NASCAR DFS: O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 DraftKings Preview

Brian Polking

After the first short track race of the year and the first off weekend of the 2018 season, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to action at Texas Motor Speedway. The track will host Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, the third race of the season at a 1.5-mile oval.

Although there aren't nearly as many laps on tap as there were a couple of weeks ago at Martinsville, a 334-lap race at a mile-and-a-half track still puts the dominator categories at the front and center when it comes to building your lineups at DraftKings.

In a majority of the races at 1.5-mile tracks, you can bank on one driver leading more than 100 laps, and there is typically at least one other driver that will lead 50-plus. These drivers usually qualifying in the Top 10, often in the Top 5.

Of course, Kevin Harvick has been in a league of his own in the first two races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, but he really hasn't broken the trends as much as he has taken them to the extreme. He qualified third and led 181 laps at Atlanta, and he turned around the next week and led 214 laps at Las Vegas after qualifying on the front row.

Nailing the top dominator will a must if you plan on winning anything this weekend, and I'll probably be going with a lot of two-dominator lineups, unless someone unexpected qualifies up front. Last year for example, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. both led a chunk of laps, but it was Ryan Blaney qualifying on the front row and leading a race-high 148 laps.

As always qualifying will go a long way to determining some of the better midrange and low-priced plays, but in the meantime, here is a closer look at my top DFS NASCAR plays for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas.

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Must-Own Drivers

Kevin Harvick ($11,500)

He's clobbered the competition at the 1.5-mile tracks so far this year, leading 181 laps and recording 78 fastest laps in his win at Atlanta and leading 214 laps and logging 64 fastest laps in his win at Las Vegas. Harvick has also been excellent at Texas. He has a series-best 4.3 average finish at the track over the last three seasons, and last year, he led 77 laps and had 22 fastest laps in the spring race and led 38 laps and had 52 fastest laps in a win in the fall race.

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,600)

Although he hasn't been an unstoppable force in the two races at 1.5-mile ovals this year, Truex is the only driver not named Kevin Harvick with Top 5 finishes in both events. He also recorded points in both dominator categories in both of those races. Truex has led at least 49 laps in four straight races at Texas, topping 20 fastest laps in all four races. He should be a high-floor, high-ceiling option to build around this weekend.

Kyle Busch ($10,400)

It's been a while since Busch has had a dominant run at Texas, but he won here in the spring of 2016, and he has been knocking on the door of a win all year. He led laps at both Atlanta and Las Vegas, recording more than 20 fastest laps at both tracks. Busch is a safe bet to deliver some dominator points Sunday, and he always has the potential to finish as the top scorer.

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Value Plays

Kyle Larson ($9,700)

Larson had two strong runs at Texas last year, finishing second in the spring race and leading 74 laps in the fall event. He's been just a tick behind the top drivers so far this year, but he is definitely worth keeping an eye on as a potential contrarian play to the top dominators.

Joey Logano ($9,100)

He has opened the year with finishes of sixth and seventh in the two races at 1.5-mile tracks, recording a small amount of dominator points in both events. Logano also has a solid resume at Texas. He has a 3.8 average finish here over the last two years, recording points in both dominator points in each of the last three races at the track. At worst, he should contend for a Top 5 and provide some dominator points.

Ryan Blaney ($8,900)

He is off to an excellent start in his first year with Team Penske, and he ranks inside the Top 5 in most of the scoring loop categories. Perhaps more importantly, he has shown serious upside at Texas. Blaney led a race-high 148 laps and recorded 51 fastest laps in the spring race last year, and he finished sixth in the fall race. If he has a strong qualifying run, Blaney could be a sneaky dominator.

Ryan Newman ($7,800)

His price tag won't break the bank, and Newman has shown he can be effective at the 1.5-mile tracks no matter where he starts. He led 17 laps after starting on the front at Atlanta, and he was running in the Top 10 before he had a tire issue. At Las Vegas, he started 25th but surged to an 11th-place finish. I like him as a midrange play.

Austin Dillon ($7,500)

His numbers at Texas have been inconsistent, at best, but Dillon has opened the year with back-to-back Top 15 finishes at the 1.5-mile tracks. He also an average place differential of +7.0 in those two races. If Dillon has another mid-pack qualifying effort this weekend, he should once again be one of the stronger mid-priced plays.

Chris Buescher ($5,900)

Buescher has finished 22nd or better in his last three starts at Texas, and in five Cup starts here, he owns an average place differential of +9.2. In fact, he has finished with a positive place differential in all five of his starts at the track. Buescher delivered a Top 15 at Las Vegas a few weeks back, and if he starts outside the Top 25 this weekend, he will be one of my favorite low-priced plays.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,900)

It will all come down to starting position for Stenhouse, but if he happens to start in the back half of the field, I'll have some exposure. He has finished 16th or better in five of his last six starts at Texas, and he has finished 16th and 14th in the first two races at mile-and-a-half tracks this year. Stenhouse should have Top 15 potential this weekend. He just needs to place differential category working in his favor.

Sleeper Special

David Ragan ($5,400)

His teammate, Michael McDowell, could also be in play here, but while McDowell has been qualifying in the Top 20 at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, Ragan has been starting deeper in the field. Ragan has also been the steadiest performer among the punt plays, finishing in the Top 25 in every race since Daytona and finishing 23rd at both Atlanta and Las Vegas. If the qualifying trends continue, I'll lean toward Ragan.

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