Fantasy NASCAR preview: AAA Texas 500

by Eric McClung on November 3, 2010 @ 19:00:00 PDT


Texas Motor Speedway is one of three 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, each holding two races per season. Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway have both completed their pair of events, while Forth Worth gets its reprise this Sunday afternoon.

That gives fantasy owners a total of five races to study results from. All three of these tracks share the same length and corner banking. The wear due to age and usage on each track is unique, which causes the speeds to vary somewhat. Still, the similar configuration that these sites share makes for great comparisons when assembling your lineup.

Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Shape: Quad-oval
Length: 1.5 mile
Laps: 334
Turns 1-4: 24 degrees
Front stretch: 5 degrees
Back stretch: 5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&Ms Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Joey Logano
Logano is busting out

In the last eight starts at Texas, the younger Busch brother has five top-fives and two more finishes of 11th or better. In that span, he has held an average running position of eighth or better on five occasions. Until running out of fuel at the end of last year's Fort Worth Chase race, Rowdy was crushing the field with 232 of 333 laps led. All those past statistics are nice, but it's the results from this season that are most impressive. Busch owns four straight top-five finishes on cookie-cutter tracks. That impressive streak and the fact that Rowdy needs to make a lot of noise to stay in the title hunt makes him a must-start fantasy driver in all formats.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

The April event at Fort Worth ended a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes in the Lone Star State for Kenseth. During that time, he recorded four top-fives, including two runner-up performances. The first five of those finishes came with average running positions that ranged from fifth to ninth, with more than 93 percent of his laps running in the top 15. Thanks to the midseason turnaround at Roush, Kenseth is back to his consistent ways on intermediate tracks. In the last three cookie-cutter races, Kenseth has finished no worse than 11th. As one of the most started drivers for much of the season, the value may not be there for those playing from behind. However, a safer midlevel pick you'd be hard-pressed to find.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite/Operation Home Front Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Until spinning out in the early goings at Charlotte, the elder Busch brother had finished no worse than sixth in the first four cookie-cutter races, with two dominating wins. He is the defending winner of the Texas postseason race, thanks to the aforementioned error by his sibling, but he also matched Kyle with a race-high average running position of second and never ran lower than sixth. There is some risk associated with the Blue Deuce, however. In the Chase, Busch has been as cold as the beverage that backs him. With only one top-10 and four straight finishes outside the top-15 this postseason, tap Busch as a possible bargain returning to the track type that suits him best.

Joey Logano | No. 20 Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

In four career starts at Texas, Logano has an average finish of 29.2 and has never finished on the lead lap. So why in the world would you start the youngster? For one, Sliced Bread rolls into Fort Worth with three straight top-10 finishes for the first time in his short Cup career. In fact, Logano has finished 11th or better five times in the last eight starts. He has also performed very well at Charlotte, the premier cookie-cutter track. In four career starts at NASCAR's capital, Logano has an average finish of 8.5, with an average running position that has never been worse than 13th. It's just a matter of time until he starts putting down similar results at Texas and Atlanta. Based on his current hot streak, Logano will get started right away.

David Reutimann | No. 00 Aaron's Outdoors Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Three engine failures in six career starts at Texas clouds Reutimann's value this week. In the last four starts at Fort Worth, he has held an average running position of at least 11th. The Double Zero has been even better in the Chase races there, with average running positions of sixth and fifth and 97 percent or more of his laps running in the top 15. This year at Charlotte, he finished fifth and ninth, with solid average running positions to back it up. In the last three Chase races, Reutimann has three top-10s, and he's coming off a fourth-place result at Talladega Superspeedway, where he pushed several drivers to the front. A number of those in the field owe Reutimann a favor and will race him clean en route to another impressive outcome.

Temper your expectations

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Among active drivers, Hamlin has the best average finish at Texas. In 10 career starts, he has four top-fives, seven top-10s and has finished worse than 12th on only two occasions. Back in the April race, Hamlin captured the second of his seven victories thus far in 2010. However, his other finishes on cookie-cutter tracks have been inconstant, with three ending in 18th or worse, including a last-place DNF at Atlanta. Owners in allocation formats with one Hamlin start remaining should consider using it at Phoenix International Raceway. In the desert, he has a top-five in half of his career starts and a better average finish than Texas. Consider that four of Hamlin's wins this season have come on other flat tracks and the decision becomes a much easier one to make.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing
Passing JJ may have to wait a week

While Edwards is a three-time winner at Texas, he has also finished outside the top 15 in five of his 11 career starts. The last two trips to the site have each ended early due to crashes. In the five cookie-cutter races held this season, Edwards owns just one finish better than 12th, a runner-up performance in the second trip to Atlanta. Given his status a top-tier driver in most formats, Edwards has too much risk and too little upside to consider deploying this weekend.

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

It's been a boom-or-bust postseason for Stewart with a win and another top-five finish coupled with five finishes outside of the top 20. In the spring event at Texas, Stewart qualified on the pole and led 74 laps before getting wrecked with fewer than 20 laps to go, spoiling a likely top-five. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Stewart has held an average running position of 13th or better in 10 of 11 starts at the site. After winning a few months ago in Atlanta, early damage ruined any shot he had in the second Charlotte race, the most recent cookie-cutter contest. Smoke is rollercoaster ride you would be wise to pass on.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

For a span of seven races, from Bristol Motor Speedway through Auto Club Speedway, Newman was among the most consistent drivers in the series. It has been a nightmare ever since. He wrecked at Charlotte (moments into the race), lost a gear at Martinsville Speedway after leading 32 laps and was a non-factor at Talladega. Newman has been solid in the last three starts at Texas, finishing in the top 15 each time out. However, his highest percentage of laps in the top 15 in those starts was just 49.7, which doesn't inspire much confidence given steak of bad finishes lately.

Kasey Kahne | No. 83 Red Bull | Red Bull Racing

Despite some mixed finishes over the last few years at Texas, Kahne was been a solid driver and is typically among the most consistent options on vanilla tracks. After opening the season with two top-five results at Atlanta and Texas, Kahne's finishes have become progressively worse over the last three starts on such tracks. After being cut loose by Richard Petty Motorsports after a suspect illness at Charlotte, Fort Worth will be Kahne's first intermediate race with Red Bull. Over the last two months in the same car, Reed Sorenson managed to finish 14th at Atlanta and 18th at Charlotte. That would appear to be Kahne's upside for this weekend. Not bad, but probably not what owners are looking for this late in the season.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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