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AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway

“Short track Sadness” seems like a fairly solid title for this week’s article.


Another week in the books and another sub-par short track race that left NASCAR media in a borderline rage about the current state of the short track package.


Podcasts all around the sport this week have finally said enough is enough. Something needs to be done about the current package that has caused some of the best racing that NASCAR was built on, into some of the worst racing the sport has ever seen.


This past Sunday in Martinsville, passing was at a premium, which should not be the case at short track races.


Long gone are the days when the best drivers and the best cars either finessed or bulldozed their way to the front of the pack. Using raw speed combined with the straight-up ability to get their cars to do what needed to be done for a successful day.


Sunday we saw that no matter how good the driver, or how poor the equipment, the best cars and drivers couldn’t make a pass and the worst cars and drivers couldn’t be passed.

At one moment in the race, Joey Logano led with left-side tires that had been on the car for nearly 180 laps. He couldn’t pass the last car in line of Austin Dillon, and he couldn’t be passed by cars like Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson or Denny Hamlin who had taken four tires on the stop before.


So, what more do we have to see? What must be done to finally see some major change? If this isn’t the tipping point after two and a half seasons of lackluster short track racing, I’m not sure what is.


Despite the awful product NASCAR put on the track, William Byron shined on what was a memorable day for Hendrick Motorsports. I was at the track all weekend long and was constantly reminded of Team Hendrick’s 40th anniversary. How Geoff Bodine won the team’s first race at Martinsville and helped the program get to where it is today. Blah, blah, blah…


I won’t go into further detail on that, but Byron getting the win was a huge moment for his season as well. Byron becomes the first driver with three victories this season and has now racked up 15 playoff points in the season’s early going.


He’s one of the few guys to beat right now in the sport. Byron, Hamlin, and Larson seem to be a step ahead of everyone else right now, and we head to a track in Texas that has produced success for all three in the recent past.


Last fall, Byron came away with the win in a playoff race to kick off the round of 12. Byron led only six laps in the race, as Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson dominated much of the day, combining to lead 210 of 267 laps and earn a stage win.


Texas always seems to be a crash-fest since the track was reconfigured. If you get too high out of the groove in turns one and two, you usually end up hard in the outside wall. Last fall, this race featured nine cautions for cause with drivers such as Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, and others that did not finish the race.


If a good driver can avoid issues throughout a long 400-mile day and find themselves in contention at the end, they could come away victorious, but staying out of trouble will be the hard part.


Make sure to follow me on Twitter (X) @WKFCody for my most up-to-date bets. I’ll tweet out my full card Sunday morning before the green flag.


One more quick plug, make sure to sign up for our NASCAR One & Done. Pick a driver to win every week and accumulate points all season long. Even if you missed the first handful of races, it won’t be impossible to catch up!


Now let’s talk about Texas.

 

Track Facts

The AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 is a 400.5-mile (267-lap) race around the 1.500-mile quad oval at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Texas Motor Speedway has been a part of NASCAR’s schedule since 1997, when Jeff Burton took home the victory in the track’s inaugural race. Texas was reconfigured between the 2017 and 2018 seasons and has put on an arguably inferior product ever since. Kyle Busch won the first race at Texas following its reconfiguration, but the racing as a whole suffered to the point where Texas lost a date on the NASCAR schedule following the 2020 season, dropping from two point-paying races down to one. Texas hosted the 2022 All-Star race, but the addition of North Wilkesboro back into the NASCAR schedule took that race away from Texas as well, leaving them with just one fall race in the playoffs. This past offseason, Texas’ date was moved from the playoffs to the early regular season, taking away yet another marquee proponent of NASCAR racing at the track. Recent winners over the past three seasons include William Byron, Tyler Reddick, and Kyle Larson, with Ryan Blaney winning the aforementioned 2022 All-Star Race. One nice thing about Texas is the fact that there is usually some attrition that goes along with races there. Texas really only has about a groove and a half of raceable track in turns one and two, so if you get too high, you’ll run out of grip and slide across about eight more open lanes of racetrack before slamming the wall. In the fall, Byron took advantage of that attrition, leading just six laps after passing Bubba Wallace on a late-race restart to earn the win. I’m hoping the move back to 1.5-mile racing gives the sport a well-needed pick-me-up following some uneventful road courses and short track racing.

 

Who’s Hot?

William Byron’s name has come up about fifty times in this article already, but for good reason. Byron earned his third victory of the season last week at Martinsville, and heads to a Texas track where he is the most recent winner. Hendrick Motorsports dominated the lone 1.5-mile race earlier this season at Las Vegas, so I’d expect them to keep it up in the return to high-bank racing this weekend. Over the last three races at Texas, Byron averages a Cup Series best 3.3 average finish at Texas and is just one of two drivers to finish all three races inside the top-10. Despite only leading six laps in his win last year, Byron has led the fourth-most laps at Texas over the past three races. Byron is hot right now, and has opened at +700 to win this weekend, a number that I feel is fair, if not a value.





Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson is also incredibly hot right now and one of the best when it comes to racing at Texas. Larson had a really strong run last weekend at Martinsville, where I don’t think he ran outside the top-5 all day. Ultimately, he came up short of earning the win, but Larson has perhaps been the most consistent driver this season, which is a far cry from his inconsistent start to last season. Outside of the two superspeedway races to start the season, Larson has finished top-5 in four of six races. He left Martinsville as the new points leader after outperforming Martin Truex Jr., and heads to Texas where he has had success in the recent past. Larson won at Texas in 2021 and has far and away led the most laps at Texas over the past three races with 374 laps led. Larson has finished top-10 in two of the last three Texas races with the exception coming last season when he crashed while racing for the lead with Bubba Wallace. Everyone (including the books) likes Larson this week, as he opened as the outright favorite at +400. That price is a little steep for me, but he’ll almost certainly run up front all day.


Joey Logano is on quite a heater himself. After a terrible start to the season where he recorded just one top-10 finish in the first five races and found himself mired back in the high-twenties in the point standings, Logano has rallied for three consecutive finished of 11th or better and has rebounded to 14th in the point standings. Logano is a bit of a sneaky pick this week. His lone top-10 in the first five races came at Las Vegas (the only other 1.5-mile track run up to this point). Logano’s Texas numbers are a bit deceiving. He finished 20th there last fall, but he had already been eliminated from the playoffs at that point, so one could argue that Team Penske’s resources were more aligned toward Ryan Blaney. In 2021, he blew an engine which caused him to not finish the race. But in 2022, Logano started on the outside pole and finished second to Tyler Reddick. Logano opened at +2000 and is certainly worth a sprinkle at that number.

 

Drivers I Like




Tyler Reddick has been mentioned a few times in the paragraphs above thanks to his 2022 victory at Texas, but that win isn’t the only reason to watch out for Reddick this weekend. Last fall, Reddick’s 23XI teammate Bubba Wallace dominated the Texas race, leading 111 laps before coming home third. Reddick led 36 laps himself, but some late-race misfortunes ended up dropping him to a 25th-place finish. Reddick is third in active drivers with 106 laps led at Texas over the past three races, and his 25th-place finish last fall was his only finish outside the top-10. If Reddick brings the speed that both he and Bubba had last fall, 23XI may be hard to beat on Sunday.


Denny Hamlin is another member of Team Toyota that I believe has a solid chance to win this week. Hamlin has never finished worse than 11th at Texas over the past three races, and though he hasn’t won any of those three, he does have one finish inside the top 5. Hamlin has only led four laps in the last three Texas races combined, but he has always found himself in the mix. Earlier this season at Las Vegas, Hamlin also brought home a top-10 finish, so the 1.5-mile speed is there for Joe Gibbs Racing. Opening at +650, I’d wait to be certain he has speed before laying any money on him.


Brad Keselowski has been sneaky good at Texas over the past few races. He actually has the second-best average finish over the past three races behind only William Byron. In the last three races, Keselowski has not finished lower than eighth and has led 31 laps. He’s being overlooked by the books in my opinion and may be an early week bet worth throwing out. Currently he sits at +2800 to win and is +350 for a top-5, something he has done once in the last three races. I’d also look Keselowski’s way for qualifying bets. Over the past three Texas races, Keselowski’s average starting position of 3.7 leads all drivers.

 

Drivers to Avoid

Martin Truex Jr. is one Gibbs car that has had some trouble at Texas in the recent past. In the last three Texas races Truex Jr. has DNF’d twice with an overall best finish of 17th. Looking outside the past three races, Truex has yet to win at Texas in his career. In 34 career starts at Texas, Truex has carded zero wins and just five top-5 finishes while racking up six DNFs. Truex also comes off a less than stellar run at Martinsville next week where he was never in the mix to win at a track he has had success at in the past. I’m expecting the struggles to carry over this week for the veteran driver.


Fellow JGR driver Ty Gibbs also makes my list here as he has also struggled at Texas. Gibbs is young and has limited experience here, but in his two career Texas starts, Gibbs came home with finishes of 20th and 33rd. Gibbs has taken a huge step forward this year, but I’m expecting some struggles this week for the same reasons as Truex. He hasn’t been good at this track and he’s coming off a poor performance at Martinsville where he should have been strong all day. Perhaps Gibbs finds himself in a cold streak here, and Texas isn’t where I expect him to snap out of it.


Alex Bowman did have a good run last week, but much like Truex and Gibbs, Texas has not been friendly to this Hendrick driver. Over the last three races, Bowman’s best finish is 12th, which is his only top-20 finish in that span. Even prior to 2021, Bowman has carded just two top-10 Texas finishes in 14 career attempts at the track. Bowman has led just one lap at Texas over the past three races. I’m expecting Hendrick as a whole to be fast, but I’m mainly focusing on the #24 and the #5 cars.

 

Keep an eye on…




Bubba Wallace could be a must-bet guy this week. Currently sitting at +1600, Wallace led the most laps here last far with 111 laps led in the race. Wallace lost the lead to eventual winner William Byron on a late-race restart. If Wallace can clean that up, he could have a solid shot at victory. 1.5-mile tracks are the bread and butter of 23XI Racing. They have been nearly unstoppable over the past three two seasons at Kansas, and Texas presents another opportunity for strong runs. Wallace also comes off a really strong Martinsville performance where he rarely ran outside the top-5 all day long. If that momentum rolls over, I could see Bubba standing in victory lane.


Erik Jones has put up numbers at Texas over the last three races in some sub-par equipment. Legacy Motor Club has struggled, but That Jones Boy has still found a way to finish sixth and twelfth in a pair of playoff races at the track. Last fall he was involved in an accident, but he did lead three laps in the race after qualifying in twelfth. I’m keeping an eye on Jones this week as a potential top-10 play if he ends up with decent odds. Jones is coming off back-to-back top-15 finishes at Richmond and Martinsville.


Daniel Suarez has a pair of top 10s in the last three Texas races and actually owns the fourth best average finish at Texas over the last three races at 10.0. Suarez finished between 8th and 12th in all three races, which shows incredible consistency. Suarez has only led one lap over that span, but I like his consistency, and with a win in the bank, maybe he’ll take some risks that pay off. I’m looking at his top-10 odds when I place a bet on Suarez this weekend.

 

Current Bets

I’ve got nothing on the book yet, but here is what I have my eye on:


To Win:

William Byron +700 via DraftKings

Bubba Wallace +1600 vis DraftKings

Brad Keselowski +2800 via DraftKings

 

Be sure to follow Cody (@WKFCody) on X for his most up-to-date NASCAR bets and weekly NASCAR betting card posted on Sunday mornings. Also, listen to the WKF NASCAR Podcast anywhere you get your podcasts. The WKF NASCAR Podcast comes out at 7 a.m. every Friday morning over the course of the season.


Don’t forget to join our WKF Fantasy NASCAR One & Done! For more information, DM @WKFCody or @WKFNate on X.

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