Coming off the first short track race of the season and one of the most boring Martinsville races in recent memory, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway. Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be the third race of the year at a mile-and-a-half oval, and while it will mark a return to of the reduced-horsepower package, the new rules haven’t caused the chaos many expected.
Aside from keeping the field visually closer on restarts, the new package hasn’t really shifted the driver hierarchy. Many of the same guys who run well at these 1.5-mile ovals year in and year out are still running up front this season.
If anything, the new rules have made life a little easier on the top teams. The lower speeds have made the cars easier to drive, or at least harder to wreck. Fewer wrecks mean fewer cautions, so crew chiefs don’t have to worry as much about pit strategy. It also lowers attrition, making it harder for the smaller teams to pick up spots.
With that in mind, I once again view tracks like Texas as a chance to load up my Fantasy NASCAR lineups with plenty of heavy hitters to try to post big point totals in all my leagues. Maybe other teams will start to figure out how to make tweaks to exploit the package as the year goes on, but I’m not expecting too many surprises this weekend.
1. Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing
You know it has been a pretty good start to the year for Busch when his third-place finish at Martinsville last weekend seems like a disappointment. Don’t be surprised if he returns to victory lane Sunday. Busch led 116 laps and won the March race at Texas last year, and he has won two of the last six races here.
2. Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
Harvick is still looking for his first win in 2019, but it could come this weekend at Texas. He has nine straight Top 10s here, and he has seven finishes of fourth or better in that stretch. He led 87 laps and finished second in the spring race last year, and he came back in the fall and led 177 laps on his way to the win. Harvick has led at least 38 laps in the last four races at Texas, topping 70 laps led three times.
3. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
He has amassed an impressive resume at Texas, logging eight Top 10s and six Top 5s in the last 10 races here. Logano has finished seventh or better in the last six races here, finishing third or better four times in that span.
4. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
Coming off an epic beatdown of the field at Martinsville, Keselowski will try to keep the momentum going at Texas. He has finished sixth or better in five of the last nine races here, and he has had a couple of other starts where he has led laps but hasn’t ended up with the finishes he deserves. Keselowski should show up with a Top 5 car.
5. Martin Truex, Jr., #19 Bass Pro Shops, Joe Gibbs Racing
Texas hasn’t been his best track among the 1.5-mile ovals, but that doesn’t mean he has struggled here. He has seven Top 10s in the last eight races here, and he has led 40-plus laps in four of the last six. Truex should be a Top 5 contender Sunday.