Daily Fantasy NASCAR Driver Preview: AAA Texas 500
Two of the biggest pillars of driver selection in daily fantasy NASCAR are track history and current form. Knowing where drivers sit on both of those spectrums is going to make our lineups look a whole lot nicer at the end of the race.
By looking at which drivers have excelled at this week's track in the past and those who are currently racing well, we can know which drivers are in line to be good plays for the slate. That's what we're going to try to do today, dividing drivers into those two buckets with noteworthy track history or noteworthy current form.
Clearly, this isn't to say that all of these drivers will be great plays in this race. A lot of that will be dictated by where they start and the scoring history at that track. To read more about what strategies we need to deploy based on starting position, check out this week's track preview.
Later in the week, once qualifying is in the books, we'll go through the top plays for the race based on all of these factors. But which drivers should we be keying on for the time being? Let's check it out. Here are drivers we should monitor for the AAA Texas 500.
Kevin Harvick (FanDuel Salary: $14,000): Kevin Harvick is still hunting for his first win at a 1.5-mile track in 2019 despite 150 more laps than anybody else in eight races using this package. Texas presents him with an opportunity to change that.
Harvick has been mopping up in Texas for a while now, finishing within the top four spots seven times in the past 10 races. That stretch includes a pair of wins, both of which have come within the past four trips to Texas. He has the best recent track history of any driver entering this weekend.
If you want to poke holes in Harvick's resume, you can do so by pointing to what he has done at the higher-banked 1.5-mile tracks. He was eighth in the first Texas race this year, and he was just 10th in Charlotte. Harvick has had similar issues recently, failing to convert crazy speed into dominant outings throughout the playoffs.
Harvick is someone we should judge largely based on what he does in practices. If he shows the speed he has flashed at times this year, we should view him as a threat to rack up the laps led as he has done numerous times this year. But if he's more middling in practice, Harvick's record at Texas and on this track type isn't blistering enough where we have to force him in.
Ryan Blaney ($10,500): Ryan Blaney has never won in Texas, but he has been knocking on the door for a while now. And those close calls have been consistent over the past few years.
It started back in 2017 when Blaney was still with Wood Brothers Racing. In the spring race, Blaney led 148 laps but stayed out under a mid-race caution in order to win the second stage and pick up points. He never rebounded after pitting and finished 12th.
Blaney carried that success over into the fall with a sixth-place finish. Then in 2018, Blaney was top-five both times, including a runner-up run during the fall race in which he led 40 laps. Blaney led another 45 laps this spring before overheating issues ended his day early.
Overall, within the past five races at this track, Blaney has either had a top-six finish or been in contention for the win each time. This time, a win would lock him up a spot in the championship race, so you know he's going to be gunning for that top spot again.
Outside of the spring Texas race, Blaney hasn't shown a ton of upside on this track type this year. He has led a combined six laps in the other seven races at 1.5-mile tracks using this package, and his lone top-five came in the second Las Vegas race. The good thing is that he had a top-10 average running position in both Las Vegas and Kansas, showing that the speed is there. Blaney's a driver we can consider when searching for potential race-winning upside without breaking the bank.
Erik Jones ($9,500): Backing Erik Jones is a roller coaster. The lows are low with eight finishes of 29th or worse, five of which have come within the past eight races. He's a bona fide lineup-killer. But the highs are sweet enough to keep sucking us back in.
Luckily for Jones, the highs have been more likely to hit in Texas than elsewhere. His three top-fives in five races are his most at every track except Pocono, and his 94 laps led are his most at every track except for Bristol. Of those, 30 came this spring when he cranked out a fourth-place finish.
That fourth-place run in Texas is one of three top-fives and five top-10s for Jones in eight similar races, and he has finished seventh or better in five straight such races in which he didn't crash. The odds of the bottom falling out are high, but Jones is seemingly always worth a roll of the dice in tournaments.
Jimmie Johnson ($8,000): The past couple years have been rough for Jimmie Johnson. He has led only 131 laps since the start of 2018, and it means we really do need to toss his seven career Texas wins right out the window.
But of those 131 laps led, 71 have come right at this same track. So it's possible the seven-time champ still has some of his magic here.
Johnson led 60 of those laps this spring after starting on the pole. He eventually gave up the lead, but he didn't simply fade after that. He still had an eighth-place average running position -- his fourth-best mark of the year -- and finished fifth. It's one of just three top-fives for Johnson in 2019.
Johnson had another top-five run in Chicago, showing that this strong showing in Texas wasn't a fluke. He has finished 11th and 12th in the two playoff races at 1.5-mile tracks, but we're still getting Johnson at a fairly attractive salary. Even with Johnson's best days long in the rearview mirror, he's still very much worth considering with the cost being so low.
Daniel Suarez ($6,700): It's pretty rare to get a driver with the upside to land a top-five finish for less than $8,000, much less a salary as low as Daniel Suarez's this weekend. There has been enough disappointment recently where you can understand why he's so cheap, but it doesn't mean we should refrain from diving in.
Suarez proved he was capable of high-end finishes at this track back in the spring. He started near the front there but hung around all day, had a ninth-place average running position, and finished third.
That's the only top-five for Suarez at a 1.5-mile track this year, but he was flirting with another one two weeks ago in Kansas. He started eighth, led six laps, and had a 10th-place average running position before getting wrecked in the closing laps. Suarez has a ton of speed, and if he puts a full race together, he can get you a top-end finish at a minuscule salary. Keep him on your player pool because of this even if he winds up starting a bit higher in the order than we'd like.
Martin Truex Jr. ($15,000): Martin Truex Jr.'s record in Texas is just all right with no wins here and only four top-fives across 28 career races. Given how well he's running right now, though, we shouldn't give those numbers any consideration at all.
Truex has taken a blowtorch to the field throughout the playoffs. He has won three of seven races, and he was second in another. One of the wins was in Las Vegas after he started back in 24th, and he was a respectable sixth in the other recent race at a 1.5-mile track. Truex and Chase Elliott ($12,500) are the only drivers to post a top-seven average running position in both Las Vegas and Kansas. There just aren't any flaws in Truex's game right now.
It's also important to note that Truex isn't likely to light up the speed charts during qualifying. In the eight races at 1.5-mile tracks using this package, he has started in the top 10 just once, and he has qualified 20th or worse four times. One of those was the Las Vegas win. This gives a boost to Truex's floor, and he has shown that it doesn't impede his ability to generate upside. So even if Truex is just mediocre in his qualifying run, we still need to view him as having high win equity.
William Byron ($10,000): We've been banging the William Byron drum in this section for a while now, and he almost squeaked out his first career win last week, finishing second behind Truex. Martinsville bears no resemblance to Texas, but we have to be high on Byron once again this weekend.
Byron has proven his chops at this track type all season long, starting with the spring race here in Texas. There, he qualified second, had an eighth-place average running position, and finished sixth. He has four top-10s since that race and one top-five. That top-five, interestingly, came two weeks ago in Kansas, and it was his second straight race at a 1.5-mile track in which he had a top-nine average running position.
Byron hasn't had quite the same upside as some other guys in this track type this year as that fifth is his best finish, and that does matter. But he's also in his age-21 season and had zero top-fives for his career before July. It's possible he's just improving as the year goes along, so the lack of upside in the past is not necessarily an indicator he will lack it going forward.
Kurt Busch ($9,700): Kurt Busch hit a rough patch last month, and it led to an early ouster from the playoffs. That seems even more unfortunate now because Busch has actually run pretty well since then.
In the four races since being eliminated from the playoffs, Busch has three top-10s and a top-5. That top-five came in Kanasa -- which bodes well for this weekend -- and was his third top-five of the year on this track type. One of them was a win in Kentucky, so Busch has decent upside for someone in this salary tier.
The overall speed for Busch has been down during the playoffs, which means his appeal goes down quickly if he qualifies too close to the front. But if he qualifies around 15th again, as he did in Kansas, the finishing potential is high enough to give him a swing yet again.
Clint Bowyer ($8,500): Clint Bowyer won the pole at the first 1.5-mile track during the playoffs but clearly had an abysmal race setup. He dropped back quickly and finished 25th. But he rebounded in Kansas recently, which means we can likely count Vegas as being just a bump in the road.
Bowyer has certainly had his issues across this season, but when he has had clean races, he has been a pretty consistent threat for a top-10. In 33 races, he has finished 20th or worse 13 times and finished top-10 16 times. That means he has had just four total middling races where he finished in the teens, showing that he has plenty of juice when nothing goes awry. That's basically all you can ask of someone in this salary tier.
Bowyer has had some highs, too, with seven top-10s for the full season, one of which came in the first Texas race. That was actually his best run of the year as Bowyer finished second and had a ninth-place average running position. All of this combines to make Bowyer a fairly dependable value play, and we can at least give him consideration even if he does qualify well.
Chris Buescher ($5,000): A lot of drivers in the punting tier turn to dust at tracks like this because the speeds are too high for their poor equipment to keep up. Chris Buescher's cars don't have elite speed, as his qualifying times will show you, but he's generally able to post solid results at the end of the race.
In the eight races in this package at 1.5-mile tracks, Buescher has three top-10s. That is more than anybody who enters this weekend with a salary lower than Johnson's at $8,000, and Buescher checks in at just $5,000. His best run was a sixth-place finish in Charlotte, which is the closest parallel to Texas, and he had another top-10 in Atlanta, which is also similar, though it was while using a different rules package.
Buescher hit a snag near the start of the playoffs where his consistency dropped off, but he has rebounded with finishes of 13th and 12th the past two outings, and the 13th-place finish was at another 1.5-mile track. He routinely qualifies in the middle of the pack or lower, giving him some place-differential juice, as well, meaning Buescher is likely to precisely fit the mold of what we want from a punt play.