Paul Menard – Paul Menard will be a good dark horse fantasy NASCAR option at Texas. His track record is extremely poor, but there’s things to like about him. Penske Racing builds great cars for Texas and last fall they finished 5th, 6th and 7th. This year he’s in a more competitive situation and driving one of their cars. Las Vegas is the most similar intermediate track visited in 2018 and at that venue he finished 9th and had a 10th place average running position. Last fall at Texas, Menard didn’t have a good race. He started in the rear of the field (driver change), got lapped early, and then went on to finish 23rd. Last spring in the first race on the current layout he had an OK race, but finished an asterisk mark 36th. While he was running around the mid-teens around lap 180 he had electrical issues which sent him to the garage for repair which doomed his afternoon. On Sunday I would look for Menard to likely be about a mid-teens driver.
Austin Dillon – Austin Dillon is a solid competitor at 1.5 mile tracks. Don’t look for him to be a flashy performer, but he should prove to be a low-double digits to mid-teens driver. Over the last five races at tracks of this length he’s finished between 11th to 14th. This year at the two 1.5 mile tracks visited he has a 13.5 average finish, the 14th best driver rating and a 15.0 average running position. Last fall at Texas, Dillon had a solid afternoon. He finished 13th, had an 11th place average running position and earned the 11th best driver rating. Additionally in Stage #1 he finished 9th and in Stage #2 he finished 10th. Last spring there’s no fantasy takeaways from his race. When the green flag waved Austin Dillon was in his garage area for repair because of a trailing arm failure. It caused him to miss the first 12 laps which led to his 33rd place finish.
Trevor Bayne – At Texas don’t set the bar too high for Trevor Bayne. It’s been a while since he showed speed at a 1.5 mile track. Over the last five races at tracks of this length a good day for him has been a 20th place finish. In 3 of the last 5 races at 1.5 mile tracks he’s finished between 19th and 20th. Las Vegas is the most similar intermediate track visited this year and at that venue he finished 20th and had a 22nd place average running position. Last fall at Texas he was really uncompetitive. He had a 27th place average running position and finished 28th. He didn’t have any major trouble, he was just that bad. Early in 2017 Roush Fenway Racing was more competitive and in that event he ran well. He finished 13th, earned the 16th best driver rating and had an 18th place average running position.
Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney will be a contender at Texas. In 2017 on the new surface he was strong in both races. With the way he’s performed at 1.5 mile tracks this year I think he’s more than primed to have a strong showing. Last year between the combined Texas races Blaney had the 3rd best driver rating, a 6th place average running position, led 148 laps and had a misleading 9th place average finish. Last fall Blaney had a strong showing and ran well throughout the event. He earned the 4th best driver rating, had a 6th place average running position and finished 6th. Additionally he finished 8th in Stage #1 and 3rd in Stage #2. Last spring he had a great car but finished a misleading 12th. In the race he won Stage #1, won Stage #2, led a race high 148 laps, earned the 2nd best driver rating and had a 6th place average running position. His downfall in the race happened on pit road. There was a late caution near the end of Stage #2 and almost everyone pitted but him which put him back in the field. He later had another problem on pit road with 34 laps to go when his jack fell which led to a disastrous pit stop. Prior to that problem he was running in 8th. This year at intermediate tracks Blaney has been strong. He finished 12th at Atlanta, and at Las Vegas which is more similar of the two he started on the pole, finished 5th and had 3rd place average running position.
Chris Buescher – I don’t see lots of upside for Chris Buescher at Texas. Realistically I would write him down as a high-teens to low-twenties driver. Over the last four races at 1.5 mile tracks his average finish is 20.5. Las Vegas is the most similar track visited this year and he ran well there and finished 15th. In 2017 at Texas Buescher was a low-twenties driver in both events. Last fall he finished 22nd and had a 20th place average running position. Last spring there was nothing special about Buescher’s performance. He finished 21st, had a 20th place average running position and earned the 18th best driver rating.
David Ragan – At Texas I would look for David Ragan to likely be about a mid-twenties driver. Last year he didn’t run well in either event. In November 2017 he was a low-thirties driver who finished 5 laps down. When the checkered flag waved he finished 30th and had a 31st place average running position. Last spring Ragan finished 28th, had a 30th place average running position and earned the 30th best driver rating. This year at 1.5 mile tracks David Ragan has a pair of 23rd place finishes.
Matt DiBenedetto – Matt DiBenedetto will be a mid-twenties to about thirtieth place driver driver at Texas. Over the last six races at tracks of this length he has a 25.5 average finish. Las Vegas is the most similar track visited this year and at that venue he finished 22nd and had a 25th place average running position. Last year at Texas, DiBenedetto had a rough season. Last fall he finished 25th and had a 28th place average running position. In spring 2017 he finished 31st.
Darrell Wallace Jr. – At Texas I would look for Darrell Wallace Jr. to likely be a high-teens to about mid-twenties driver. This year at both 1.5 mile tracks he’s been about a low-twenties driver. At Atlanta he was poised to finish in the low-twenties but he was involved in an accident that led to his misleading 32nd place finish. Las Vegas is the more similar of the two 1.5 mile tracks visited and at that venue he finished 21st, had a 23rd place average running position and earned the 23rd best driver rating. Last spring at Texas in the Xfinity Series Wallace finished 6th.
William Byron – William Byron shouldn’t be overlooked at Texas. He hasn’t been a strong competitor at 1.5 mile tracks but I think he’s ready for a break through performance. By break through I mean finish in the mid-teens. His team is building a note book and finding out what works for him and it will show in results soon. He’s on a great team and you can’t keep them down forever. At Atlanta, Byron finished 18th and at Las Vegas he finished 27th. Auto Club Speedway isn’t a 1.5 mile track but he walked away with a 12th place finish there.
Alex Bowman – I think Alex Bowman has dark horse potential at Texas. This year at 1.5 mile tracks he hasn’t done anything great, but I think Hendrick Motorsports is due to arrive at the track with a little more speed. This is an elite organization and now that they’ve had time with the new Camaro I think their bound to show improvement. This year at Atlanta he finished 20th, and at Las Vegas which is the more similar of the two he finished 16th. In 2016 when Bowman drove the #88 at 1.5 mile tracks he was frequently a top ten contender.
Michael McDowell – At Texas I would look for McDowell to likely be about a mid-twenties driver. This year in his one incident free race at a 1.5 mile track (Atlanta) he finished 24th. In 2017 at Texas, McDowell finished in the low-twenties both events. Last fall at Texas he finished 21st and had a 21st place average running position. Last spring in the first race on the new Texas surface he finished 23rd, had a 23rd place average running position and earned the 25th best driver rating.