NASCAR has dealt us a tough slate this weekend. Texas Motor Speedway has gone from your typical 1.5 mile track to a reconfigured, repaved ring of unknown. Repaves are a necessity from time to time in NASCAR, but those first couple of races on the new surface are treacherous. It’s going to be a fight for the bottom of the racetrack tomorrow, making it very hard to pass. So naturally, we have 9 drivers starting in the back that you’ll have to have a bunch of exposure to.
These drivers either missed qualifying entirely or just missed the qualifying setup. Some HUGE names are starting from the back and at least a couple of them could contend for the win tomorrow. Lets start by looking at this big group.
Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott are you elite, no-brainer plays. You’re going to need tons of these guys. It may be hard to pass, but they’ve got 500 miles to figure it out. There isn’t a lot of hard-hitting analysis to do here — these are three of the best in NASCAR and they should rise quickly.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher are in that next tier. These guys are slightly more risky than the first three, but you better load up on them. Each of these guys are better than the next 12-15 cars in front of them at least, so they should be able to post a nice place differential for you.
Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon got to qualify, but things didn’t go as planned. Johnson appeared to be pretty quick, but he spun during his cool down lap and flattened all of his tires. His qualifying day was done. He’ll be scored from 24th, but he’s going to start in the back. Johnson may be faded because of this, so keep him in mind as an alternate to the drivers listed above. As for Dillon, he’s been outstanding all year on the intermediate tracks — he just hasn’t had it in qualifying. Coming from 25th, Dillon should demand some exposure. He offers a nice fade off of Erik Jones and Kasey Kahne.
Harvick has been a disappointment so far this season, but that’s not really on him. He blew a tire at Vegas and banged up his nose early at California. He was the dominant car at Atlanta. Probably the closest track to Texas after the repave — Kentucky — was dominated last year by the No. 4 group. NASCAR has brought the same tire back this weekend.
He swept all three round of qualifying on Friday and will start from 1st at a track where it’s tough to pass at. Pair Harvick with those guys from the back for maximum upside.
Brad is fast no matter where NASCAR shows up. The deuce should be quick again on Sunday as Brad posted some of the best long run averages of final practice. He’s been eating up fast laps this season and has been a factor is every single race this season. I probably prefer Harvick slightly, due to how hard it will be to pass. One way to differentiate yourself could be pairing Harvick and Keselowski together in hopes of hoarding all of the laps led.
There is a serious lack of value this week. By value I’m talking drivers that are under the 7,000 mark — and there are just not a lot of viable options this week. It’s odd because there are legitimately eight cars starting in the back that really shouldn’t be. So our normal options back here are starting higher than usual and have a much lower floor than usual.
I’ve already mentioned Chris Buescher. He’s a slam dunk at 6,000 and will be very highly owned. After that it gets really murky.
AJ Allmendinger is risky from 16th, but I think he’s good enough to hang around 10th-15th for the majority of the day. The RCR alliance cars have shown speed all weekend long and ‘Dinger has led the way. The 1.5 mile program hasn’t been very good for the No. 47 group this season, but we’ve got a whole new ballgame this weekend. He’s a guy I think you need some of, but don’t load up.
You’ve got to find salary relief somewhere. Cole Whitt may be one of your better options starting 28th. He’s the lone driver in the 5,000s that I can stomach putting in a lineup. He’s going to get passed quickly from those starting in the back, but he should stabilize and be able to capitalize when others wreck.
This is the only time I’ll ever recommend this. I feel dirty even bringing this idea up — but I think you can fire up Timmy Hill and Derrick Cope in tournaments.
With all the high dollar plays coming from the back, you are going to have to find ways to pair them all together. Hill and Cope have already bottomed out for the day and can only go forward. There are going to be wrecks tomorrow and these two are in position to capitalize on them. If they can steal 5-8 positions on guys dropping out of the race, they become viable options. Don’t go crazy with them, obviously, but I think they are worth a shot.
Everyone is going to be on the obvious plays this weekend. I think it ultimately comes down to who can find the right combination, but it’s important to get off the beaten path with so many chalk plays. Keep in mind that these are drivers that could benefit from something going wrong, so I’m not recommending loading up on them. But I think it’s important to have something different and be prepared for anything.
Clint Bowyer has an outside shot at leading coming from 3rd. Their intermediate program has shown us some flashes this season so far at Atlanta and California. If for some reason Harvick isn’t your leader off the bat, Bowyer is probably the next best option starting on the bottom behind him.
Joey Logano starts in the top five and is always a threat. I just don’t see a race winner out of the 22 group so far. But again — if something happens to Brad and Kevin, someone has to benefit. It could very well be Joey.
Denny Hamlin flat out hasn’t been very good this year. They are missing speed in that car badly. However, in a potential high variance race, anything can happen. Hamlin coming from 17th gives you some upside to capitalize on and gets you off the beaten path.
Paul Menard and Daniel Suarez are in the same boat. They start 22nd and 20th respectively and haven’t shown great long run speed all year. But you’ve got to find value. With potential cautions looming tomorrow, these two may be able to stay on the lead lap and capitalize late. Suarez won a tournament doing this at California. He’s also taking part in the XFINITY race today, so track time should give him a leg up.