The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs continue this weekend with a return trip to Texas Motor Speedway for the second leg of the Round of 8. Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 will also be the 10th race of the season at a mile-and-a-half track, and I’m focusing on the trends we’ve seen at these 1.5-mile ovals when building my NASCAR DFS lineups at Fanduel this weekend.
The scoring at Fanduel already lends itself to a more balanced approach than the DraftKings scoring system, and with this year’s rules package, we have seen the dominator points spread out more than ever at the mile-and-a-half tracks. Track position has become so important that drivers who take the lead on restarts or on pit road can usually hang out front for at least a short stretch, if not longer.
In the spring race at Texas, this trend was on full display as eight drivers led double-digit laps and six led 30 or more laps. Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and William Byron were among the group who led double-digit laps, and you also had Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon spend a few laps out front.
My point is that you probably don’t want to top load all your lineups this weekend. In years past, you could bank on two big names leading almost all of the laps at 1.5-mile tracks like Texas, so as long as you could nail those two dominators, you were going to be in great shape now. With this reduced-horsepower, low-downforce package, you need top-to-bottom balance with your DFS lineups, especially at Fanduel.
I recommend building around one high-priced dominator this weekend and surrounding them with mid-priced options who have the potential to lead laps and challenge for Top 5 finishes and lower-priced options who could sneak towards the Top 10 while gaining a few spots.
Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday evening, so make sure to check back for some late-night NASCAR picks and lineup strategies for the AAA Texas 500. Until then, here is a closer look at the drivers who have caught my eye at Fanduel based on this week’s pricing.
Martin Truex Jr. ($15.000)
Truex has been stout at the 1.5-mile ovals all year, and through the first nine races, he ranks second in points scored and is tied for the series lead with two wins and six Top 10s. He’s also taken his performance to another level since the playoffs began, leading laps in six of the seven races and winning three times. Nobody is running better than Truex right now, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him deliver another dominating effort Sunday at Texas.
Kevin Harvick ($14,000)
He has been the most reliable option at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, scoring the most points and leading a series-best 430 laps. More importantly, Harvick has been a consistent player at the front of the field at the 1.5-mile ovals, leading double-digit laps in six of the nine races and 40-plus laps five times. Throw in the fact that he has 10 straight Top 10s at Texas, including back-to-back wins in the fall race, and Harvick should be in the running to finish as the top scorer at Fanduel this weekend.
Denny Hamlin ($13,500)
Hamlin picked up the win at Texas in the spring, and he was dominant in the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track, leading a race-high 153 laps in a win at Kansas. For the year, he ranks fifth in points scored and third in laps led at the 1.5-mile tracks, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Hamlin pull off a Texas sweep in impressive fashion this weekend.
Difference Makers and Value Plays
Chase Elliott ($12,500)
He’s shown a solid blend of reliability and upside at the 1.5-mile ovals all year, earning the fourth-most points in the nine races and logging four finishes of fourth or better. All four of those Top 4 efforts have come in the last six races, including finishes of fourth at Las Vegas and second at Kansas since the playoffs began. Elliott has also led more than 30 laps in three of the nine races at mile-and-a-half tracks, leading 35 laps at Texas back in March. I love him as a contrarian to the top-priced dominator options.
Brad Keselowski ($11,000)
Yes, he had a lackluster outing at Kansas the last time we visited a 1.5-mile track, but at this price, you at least need to keep an eye on Keselowski this weekend. We are still talking about one of three drivers with multiple wins at the mile-and-a-half ovals this year, and Keselowski leads the series with five Top 5s in those nine races. He has also led laps in six of those nine races, leading double-digit laps four times. If you are looking for pivots to the top dominators, Keselowski is one of your cheapest options.
Ryan Blaney ($10,500)
The final results haven’t always been there for Blaney at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, but the speed has been. He has led laps in six of the nine races at 1.5-mile ovals this year, leading 45 laps at Texas in the spring before suffering an engine issue. Blaney also led 40 laps at Texas last fall, and over the last five races here, his 233 laps led are the second most in the series. Blaney offers tons of upside at a discounted price.
Erik Jones ($9,500)
Jones is a steady force at the 1.5-mile tracks, and he has finished seventh or better in six of the nine races so far this season. He’s also been great at Texas, reeling off four straight Top 10s and three straight fourth-place finishes at the track. Jones has also shown some dominator potential here, leading 30 laps back in March and 64 laps in the spring race last year. Take advantage of his high ceiling at a midrange price.
Clint Bowyer ($8,500)
It has been an all-or-nothing season for Bowyer, but he has shown some serious upside at the mile-and-a-half ovals. He has logged five Top 10s in the nine races, finishing sixth or better four times. More importantly, Bowyer has an excellent run at Texas in March, coming away with a second-place finish. His Top 5 potential for a midrange price shouldn’t be ignored, especially in GPP contests.
Daniel Suarez ($6,700)
Suarez has struggled with consistency all year, especially at the 1.5-mile tracks, but his best overall performance of 2019 came at Texas in the spring. In that race, he finished a season-best third, posting his best average running position and best driver rating of the year. For such a cheap price, you may want to see if he can come close to matching his Top 5 result from March. I love his potential in GPP contests.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,400)
He’s typically a shot-in-the-dark DFS play, but Stenhouse has actually been reliable at the mile-and-a-half tracks. He has compiled a respectable 13.6 average finish in the nine races, finishing 18th or better eight times and 12th or better five times. Stenhouse ranks 13th in point scored in those starts, ahead of guys like Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Jimmie Johnson, and he has even led laps in six of the nine races. There’s a lot of potential here at a great price.
Chris Buescher ($5,000)
Buescher is so underpriced this weekend that I considered slotting him with my must-own drivers. After all, he owns a 13.6 average finish in the nine races at 1.5-mile tracks this season, finishing inside the Top 20 in all nine starts while completing 99.9 percent of the laps. Buescher has also been providing plenty of differential points, gaining an average of 11.1 spots and gaining at least eight spots in eight of the nine races. He’s the No. 1 source of cap relief this weekend.
Ryan Preece ($4,500)
I recently wrote an article about Preece’s uptick in performance in recent weeks, and he heads to Texas looking for his fifth straight Top 20 finish. During the stretch, he finished 12th at Kansas, another 1.5-mile track, and his 22nd-place finish at Texas in March was one of his better efforts early in the season. At the very least, I think Preece has a solid chance to extend his streak of Top 20 finishes this weekend.