non-points win. He still has no wins in 2022 when everyone else seems to be winning. This is a great track for him as he’s finished eighth or better in nine of his last 10 Texas starts which includes two All-Star races. He’s still alive racing for the championship.

Ross Chastain (11/1) sits in third in the playoffs and grabbed himself a sixth at Bristol but he’s still stuck with 10 top-fives. He’s been there since Atlanta on June 10. The veteran drivers did a mental number on Chastain and now he’s not as aggressive. He’s not making the daring moves that he had success with the first half of the season. He’s been tamed and I can’t bet him anymore. It was fun while it lasted.

William Byron (12/1) has been fighting his way back and apparently his team can just flip the switch and be fast again. He just had his first top-five with third-place at Bristol, his first since the eighth race of the season at Martinsville when he won. You could see it building: eighth at Darlington, sixth at Kansas, and finally a third at Bristol. Heck of a round for the kid. Byron’s crew chief Randy Fugle talks about his set-up process for Texas. 

"I think we have some good notes heading into this weekend’s race at Texas,’ said Fugle. “We learned a lot from Kansas  a couple weeks ago, and with us using the same tire as we did for that race, a good portion of those notes should translate. The biggest difference is going to be how much hotter it is and where the resin is applied on the track. From what we’ve been told, the resin is being applied like it was for the All-Star Race earlier this year, so we have those notes as well. Just with the heat and tire compound though, I think handling is going to play a much bigger factor this weekend than it did for the All-Star event. We’ve really focused on that this week, so we hopefully unload close to where we need to be and focus more on fine-tuning than anything."

In three Cup starts at Texas Tyler Reddick (14/1) has the best average finish at 8.7. He was runner-up in his first Cup race at Texas. He was ninth last season. He won the Xfinity Series race there in May. I have my doubts about him moving forward now that he’s out of the playoffs. Even though Richard Childress hired Kyle Busch to run this car next year and beyond, I think Childress is still angry that Reddick didn’t give him a shot to match the offer. Junk parts now? Sabotage? Rather than release Reddick from the contract that runs through next year, I believe Childress is going to make his life hell with bad cars. It’s just a thought that makes me not bet Reddick.

AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTO 500 CONTENDERS

Bubba Wallace (18/1) is already having the best season of his career with five top-fives and he’ll probably get another here at Texas. The last time he was on a 1.5-mile track he won at Kansas. Before that, he was ninth at Darlington and before that runner-up at Michigan. Those are the three tracks I’m looking at the most to find Sunday’s winner. Definite value with these odds posted as his turnaround should make him 10-to-1 or lower, Robot oddsmakers are too busy with football to spend time on NASCAR. 

Just one 2013 win for Joey Logano (18/1) at Texas, but 11 top-fives in 26 starts is amazing stuff. He’s led 465 laps in those races. He’s finished fourth in the last two All-Star Races. In May, Team Penske finished first, third, and fourth, He was also fourth at Michigan and Darlington. I’ve got a bet on him to win.

Kevin Harvick (18/1) was charging hard with a win at Michigan, an invite to the playoffs, and then another win the next week at Richmond. Now he’s chopped. It’s like all the work his team put in to go faster went out the window. It’s like they ran out of gas when the playoffs started. Three wins in 37 Cup starts at Texas for a 10th-place average finish, 14 top-fives, and 1,069 laps led. 

“We can’t do any worse than we did in the All-Star Race,” Harvick said. “I think we ran last and next-to-last, us, Aric (Almirola) and Chase (Briscoe), so we had them covered from the wrong end of the field. But I really think that was part of the progression of the new thought processes we had in working on the car, and we’ve come a long way since Texas. That was one of those nights where it was, ‘OK, let’s do this. This is going to be a great night to test some things.’ It definitely ended with, ‘Don’t ever do that.’ Usually you find out more things at a test – which is kind of what the All-Star Race was for us – to not do than you actually find that are better.”

Kevin Harvick has failed to see a Top 10 result in four of five races. (Getty)

In the three most recent results I used to compile my betting gameplan this week, Alex Bowman (20/1) was ninth at Michigan10th at Darlington and led the most laps (107) at Kansas before settling for fourth. He’s on the upswing on these types of tracks. He was also sixth in the All-Star race at Texas. I think his team is focused again.

"Our team is really focused on taking it one race at a time,” Bowman. “We did that in the Round of 16 to get to where we are now. The crew is really fired up right now and all of us are putting in the time to give ourselves the best chance of success. Greg (crew chief, Ives) is really focused and leading us really well right now. I think that if we continue to pay attention to the small details and stay focused on one race at a time, we can go really far this postseason. We have Texas circled right now and that’s all that matters."

Daniel Suarez (25/1) looked good at Texas during the All-Star race finishing fifth. He was 10th last fall there and he was third in the two races in 2019. His championship hopes are still alive. He may be someone to invest in this weekend.

AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTO 500 BETTING ANALYSIS

Austin Cindric (40/1) is still alive in the playoffs, just barely, but he can still win the championship. He makes his first official Texas Cup start Sunday, but he finished third in the non-points All-Star race as his teammate Blaney won. He won a 2020 Xfinity Series race at Texas. I’ve said all season that I only bet Cindric on superspeedways and road courses, but there’s something there for him at Texas that has me thinking he’ll run well.

Chase Briscoe (66/1) made his Texas Cup start last season and finished 15th. He sits ninth in points. He made the transfer and Harvick and Kyle Busch didn’t. Briscoe talks about the differences from May’s All-Star Race to now.

“Nobody expects it to be any different,” Briscoe said. “I would say the teams have probably all got their cars handling better since we’ve last been there, but I wouldn't expect anything different. We’ve tried some different things with PJ1 and resin, but I don’t know if you’re going to all of a sudden see different racing in Texas. At places like Charlotte, where it’s worn out and the track is aged well enough to where we can move around, we put on really good races. Even with the resin at Texas, I just don't know if it’ll make a difference because the track surface is pretty new.”

Erik Jones (66/1) just won at Darlington showing the Petty brand can still win while also using his amazing skills on the Darlington as he always does. Well, we have a similar situation with Texas where he’s had three top-fives in 10 Cup races. Crazy stuff is happening weekly which means accepting someone like Jones to win again isn’t a wild idea. We’ve had four straight races of the NASCAR Cup winner paying out at 20-to-1 or higher. Never seen that before. Also, he won three times at Texas in the Xfinity Series and once in the Truck Series.  

Brad Keselowski (80/1) has two Xfinity Series wins at Texas, but none in Cup. But man, he’s been so close in the past. Six top-fives and 654 laps led in 26 Cup starts. I’m thinking RFK will be fast again this week. I may be tempted to support Kez in driver matchups.

“While we’ve had a big week as a company, the work doesn’t stop in continuing the forward momentum, and it starts this week at Texas. We had decent speed there with both cars in the All-Star Race, and definitely feel like we have something to build from entering this weekend. We’re looking forward to the challenge in the ROUSHParts.com Ford.”

Ty Gibbs (80/1) will be making his Cup debut at Texas and you might bet him to win his first career race because Toyota has lots of speed and this is a track he should be able to get around quite well.

AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTO 500 LONG SHOTS

Aric Almirola's (100/1) best finish in 21 Cup starts at Texas was runner-up in 2019 and he started from the pole and finished 10th in 2020. He was 12th in the All-Star Race in May.

“I’m really excited to see what we bring this weekend,” Almirola said. “We’ve tried some new setups and they’ve worked. At Kansas. I was able to pass a lot of cars from the back and it felt like we had really improved. Getting the pole at Bristol this past weekend gave this 10 team a lot of confidence after a tough year. Texas is a place where we have found a lot of speed, even outside of the playoffs. In 2019, we had a shot at the win in the closing laps. We’ll see what we have, but I feel good about it.”

Chris Buescher (100/1) might be someone to throw some small bucks on because obviously with his win last week, RFK Racing has found speed. Perhaps they’ve found the hidden secret of the NextGen car. I hope so. He was eighth at Texas is the All-Star Race.

“We’ve had a great week celebrating and taking in everything associated with the Bristol win, but I’m just as excited to get back to my home state of Texas and see friends and family, and give our Fastenal Mustang another good run this weekend,” Buescher said. “We put together a solid plan for the All-Star Race this spring and had good success, so our goal is to capitalize on that even more and keep the train rolling this weekend.”

Austin Dillon (100/1) was second in the qualifying race at the All-Star weekend but in 2020 he grabbed his first Texas top-five in 17 Cup starts by winning with a fuel strategy. He was chopped from the playoffs last week.

AUTOTRADER ECHOPARK AUTO 500 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1 #48 Alex Bowman (20/1)
2 #11 Denny Hamlin (6/1)
3 #22 Joey Logano (18/1)
4 #20 Christopher Bell (8/1)
5 #9 Chase Elliott (9/1)

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WEEKLY PREDICTIONS

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