Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch
- The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 (Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, FOX).
- Nick Giffen examines three early props worth betting before cars hit the track for practice and qualifying.
NASCAR heads to its third 1.5-mile oval track this year, and the first time all year we’ll see a repeat in the rules package and tire wear combination. Texas is a low tire wear oval, much like Las Vegas, thanks to its repave and reconfiguration before the 2017 season.
As a result, this race at Texas should most closely resemble the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — another 1.5-mile low tire wear oval that used the aero duct package.
Not only will I be leaning heavily on Las Vegas, but we should also consider the races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway, which were run under similar, but not totally comparable circumstances. I’ll also use Texas data since the 2017 repave to judge track history.
There are three head-to-head matchups that provide great value heading into the weekend.
Kevin Harvick (+130) over Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch is the defending race winner at Texas and the hottest driver on the circuit, which is driving Busch’s price on this one. But give me Harvick at Texas. If you’re in Las Vegas for the NCAA Tournament, Westgate has this at +130. In fact, I’d still take Harvick down to +120.
Looking at average green flag speed at the three large ovals of Atlanta, Las Vegas and Auto Club, Harvick has the second-best speed, edging out Busch who comes in third. However, looking at Las Vegas alone, Harvick had the fastest green flag average speed while Busch came in third.
As for Texas itself, Harvick has an average finish of 2.0 and a driver rating of 133.5 since the reconfiguration. Busch comes in at only 13.0 and 95.4. Other than Busch’s win, his finishes are a mediocre 15th, 17th and 19th. Harvick has crushed Busch in three of the four Texas races.
All together, the early-week value is on Harvick.
William Byron (-130) over Matt DiBenedetto
Byron is the clear favorite here, despite Hendrick Motorsports’ struggles in 2019. Leavine Family Racing is a lower mid-tier team, while HMS still remains as a mid-tier team trying to punch back into the upper echelon of NASCAR.
Byron has outrun DiBenedetto in green flag speed at all three large ovals, including by nearly one full mph at Las Vegas.
At Texas, it becomes harder to compare directly since DiBenedetto previously raced at Go Fas Racing, which is a step down from even Leavine Family Racing. However, if we normalize each driver’s finish to his final season-long points finish, we can see Byron still crushes DiBenedetto.
Byron averaged a 13th-place finish while finishing 23rd in the standings, for a differential of 10 places better. DiBenedetto’s differential is only seven places better.
Byron should be a much heavier favorite than his current odds.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-110) over Daniel Suarez
This one might look closer than it is thanks to Stenhouse’s poor showing at Auto Club Speedway. However, a lot of that can be explained by his mid-race spin, which collected a few other drivers as well.
At the other two large ovals, Stenhouse was faster than Suarez in average green flag speed. Stenhouse nosed out Suarez at Atlanta, but crushed Suarez at Las Vegas by almost 0.67 mph.
Their Texas histories aren’t close either. Stenhouse has won all four matchups since the reconfiguration, with only one finish worse than 14th. That ties Suarez’s best finish at Texas.