The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back in action this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, and after being able to save some starts from the big names last time out at Martinsville, it’s back to the big guns this weekend for the third race of 2018 at a 1.5-mile oval.
Most of the drivers that were expected to run well did just that at Atlanta and Las Vegas, and I don’t expect that trend to stop this weekend at Texas. Not only do the top-tier drivers tend to deliver at the 1.5-mile ovals, but it’s usually tough to find sleepers who run up front. Needless to say, it makes the most sense to use your starts from the big names at tracks like Texas.
This is especially true in Fantasy Live now that stage points are included in the scoring and the dominator points have been eliminated. A few stage points might not seem like a lot, but they are going to be a big reason why your end up winning or losing your leagues. Go after stage points whenever you get the chance.
The Driver Group Game doesn’t place the same emphasis on stage points, but you still want to maximize your starts from every driver. With the top options having the highest ceiling and their safest floor at the mile-and-a-half tracks, I see no reason to get too cute with my lineups, especially this early in the year.
Check out all of my fantasy NASCAR picks for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas, and you can always get in touch with me at @BPolking or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for advice or lineup tips on any fantasy NASCAR games not covered in this article.
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He has an incredible record at Texas, and last year, Harvick earned points in all four stages and finished first and second in the two stages in the fall race on his way to a win. This year, Harvick has opened the year by winning the first two races at mile-and-a-half tracks, winning three of the four stages. Starting on the front row, he is in prime position to finish as the top scorer, especially after posting the best 10-lap average speed in final practice.
Logano has been rock solid at Texas, finishing in the Top 10 in five of his last six starts and cracking the Top 3 in three of his last four. He has also shown solid speed at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2018, earning points in all four stages so far. Rolling off inside the Top 10, I expect another strong finish and plenty of stage points again this weekend.
Texas was kind to Blaney last year, and after sweeping both stages in the spring race here, he also picked up points in both stages in the fall race. He has continued his upward career trajectory in his first year with Team Penske, and the last time the series visited a 1.5-mile track, Blaney finished second and fourth in the two stages at Las Vegas and finished in the Top 5. He’ll start fourth this weekend and should spend most of the afternoon in the Top 5 piling up stage points.
Busch has built a solid resume at Texas, finishing in the Top 10 in four of his last five starts here and collecting points in both stages last fall. Perhaps more importantly, he has been fast at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2018, finishing eighth or better in all four stages thus far. Starting from the pole only boosts his potential for stage points, and Busch could be a sneaky Top 5 scorer Sunday.
He doesn’t have the best record at Texas, but Stewart-Haas Racing has tons of speed right now, and Bowyer has the inside track to some stage points after qualifying third. He also showed strong speed in the practice they did sneak in on Saturday. With a win already under his belt at Martinsville, he has to have a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. I think it could translate into a big showing Sunday, and if it doesn’t, I have a garage driver waiting.
Garage Driver – Denny Hamlin
Speed at the 1.5-mile tracks hasn’t been an issue for Hamlin, and he has been piling up Top 5s at the mile-and-a-half ovals since the halfway point of last season. The only question with Hamlin is whether he will shoot himself in the foot with a penalty like he did at Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago and throwaway a chance at a great finish. Starting in the Top 5, he has the potential for a ton of stage points, but I’ll be waiting for the end of Stage 2 before swapping him in just to be safe.
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Not only has he crushed the field in the first two races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, but Texas has been one of his best tracks. Harvick has finished in the Top 10 in his last seen starts here, compiling a series-best 4.0 average finish in that span and winning the fall race last year. Now that he’s starting on the front row and had some of the best lap times in Happy Hour, I’ll gladly use up another start.
Blaney has been a Top 5 driver in most of the scoring loop categories this year, and I expect the trend to continue this weekend. He led the most laps at Texas last spring, and he finished sixth in the fall race here. Blaney has also shown plenty of speed this weekend and rolls off inside the Top 5. I think he’ll finish there, as well.
I’m going to make sure to continue to have some Stewart-Haas Racing exposure until the rest of the teams start to close the gap, and Busch has speed again this weekend and a solid record at Texas. He has cracked the Top 10 in four of his last five starts here, and he has earned the fifth-most driver points at the track over the past three seasons. Starting on the pole, this is a great spot to use one of his starts.
I thought about trying to save a start from Bowman by going after a Top 20 finish with Chris Buescher, but I decided to stick with the best Group C option out there after Bowman showed Top 10 potential in practice. He hasn’t finished outside the Top 20 all year, and he has finished 13th or better in the three races leading up to Texas. I’m burning through starts from Bowman early, but I’m banking on William Byron getting better as the year goes on.