Fantasy NASCAR race preview: AAA Texas 500
Texas Motor Speedway is one of three 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The two others, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, share the same length and corner banking. The wear of the racing surface 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 for each of the five races these venues will host in total.
Practice sessions: Friday, Nov. 2 at 12:30 am ET, Saturday, Nov. 3 at 3:00 pm ET, 5:45 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
Of his 14 career wins Kahne has captured half of them on 1.5-mile tracks, including back in May at Charlotte. Kahne enters Texas with a streak of eight straight top-15 finishes this season, including four top-fives. In that span he's also managed to score two poles. Even though Kahne is a top driver on cookie-cutter venues his history at Texas is a bit uneven. However, he's finished third and seventh in the last two starts and driving very well at the moment.
After winning at Texas back in April of 2009, Gordon only managed an average finish of 26th in the next four starts. However, Gordon brought his six shooter in the two most recent races at the site. Despite poor qualifying efforts Gordon rallied to finish sixth and fourth, respectively, with an average running position of at least 10th. Over the last 10 races of the year Gordon has landed half a dozen podium results and has only finished outside of the top 10 twice.
Coming off his worst finish since May, Truex will look to add his fourth top-10 of the Chase at Texas. Earlier in the season he won his lone pole thus far and finished sixth with a career-best average running position of fourth after pacing 69 laps. Truex has been solid all year on similar 1.5-mile tracks with top-12 finishes in each Charlotte race and a fourth-place result at Atlanta with 40 laps led.
Since 2011, Kenseth has been masterful at Texas. In those three starts he's started no worse than fourth while finishing no worse than fifth. Going back to 2009 Kenseth has only finished outside of the top-five at Texas once and has a resume highlighted by a dominating win in the spring of 2011. With a pair of wins over the last four starts Kenseth isn't driving like a lame duck despite his pending move to Joe Gibbs Racing. However, those are the only top-10 finishes Kenseth has accumulated over the last seven races. Texas looks like a safe venue for Kenseth but consider him a high risky, high reward driver.
With a streak of eight top-10s at Texas, including four straight top-fives, Biffle looks like a bullet proof pick this week. He's also been very strong in qualifying landing on the first two rows four times in the last five races. Earlier in the season The Biff won for the second time at Texas, matching a career-best average running position of second while never dropping below the eighth position at any point in the race.
After missing two races due to concussions Earnhardt showed no ill effects last week at Martinsville Speedway. However, a questionable pit call late in the race followed by contact from Carl Edwards left him to finish 21st. Texas isn't a bad place for Earnhardt to get a do over. He owns three consecutive top-10s at the site and has only held an average running position worse than 15 once since loop data was introduced in 2005.
Currently 18th in points with only eight top-10s this season Ambrose is still a sleeper option for Texas. Over the last three starts Ambrose has held an impressive average running position of eighth or better at the site. The Aussie is not an ideal starter but one that happens to be a dark horse driver for a top-10.
With four poles Martin is tied for the series lead in that category despite sitting out for a dozen races this season. Martin has also started on the outside pole in his last two starts, including Charlotte where he finished sixth. Earlier in the season he started fourth and finished third at Texas. Even though Martin struggled at Texas last year he averaged a finish of 6.5 in six races held from 2008-10.
Temper your expectations
Following his Texas sweep in 2010 Hamlin hasn't managed a top-10 finish in the last three starts in the Lone Star State. He was particularly disappointing at the site last year spending fewer than 37 percent of the laps inside the top 15 in each race. Hamlin is coming off a blown opportunity at Martinsville, one of his finest tracks, due to an electrical issue that also cost the team championship their remaining hopes. While he's been excellent on 1.5-mile tracks this season, most recently wining at Atlanta and finishing as the runner-up at Charlotte. With this mechanical issue coming at such a critical time his outlook for Texas is alarming given the recent struggles.
In addition to winning three times at Texas, Edwards finished third and second at the site last year. Earlier this season Edwards ended the day in eighth and also landed top-10 finishes in both Charlotte races. Even though the resume on similar tracks is pretty good Edwards has only managed three top-fives all season, thus limiting his ceiling.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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. Follow @EricMcClung
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