After a week off to recharge their batteries, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers return to action this weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. So far, three drivers stand out as favorites to land the 2018 title. Did all three make my favorites list? I also have five early sleepers to keep an eye out on. In the last race in Martinsville, I had Clint Bowyer on this list. If you threw a couple bucks his way based off the early line, you would be a lot richer right now.
Also included are five drivers that I would say away from for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
How do I not ride the driver that has five straight top five finishes and honestly if not for a crash not of his doing in the closing laps in Daytona, should have a top five in every race this season? His No. 78 Toyota is stronger now than it what last year. Plus, last year in Texas, he finished eighth and second respectively. He’s riding a six race streak of top 10 finishes in Texas and has led 141, 66, 49 and 107 laps respectively his last four starts there.
He won on a similar 1.5-mile track earlier this season at Atlanta. He also won on a smooth 1.5-mile track at Vegas too. Texas is in between both. How can you not go with Harvick based on that stat alone. Plus, the last time we were in Texas, Harvick took his No. 4 Ford to victory lane.
Also, since he joined SHR in 2014, Harvick has five top four finishes at Texas in his last seven tries. His other two results in that time frame was 10th and fourth. He’s a very good qualifier on the 1.5-mile track as he’s started in the top five in seven of his last eight starts including five starts of third or better in his last six tries.
Of course I’m going to ride the hot hands. Busch has three runner-up finishes over the last four races. His other finish in that time frame was third. Since 2012, he has seven top five finishes in his last 10 Texas starts. Watch out for his No. 18 Toyota on Sunday.
He hasn’t had the overall speed to win yet, but this could be his week. Logano, has been very good at Texas lately. Since he joined Team Penske, Logano has eight top 10 finishes in 10 Texas starts. Furthermore, out of those eight top 10’s are seven top fives, including a win. He’s finished in the top three in three of his last four starts there including leading 178 laps and a runner-up finish in November 2016.
Like Logano, he hasn’t had the top overall speed, but he’s been there in the end for a top 10. In Atlanta, he finished second. At Vegas, he came home sixth. Plus, since 2012 at Texas, Keselowski has eight top 10 finishes in 12 starts. He led 312 laps in a runner-up effort a few years ago. He finished in the top 10 in both races last year.
His No. 2 Ford will contend again on Sunday.
He’s not a favorite because he has just one top five finish since 2010 at Texas. But, that top five came by a third place run last November. He led 65 laps that day. He also should have a top 10 finish in all six races thus far in 2018. I’m not ready to make him a favorite yet, but he’s worth something to put some money on.
Its been a dismal start to 2018 for Elliott. Zero top five finishes (1 was encumbered) and 18th in the Cup points standings. But, in four Texas starts on the Cup level, Elliott has finished in the top 10 in all of them. He was fifth and fourth respectively in 2016 and ninth and eighth in both races in 2017. In Atlanta, Elliott finished 10th. In Vegas, he was going for another top 10 if not for a crash not of his doing with Kurt Busch. He’s worth keeping an eye on for Sunday.
This may be the best value bet. Jones finished 10th last November and has three top 10 finishes over his last four starts on the season. In fact, since Atlanta, he was 11th, eighth, ninth and seventh respectively before running into some bad luck in the last race at Martinsville.
I’m not ready to put him in the favorites category just yet either. But, he could easily win on Sunday though. He doesn’t have the stats like everyone else at Texas and only finished 12th in Atlanta. But, he was fifth in Vegas and eighth on a high speed track like Texas. Blaney, has led the second most laps all season and could have his No. 12 Ford in the hunt this weekend.
He’s been improving by the week and could steal a win on Sunday. Bowman, has gone from 16th, to 13th, to 13th again to seventh in his last four starts on the season. The car is gaining more and more speed in it. His confidence is growing. The No. 88 Chevrolet may be a factor for a top 10 run this weekend. His predecessor in that car had his best run in 2017 in this Texas race.
He’s 10th in the Cup points standings but has had three finishes outside of the top 10 over the last four races on the season. Plus, he hasn’t scored a top five finish in Texas since 2010. I’d stay away from Busch this weekend.
He’s unfortunately becoming a regular on this list. McMurray’s best finish this season is 16th. He’s finished 26th or worse in three of his last four starts on the year. Since 2014, he has been good at Texas with four top 10’s and no finish worse than 19th in that time frame, but with how this season has gone and 19 total laps led on the 1.5-mile track since 2009, he’s not a wise pick on Sunday.
He finished 22nd in Atlanta and 11th in Vegas. He has just one top 10 finish at Texas since joining Richard Childress Racing in 2014. His last top five on the track came way back in 2008. He’s led 16 laps since that top five run that day. Enough said.
This has been a rough season for the Roush/Fenway Racing driver. He has five straight finishes of 20th or worse, three of those outside of the top 30. He has two total top 15 finishes in Texas. I don’t like his chances on Sunday.
While I’d like to think that they can capitalize off that eighth place finish in the last race at Martinsville, reality says that he won’t. His lone top 10 finishes in 2018 were on a short track and superspeedway. His finishes on 1.5-mile tracks or even a 2-mile track in Fontana are 29th, 30th, and 22nd. He has two top 10 finishes at Texas since 2012.