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I'll take part of the blame for what has been happening at Texas Motor Speedway. In my preview articles, I mentioned that the reduced-horsepower package hadn't caused much chaos this season and that I didn't expect that to change this weekend. After checking out practice and qualifying, I'm wondering if I spoke too soon.
A lot of the weekly studs qualified outside the Top 10, and many of them qualified outside the Top 15 or worse. In practice, the draft played more of a role than we have seen at the other intermediate ovals, especially on shorter runs.
Granted, it could all be business as usual when the green flag waves for Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, and it wouldn't be a surprise if all the familiar faces end up at the front. In the meantime, we have some interesting lineup decisions.
All the strong options starting deeper in the field make for some appealing fantasy plays in the Slingshot contest. The place differential points are the safest to target, and when I can potentially grab a bunch of them from drivers who also have Top 5 upside, I like to load up.
Unfortunately, having a lot of the top drivers starting deeper in the field makes constructing a lineup a little more difficult. Will they drive to the front with ease and earn some points in Stage 1, or it will it take them some time and limit the stage points they earn?
If the latter is true, you may be better off going with some midrange options who are starting up front and can parlay the track position into some stage points. I have a mixture of both for Fantasy Live, but when I did use a driver starting deeper in the field, I made sure that they showed plenty of long-run speed in Saturday's practice.
Check out all of my picks for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas, and as always, feel free to message me on Twitter at @BPolking with any specific questions for all of your season-long Fantasy NASCAR leagues.
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NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
While many of the heavy hitters are starting deeper in the field, Logano will get to roll off eighth this weekend. He's been fast all season, and he has six straight finishes of seventh or better at Texas, finishing third or better four times in that stretch. Last year, Logano finished sixth or better in all four stages here, and he positioned for another great run Sunday.
Blaney has been piling up Top 5s in recent weeks, and Texas has been one of his better tracks. He has three straight finishes of sixth or better at the track, and he finished fourth and second in the two stages here last fall on his way to a second-place finish. Blaney will start just outside the Top 10, but he's actually closer to the front than a lot of the other big names. Plus, his practice times suggest that another Top 5 performance is on tap.
He will have some work to do after qualifying 22nd, but Larson appeared to have one of the cars to beat during Happy Hour. His long-run speed was particularly impressive, and I don't expect him to have too much trouble getting into position for points in Stage 1. After that, I think he will establish himself as one of the main players for the win.
Hamlin has been boom or bust at Texas over his career, but he's off to a strong start in 2019, and he's shown plenty of speed this weekend. He qualified sixth, and he put down the fastest lap in final practice. He also had one of the best 20-lap average speeds. I think he can hang near the front all afternoon and pile up some stage points.
My gut tells me Johnson will slowly fade from the pole towards the middle of the pack, but all the practice times say that he has a fast car for Sunday's race. Johnson had the best speeds over longer runs, and starting up front should give him the inside track to points in Stage 1. I'm rolling the dice and hoping the seven-time Texas winner has one more vintage performance left in him at this track.
Garage Driver – Kevin Harvick
Harvick starts back in 23rd, but after seeing practice times, it wouldn't surprise me if was up in the Top 5 by the end of Stage 1. He finished second and first in the two races at Texas last year, winning three of the four stages and leading a combined 264 laps. In case Harvick delivers another dominating performance, I want him available.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kevin Harvick (A)
I went into qualifying with Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. as my Group A options. Neither driver qualified well, but Harvick showed plenty of speed in race trim during Saturday's practice. With nine straight Top 10s, including three straight finishes of either first or second, he also owns the stronger numbers at Texas. I'll roll with Harvick Sunday.
Ryan Blaney (B)
He is one of the Group B drivers you need to get a great finish out of every time you use him, and Blaney has been excellent at Texas. He has finished sixth or better in his last three starts here, and he was the runner-up last fall. Blaney starts just outside the Top 10 Sunday, but after posting Top 5 times in final practice, I expect him to contend for the win.
Erik Jones (B)
Jones has been one of thee steadiest performers at 1.5-mile ovals since the start of last season, and Texas has been one of his best tracks. He has finished 12th or better in four of his five starts here, finishing fourth in both races a year ago. Jones qualified 11th, and he was right around the Top 10 in practice, as well. I'm expecting a solid showing out of him.
Ty Dillon (C)
I can't believe I'm doing this. I was planning on using Matt DiBendetto this weekend, but Dillon has just been faster. He qualified up in the Top 10, and he ranked in the Top 20 in final practice in both single-lap speed and 10-lap average speed. Dillon does have a 19.2 average finish in five starts at Texas, and I'll be thrilled if he cracks the Top 20 tomorrow.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kevin Harvick ($12,400)
He has plenty of differential upside starting back in 23rd, and looking at practice times, Harvick appears to have a solid balance of short-run and long-run speed. Nobody has been better at Texas in recent years, and expect him to be running up in the Top 5 again this weekend when all is said and done.
Kyle Larson ($11,000)
Larson starts back in 22nd, but he appeared to have one of the best cars on longer runs in Saturday's practice. He also has two Top 5s in the last four races at Texas. I think his long-run speed will allow him to gobble of differential points and contend for the win.
Kurt Busch ($10,900)
He has been a Top 5 threat at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, and Busch showed tons of speed on longer runs in Happy Hour. Starting back in 30th, he should post a monster point total by the time he is finished gaining spots and piling up differential points.
Aric Almirola ($10,700)
Almirola has seven straight Top 10 finishes at 1.5-mile tracks dating back to last season, and looking at his long-run speed from final practice, that streak has a great chance to continue this weekend. Starting 21st, he should be able to exploit the place differential category to post a hefty point total.
Parker Kligerman ($4,700)
In order to afford the four bigger names starting outside the Top 20, I had to go with a punt play for my last spot. After qualifying 33rd, you shouldn't have to worry about Kligerman losing you any points. He also posted the 23rd-best lap in final practice, so I wouldn't rule out a Top 25 if we see a little attrition Sunday.
O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 Starting Lineup:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. William Byron
3. Chase Elliott
4. Daniel Suarez
5. Austin Dillon
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Daniel Hemric
8. Joey Logano
9. Ty Dillon
10. Bubba Wallace
11. Erik Jones
12. Brad Keselowski
13. Ryan Blaney
14. Paul Menard
15. Michael McDowell
16. Kyle Busch
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
18. Ryan Newman
19. Chris Buescher
20. Martin Truex Jr.
21. Aric Almirola
22. Kyle Larson
23. Kevin Harvick
24. Alex Bowman
25. Clint Bowyer
26. Matt DiBenedetto
27. Ryan Preece
28. David Ragan
29. Matt Tifft
30. Kurt Busch
31. Corey LaJoie
32. Landon Cassill
33. Parker Kligerman
34. BJ McLeod
35. Ross Chastain
36. Bayley Currey
37. Reed Sorenson
38. Garrett Smithley
39. Timmy Hill