The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams head to the Lone Star State for the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 3. It's the 34th of 36 events that comprise the 2019 season.
They say everything's bigger in Texas and this NASCAR weekend is no different. It's the second race in the Round of 8 and major playoff implications are at stake. After dominating last week's event at Martinsville Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. guaranteed himself a Championship 4 spot at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Seven drivers will vie for the final three positions the next two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway.
TMS is not your typical 1.5-mile track, as it has differently-sized banking in each turn. The surface has been repaved and track officials put down the PJ1 traction compound in advance of this weekend's competition. Cars will once again use the lower-horsepower intermediate package with aero ducts with high hopes for better side-by-side racing.
For daily fantasy, you will need drivers who can lead laps and finish higher than where they qualify to win your contests. In four straight races at Texas, victors began in the top 10 (and two in the top five). However, note a driver has not won from the pole since 2013.
Earlier this year in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at TMS, much of the top 10 started further back in the pack. For example, Clint Bowyer qualified 25th but finished second; he also recorded 23 fastest laps. All those extra bonuses gave him a very large DraftKings score (77 points). Here are the rules for DraftKings' NASCAR contest.
So Texas won't be like last week where one driver dominates (thank goodness!).
Before we go further, let's take a look at last week's race (Martinsville Speedway). Here are the results from the First Data 500 DraftKings picks:
Basically, if you didn't have Truex, you probably weren't going to win any money. Matt DiBenedetto qualified higher than I would have liked, but he still finished only four positions lower.
The minimum score to win a $1 double up contest was 266.5, and 309.5 was the lowest winning total for the $1 Happy Hour.
Denny Hamlin ($10,800)
Career at Texas: 27 starts, 3 wins, 7 top fives, 13 top 10s
Average finish at Texas: 13.2
Hamlin is having a stellar year for Joe Gibbs Racing, with five wins, 18 top fives, and 22 top 10s. He's also led 777 laps this season. One of his victories came at Kansas two weeks ago; he started 23rd but led 153 laps in dominant fashion.
Unfortunately, Hamlin has had some less-than-ideal finishes at Texas in recent years, but he did win there in March. His 45 laps led and 22 fastest laps added to a final DraftKings score of 73. He also led 65 laps en route to a third-place finish at TMS in 2017.
The recent track history (three runs of 25th or worse his last five starts) leaves Hamlin a higher risk for daily fantasy. But he should still persevere for a good finish as he closes in on the Championship 4.
Kevin Harvick ($10,400)
Career at Texas: 33 starts, 2 wins, 10 top fives, 21 top 10s
Average finish at Texas: 10.7
I'm starting to feel like a broken record since this marks the third straight week I chose Harvick. However, I just couldn't resist his recent track history. The freaky fast No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver is on a 10-race top-10 streak at Texas. Additionally, he's won this fall event the last two years. He's also led the most laps (489) of any active driver in the past 10 races there.
Harvick's also done well in the playoffs so far. He only has one finish outside the top 10 in the last seven races. Harvick also earned more than 50 DraftKings points in five of those seven events. The 2014 Cup Series champ is looking to continue his strong performance this week to secure a spot above the cutline.
Looking for a cheaper alternative? Harvick's SHR cohort Clint Bowyer also looked fast in Friday's practices, excelling in both single-lap speeds and averages.
Erik Jones ($8,400)
Career at Texas: 6 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at Texas: 9.3
Even though Jones only has six starts at this track, he has four consecutive top-10 finishes. Even better is that he's ended the last three TMS races in fourth. Jones is also capable of leading laps, as he led 30 earlier this year and 64 last year.
Jones has not had many great finishes lately, but he did finish seventh at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago. Hamlin's JGR teammate also finished third at Kentucky Speedway and third at the spring Kansas event, both 1.5-mile ovals.
Jones' price is fair for his level. But if you wanted to go a bit higher, Kurt Busch showed some speed in practice and has good TMS track history.
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,600)
Career at Texas: 8 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Texas: 29.9
DiBenedetto's had the best season of his Cup career, earning three top-five finishes and seven top 10s. While he's struggled on many of the 1.5-mile courses, two weeks ago DiBenedetto gained 12 positions at Kansas to finish 15th. He also ran 16th in the spring of 2018 at TMS after starting 30th.
A low price and ability to outperform his Toyota equipment is appealing for DiBenedetto as he finishes up his tenure at Leavine Family Racing. Hopefully, he'll have another good finish on Sunday.
Chris Buescher ($6,700)
Career at Texas: 8 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Texas: 22.5
Buescher is another driver who has outperformed his equipment this season. At many tracks (especially the 1.5-milers), he's ended the race several spots higher than where he started. The JTG-Daugherty Racing wheelman hit a rough patch once the playoffs began, but he's been back on track the last couple of weeks with back-to-back top-15 results.
Surprisingly, Buescher's price has remained under $7,000. You really can't beat that!
Dark Horse Performer
Bubba Wallace ($6,100)
Career at Texas: 3 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Texas: 18.7
Wallace has had some really good finishes since the summer, all of which produced some high DraftKings scores. For instance, just last week he earned DraftKings users 47 points when he finished 13th at Martinsville.
If he qualifies low (as he usually does), even finishing a few spots higher at TMS would give a good score.
That's really all you need for a driver priced this low... and there's major upside here. Wallace was eighth with the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team here as recently as the spring of 2018.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)