With just three races to go in the 2020 season, the Cup Series heads back to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the second race at the mile-and-a-half oval and the second race of the Round of 8 of the playoffs.
Joey Logano punched his ticket to the Championship 4 last weekend with a win at Kansas, and there is a good chance another title contender will pick up the win in Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500. Of all the track types on the schedule, 1.5-mile ovals like Texas tend to favor the top drivers from the top teams, and these intermediate ovals tend to be an excellent predictor of which drivers will ultimately compete for the championship.
This year has been no exception, and if you look at points scored in the 10 races held at mile-and-a-half tracks, you will see that six of the seven highest scorers are among the eight drivers still competing for the title. In fact, all eight or the remaining playoff drivers rank in the top 10 in points scored at 1.5-mile ovals this year.
Needless to say, you will want to stick with as many big names as possible when building your fantasy lineups this weekend, and in many cases, I don’t think it is a bad idea to load up on playoff drivers. With just three races left, you should be able to budget out your remaining starts for the Driver Group Game and NASCAR Fantasy Live without too much difficulty.
1. Kevin Harvick: His success at the 1.5-mile ovals continued last weekend with a runner-up effort at Kansas, and Harvick should be stout again this weekend at Texas. In seven races here since the repave, he leads all drivers with three wins, six top 5s, a 3.1 average finish and 538 laps led.
2. Denny Hamlin: Yes, he is coming off a lackluster 15th-place effort at Kansas, but before scraping the wall, Hamlin again appeared to have the car to beat. He led 58 laps and won Stage 2, and he has now led more than 50 laps in the last three races at 1.5-mile tracks this season. Hamlin also won the spring race at Texas last year. I expect him to bounce back in a big way this weekend.
3. Ryan Blaney: While he didn’t win the July race at Texas, Blaney did lead a race-high 150 laps and sweep the first two stages. He has led at least 40 laps in four of the seven races on the current configuration, finishing eighth or better five times. Blaney is my top Group B option in the Driver Group Game, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use him in your Fantast Live lineup.
4. Joey Logano: After blocking his way to a win at Kansas and a spot in the Championship 4, Logano doesn’t have to think about points as he heads to one of his best tracks. He has a 6.1 average finish on the repaved track, logging six Top 10s and scoring the second-most points. Logano finished fourth at Texas last fall and third here earlier this year, and he has led double-digit laps in eight of the 10 races at 1.5-mile ovals in 2020, leading 20-plus laps seven times. He should be a force in both season-long and DFS contests.
5. Chase Elliott: Elliott has been solid at Texas, logging six top 15s in seven starts since 2017 and finishing as high as sixth. More importantly, he seems to have found some speed at the 1.5-mile tracks during the playoffs. After leading 73 laps and Las Vegas, Elliott led 48 laps last weekend at Kansas. He’s a sleeper Group A option in the DGG and a strong option for Fantasy Live.
6. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski hasn’t had the best luck at Texas recently, but he did manage a ninth-place finish here in July. He is also tied for the series lead with nine Top 10s and a 7.1 average finish in the 10 races at 1.5-milers in 2020. Keselowski doesn’t have as much upside as some other big names, but he should be one of the safest options.
7. Martin Truex Jr.: He has been more of a top 10 performer than a threat for the win at Texas the last couple of seasons, but Truex has been one of the most consistent drivers at the mile-and-a-half ovals all year. He has scored the third-most points in the 10 races, and his 9.7 average ranks fourth in the series. I wouldn’t use him in the DGG, but he offers a strong floor for Fantasy Live lineups.
8. Alex Bowman: He picked a great time to regain his form at the mile-and-a-half tracks. Bowman has finished eighth, fifth and third in his last three starts, and he led 11 laps and finished fifth at Texas last fall. Bowman is suddenly as hot as any driver in the series, and I like him as a high-upside option for season-long leagues and as a sleeper dominator candidate in DFS contests.
9. Kyle Busch: Busch has run well as Texas recently, leading double-digit laps and finishing in the Top 10 in four of the last five races. Back in July, he led 11 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish. Busch has finished sixth or better in six of the 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, finishing 11th or better in four straight. Don’t forget about him in Fantasy Live.
10. Kurt Busch: He has been solid at the mile-and-a-half ovals all year, notching seven top 10s in the 10 races and ranking inside the top 10 in point scored. Busch has also been one of the most reliable options at Texas. He is one of just two drivers with top 10s in all seven races here since 2017, and his 260 points and 8.4 average finish in that span both rank third in the series. Busch is a high-floor option, perfect for season-long contests.
11. Erik Jones: Jones has been enjoying his best stretch of the year, and the momentum should continue at Texas. He has finished in the top 10 in the last six races here, logging three top 5s and leading at least 30 laps twice. Jones finished sixth at Texas in July, and I like his upside in all fantasy formats.
12. Aric Almirola: Stewart-Haas Racing has had plenty of speed overall at Texas, and Almirola has been taking advantage. He has reeled off four straight top 10s here, leading 62 laps in a runner-up effort last fall and leading 35 laps back in July. Almirola should be one of the better Group B options for the Driver Group Game, and he is a sleeper for Fantasy Live.
13. Austin Dillon: A well-timed caution put him in victory lane at Texas in July, but while he definitely caught a lucky break, Dillon now has four straight top 15s here. He also has eight top 15s and a 12.8 average finish in the 10 races at mile-and-a-half tracks this year. Keep Dillon in mind as a Group B alternative in the DGG.
14. Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto is coming off a 12th-place finish at Kansas, and he has shown a decent combination of reliability and upside at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2020. He has a 14.3 average finish in the 10 races overall, and he has three top 3 efforts. DiBenedetto isn’t a bad gamble for fantasy owners trying to gain ground in the final weeks of the season.
15. Clint Bowyer: I’ve already mentioned that SHR has had speed at Texas in the past, and since 2017, Bowyer has five finishes of 11th or better in seven starts here, including three straight. Starting just outside the top 20, Bowyer should be a solid addition to DFS cash game lineups.
16. William Byron: It has been a mixed bag at Texas for Byron, and while he crashed out in the July race, he led laps in both races here in 2019, finishing sixth in the spring. His performance has improved at the mile-and-a-half tracks throughout the year, and his eighth-place run at Kansas last weekend with his fourth finish of 11th or better in the last six races at the track type. Byron could worth a roll of the dice in GPP contests.
17. Tyler Reddick: Reddick has crashed in the last two races at 1.5-mile tracks, but even with the incidents, he remains the top performer among Group C options in the DGG. He has a 14.8 average finish in the 10 races, and his 261 points scored are 43 more than any other driver in his tier. Reddick has finished 18th or better in eight of those 10 starts, and he was the runner-up at Texas in July.
18. Cole Custer: He crashed out at Texas earlier this year, but Custer has had a solid rookie season at the 1.5-mile tracks overall. He has a 16.7 average finish in the 10 races, cracking the top 20 eight times and finishing 16th or better in his last three starts. Custer is an excellent Group C play in the Driver Group Game this weekend.
19. Christopher Bell: There hasn’t been much middle ground for Bell at the mile-and-a-half ovals this year, but there is no denying his upside. He has four top 10s in the 10 races, including a 10th-place run last weekend at Kansas. Bell is a high-upside Group C option for the DGG.
20. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson led 40-plus laps in both races at Texas last year, but he finished 26th in the July race at the track, and he his numbers have plummeted at the 1.5-mile tracks overall. Johnson has finished outside the top 15 in five of the last six races, finishing outside the top 25 in three of the last four. He does start outside the top 25 Sunday, but he is no more than a DFS lottery ticket.
21. Ryan Newman: He been a mid-pack performer at the 1.5-mile tracks this season, posting a 20.3 average finish in the 10 races and finishing between 13th and 17th five times. Newman is a reach in most season-long contests, but starting 25th, he will have some DFS appeal, especially for cash contests.
22. Chris Buescher: He doesn’t offer much upside, but you at least know what you are going to get with Buescher at a 1.5-mile oval. He has a 19.3 average finish in the 10 races this year, finishing between 19th and 23rd seven times. Buescher should challenge for a top 20 again this weekend, but a lack of place differential upside limits his fantasy appeal.
23. John Hunter Nemechek: Nemechek has overachieved all year, and the rookie has been remarkably consistent at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has cracked the top 25 in nine of the 10 races, posting a 20.9 average finish. Nemechek has six top 10s in those events, including three straight. I love him as a low-priced option for DFS lineups.
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse is always a crash risk, but his 16th-place run at Kansas last weekend was a reminder that he has some upside when he can actually finish a race. He is not worth the risk in season-long formats, but since he will start outside the top 20 Sunday, Stenhouse could be used as an all-or-nothing DFS play in GPP contests.
25. Matt Kenseth: He crashed and finished dead last at Kansas last weekend, but the on the plus side, the horrible result has him starting back in 32nd Sunday. Kenseth managed an 18th-place finish at Texas earlier this year, and with the place differential category heavily in his favor, he is worth considering for Slingshot Fantasy Auto and for cash contests at DraftKings.
26. Bubba Wallace: Wallace has managed a few top 20s at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, including a 14th-place effort at Texas in July. He has also finished outside the top 25 in five of those 10 races, finishing 37th or worse three times. Set to start inside the top 20 on Sunday, I don’t think the potential reward is worth the risk with Wallace.
27. Michael McDowell: His 19th-place run at Kansas last weekend was his ninth straight top 25 at a 1.5-mile oval. He now has five top 20s in the 10 races at these tracks, including three in the last four races. A top 25 starting spot limits his DFS upside a bit, but McDowell still has some potential as a source of cap relief.
28. Ty Dillon: Although he is able to occasionally grab decent finishes when there is high attrition, Dillon usually starts and finishes around the top 25 at the mile-and-a-half ovals. This year, he has a 23.5 average finish in the 10 races, and he has finished between 25th and 29th six times. Dillon doesn’t offer much fantasy appeal this weekend.
29. Corey LaJoie: LaJoie continues to find a way to deliver respectable results at the mile-and-a-half ovals relative to his equipment. He has a 22.9 average finish in the 10 races overall, and he has six finishes of 23rd or better, including a 16th-place effort at Texas in July. I wouldn’t count on him challenging for a top 15 again this weekend, but set to start 29th, LaJoie positioned to be a useful source of cap relief for DFS lineups.
30. Ryan Preece: Between crashes and bad performances, Preece has had a miserable year at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has a 29.3 average finish in the 10 races, ranking behind Daniel Suarez and just ahead of Brennan Poole in points scored in those events. He does start back in 29th Sunday, but Preece is still a DFS Hail Mary, at best.