Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM
Best Bets - Texas
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS is back after a week off for the Easter holiday, heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday. The race is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET.
This might sound like a recording, but Kevin Harvick (9/4) is the favorite this weekend. He won the fall race in November in a race featuring 27 lead changes. It was his first victory at the track, although he has dominated over the years. According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Harvick is ranked second over the past five races with a 116.8 Driver Rating while leading everyone with a 4.8 Average-Finish Position (AFP). During the span he has run inside the Top 15 in 97.2 percent of his laps, too. While he ranks fourth among all drivers in laps led at Texas over the past five races, he has turned 116 of the fastest laps. Overall, he has made 30 starts in Fort Worth with eight runs resulting in a top-5 showing, and 26 races ending up 20th or better. Harvick will start on the outside of Row 1 beside teammate Kurt Busch (50/1), who will be on the pole.
The elder Busch won the Dickies 500 at Texas back in Nov. 2009, but he hasn't been back to Victory Lane in Fort Worth since. He ranks ninth in Driver Rating (89.6) across the past five races, posting a 12.2 AFP. He hasn't led any laps during the five-race span, but that should change barring a disaster in Lap 1 on Sunday. Kurt Busch has made 30 starts in Texas with 17 of his runs resulting in a top-10 finish. He has led 295 laps with a 15.1 AFP overall. Stewart-Haas Racing will have three Fords starting from the top three positions, as Martinsville winner Clint Bowyer (30/1) joins the party on Row 2. Bowyer has never celebrated with the six-shooter in Victory Lane at Texas, but he has posted a respectable 10 showings inside the Top 10 in his 24 career starts at the track.
If you're looking for an amazing betting value, seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson (15/1) is very tempting at this price level. While it has been an uncharacteristically dismal season so far for the Hendrick Motorsports team, and the No. 48 in particular, he has dominated at this track in the past. That includes last spring's race when he took the checkered flag despite qualifying 24th. He leads all active drivers with seven victories in 29 career starts with an 8.76 AFP, best among all drivers with at least five starts at the track. He has led 1,041 laps at TMS with 15 of his 29 starts resulting in a fifth-place finish or better. He has only finished outside of the Top 10 on eight occasions, too. Over the past five races at Texas he ranks fourth in Driver Rating with a 98.6 mark while running 75.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Johnson's teammate has also been dominant in Texas, so perhaps Hendrick is going to have a big day. Chase Elliott (15/1) has started four times in Texas, and he has never finished worse than ninth. While he has led just five laps during his four starts, he has an amazing 6.5 AFP. Johnson will go off ninth on Sunday, while Elliott starts 20th.
Joe Gibbs Racing hasn't visited Victory Lane this season, unless you count their technical alliance with 2017 series champ Martin Truex Jr. (3/1) who won at Auto Club three weeks ago. MTJ is considered one of the favorites this weekend, and NASCAR's Loop Data shows why. He ranks No. 1 in Driver Rating (123.5) over the past five races, leading all drivers with 364 laps led. He has also dominated with 98.0 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15 during the five-race span. While he has never made it to Victory Lane for one reason or another, he was the runner-up last season at the track. Truex has a solid 13.1 AFP in 25 career starts at the track. He goes off sixth on Sunday.
JGR qualified well with Kyle Busch (21/4) and Denny Hamlin (15/1) starting fifth and eighth. Both have enjoyed measures of success at the track, with Rowdy picking up checkers in the April 2013 and April 2016 races. Hamlin also has two victories at the track, as he swept the two races during the 2010 season. Both have stumbled a bit in recent season in Texas, however. Busch ranks sixth in Driver Rating at 97.2 over the past five runs, but he has led just 44 laps since the Fall 2015 race. Hamlin doesn't even rank inside the Top 10 in Driver Rating, so he is a risky play given his lack of success in the Lone Star State recently.
JGR's Daniel Suarez (100/1) is an interesting driver to watch this weekend. He has long odds to win the race, but he finished a respectable 14th and 19th in his first two go-arounds on the Cup circuit last season. FRR's Erik Jones (22/1) is another young driver to watch in his Toyota. He has three career Cup starts under his belt at Texas, finishing 22nd or better in each run. He has a solid 14.7 AFP and you can expect some improvement on that number.
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (8/1) and Joey Logano (12/1) will also be looking to make noise and return Ford to Victory Lane for their owner. Keselowski ranks third in Driver Rating (105.1) over the past five starts while leading 316 laps, second only to Truex during the five-race stretch. Logano is right on his heels with a 97.3 Driver Rating, good for fifth in the past five Texas races. He has led 217 laps, third-best among all drivers. Kes has never shot off the guns in Victory Lane, but he has five Top 10 showings in 19 career starts with a 15.1 AFP. Logano has one Texas victory, turning in eight Top 5 finishes in his 19 career starts at the track while posting a 15.4 AFP. A Penske one-two punch might be a popular lineup option in GPPs.
The third-wheel for Penske, Ryan Blaney (18/1), actually qualified higher than his more established teammates. He'll start on the outside of Row 2. Blaney has made just six career starts in Texas, and it has been mostly a disaster. He has led 148 laps, but one-third of his starts have resulted in a DNF. He has a dismal 24.0 AFP, which is even worse than the overall numbers of maligned retired driver Danica Patrick.
Another sleeper might be Jamie McMurray (100/1), who ranks 10th in Driver Rating (83.5) across the past five Texas races. He has posted 10 Top 10 showings in his 28 starts with 79 laps led. He'll start 24th on Sunday. Ryan Newman (100/1) is also a long shot, but he is just one of seven active drivers to capture checkers at Texas. He has an 18.3 AFP in 29 career starts at the track, posting 19 finishes in 20th or better.