For the second week in a row, the Cup Series heads to a mile-and-a-half oval. Texas Motor Speedway will host Sunday's AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500, the second race of the year at the track and the second race of the Round of 8.

Prior to last weekend's race at Kansas, I recommended focusing more on strong finishes and dominator points than on place differential points when building your NASCAR DFS lineups at DraftKings. The top drivers from the top teams usually stand out at the 1.5-mile ovals, and with NASCAR's current qualifying procedure, most drivers that fall into those categories are starting near the front.

Looking at the results from last Sunday's race, the trend largely continued. Eight of the drivers who finished in the Top 10 also started in the Top 10, and one of the two exceptions was Kyle Busch. Four drivers led more than 40 laps in the race, and all of them started seventh or better. Meanwhile, just three drivers who finished in the Top 20 gained 10 or more spots, and Busch was again among the outliers.

The fact that there are 334 laps on tap Sunday should only increase the upside of the big names starting near the front by making more dominator points available. This should either bolster the point totals of the top scorers or allow for another driver or two to significantly boost their scores with dominator points.

Don't be shy about starting several drivers starting near the front of the field this weekend.

Enter this week's NASCAR $175K Front Row Contest with $50K to 1st at DraftKings

Must-Own Drivers

Kevin Harvick ($11,000)

Harvick offers the ideal balance of consistency and upside at the 1.5-mile tracks, logging nine Top 10s in the 10 races while leading a series-high 451 laps. He has also been unstoppable at Texas in the seven races since the repave, posting a 3.1 average finish, leading 538 laps and winning the fall race all three years. Starting from the pole, it could be a long afternoon for the rest of the field.

Denny Hamlin ($10,800)

He has actually been a little boom or bust at Texas, but Hamlin won the spring race here a year ago and has been one of the best at 1.5-mile tracks in the second half of the season. He has led more than 50 laps in each of the last three races at mile-and-a-half ovals, leading double-digit laps in five of the last six events and winning two of them. Hamlin has seven wins under his belt in 2020, and he has proven he can go out and dominate on tracks like Texas.

Cash Plays

Ryan Blaney ($10,000)

His numbers at the 1.5-mile tracks stack up with any driver out there, and Blaney is tied for the series lead with a 7.1 average finish in the 10 races and ranks fourth in laps led. One of his best runs of the year came at Texas in July when he led a race-high 150 laps, and Blaney has led at least 40 laps in four of the seven races here since the track was repaved. He should be a popular play and a great option to pair with either Kevin Harvick or Denny Hamlin.

Joey Logano ($9,800)

Logano is fresh off a win last weekend at Kansas, and few drivers have been as consistent when it comes to providing dominator points at the 1.5-mile ovals this season. Logano has led double-digit laps in nine of the 10 events, leading more than 20 laps seven times. He led 22 laps and finished third at Texas in July, and his 6.1 average finish here since the repave ranks second in the series. Starting on the front row, he is a no-brainer option for cash lineups.

Erik Jones ($8,900)

He has six straight Top 10 finishes at Texas dating back to his time in the No. 77, and he has a 5.6 average finish in five starts here with Joe Gibbs Racing, leading laps in four of those starts. Jones gained 17 spots and finished sixth at Texas in July, and he starts outside the Top 15 on Sunday. He is positioned to provide 50-plus total points for a price that won't break the bank.

Clint Bowyer ($8,700)

Bowyer has shown little upside at the mile-and-a-half ovals, but he has managed six Top 15s and eight Top 20s in the 10 races. He has also been solid at Texas with Stewart-Haas Racing, finishing 11th or better five times in seven starts. Set to start 21st, Bowyer should be able to gain around 10 spots and deliver 40-plus points Sunday.

Matt Kenseth ($7,100)

An early crash last weekend at Kansas resulted in a last-place finish for Kenseth, but even after that disaster. He still owns a 23.0 average finish at 1.5-mile ovals in 2020, and he had logged three straight Top 20s, including an 18th-place effort at Texas, prior to the Kansas crash. The veteran has to start back in 32nd Sunday, so he could be gain double-digit spots simply by finishing in the middle of the pack. With that place differential category to prop up his score, he should be a cheaper, safe addition to cash lineups.

Ryan Newman ($6,400)

Newman isn’t going to be a difference-maker for a lineup, but he offers a decent floor for a cheap price. He starts 25th Sunday, but he has a 20.3 average finish in his nine starts at 1.5-mile tracks, finishing 17th or better five times and finishing 13th at Texas this summer. He should at least gain a handful of spots and challenge for a Top 20.

GPP Specials

Chase Elliott ($10,500)

He hit a lull at the 1.5-mile tracks in the middle of the season, but Elliott has regained his form in time for the playoffs. He led 73 laps and Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago and led 48 laps last Sunday at Kansas. For the year, Elliott has led at least 26 laps in seven of the 10 races at mile-and-a-half tracks. Rolling off inside the Top 5, you need to keep him in mind as a pivot if you are fading Kevin Harvick or Denny Hamlin this weekend.

Alex Bowman ($9,100)

After a slower-than-expected start at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, Bowman has reeled off finishes if eighth, fifth and third in the last three races, recoding 20 fastest laps at both Las Vegas and Kansas in the playoffs. He led 11 laps and finished fifth at Texas last fall, and with a Top 5 starting spot Sunday, I think he is a sneaky dominator candidate. I like him as a pivot to Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano.

Aric Almirola ($8,100)

He doesn't have much place differential upside from the 13th starting spot, but Almirola might be in the market for dominator points this weekend. He led 35 laps and recorded 42 fastest laps on his way to a Top 10 at Texas in July, and last fall, he led 62 laps and recorded 50 fastest laps in a runner-up effort. Almirola has a high ceiling for a midrange price. He's a great alternative to his teammate, Clint Bowyer, and Erik Jones.

Tyler Reddick ($7,900)

The last two races at 1.5-mile tracks haven’t ended well for Reddick, but he still owns a 14.8 average finish in the 10 races overall. He has eight finishes of 18th or better in those starts, including four Top 10s. Reddick was also the runner-up at Texas in July. He starts 19th, so there are still some differential points to be had, and his Top 10 upside could make him a great contrarian to conservative plays like Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

Corey LaJoie ($5,600)

LaJoie has been an effective DFS play at the 1.5-mile tracks most of the year, posting a 22.9 average finish in the 10 races. He gained six spots and finished 23rd at Kansas last weekend, and LaJoie gained 20 spots and finished 16th at Texas in July. He doesn't have that many differential points to gain this time around, but a repeat of his performance at Kansas is certainly possible. LaJoie is worth a flier if you are punting your final roster spot.

For the second week in a row, the Cup Series heads to a mile-and-a-half oval. Texas Motor Speedway will host Sunday's AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500, the second race of the year at the track and the second race of the Round of 8.

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