EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas
Another week, another dominant performance by Kyle Larson that results in him blowing it at the end.
Larson led a whopping 263 laps at Dover last weekend but was passed during a pit stop in the final 100 laps by teammate Alex Bowman who went on to pick up his second victory of the season.
The victory was even more special for Team Hendrick as their drivers swept the top four positions with Bowman winning, Larson finishing second, Chase Elliott coming home third and William Byron finishing fourth. It was the third time in NASCAR history that a single organization finished in each of the top four positions. The last team to do so being Roush Fenway Racing back in 2005 at Homestead.
This week we roll to a new racetrack as we head to Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the first time in NASCAR history this weekend’s race – The EchoPark Texas Grand Prix – is a 231-mile (68 lap) race around the roughly 3.5-mile Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. As previously stated, this will be NASCAR’s first ever race at COTA, so there is no data to go off regarding previous winners. Looking at drivers to succeed in road course racing in general over the past three seasons, it’s hard to look past last season’s champion Chase Elliott. Elliott leads all active Cup Series drivers with five career road course victories. He has won twice at Watkins Glen, twice at the Charlotte Roval and once on the Daytona Road Course, all within the last three seasons. Other drivers to win at road courses recently include Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell.
COTA is going to be a unique experience for these drivers. A 3.5-mile track featuring a whopping 20 turns will keep drivers on their toes all day, especially if the race is run in the rain, as there is currently rain in the forecast for the weekend.
Another unique aspect of this weekend is the fact that there will be practice and there will be qualifying, so while breaking down drivers below, we won’t know their starting positions or how many points they can potentially earn for finishing in a higher position than where they start the race.
Read below for drivers I like to perform well this weekend, most of which tend to be solid at road courses.
Drivers I Like
Chase Elliott ($10,500)
Look, when you’ve won five of the last nine road course races, how can anyone pick against you? I was actually shocked to see Martin Truex Jr. listed at $100 more than Elliott this weekend due to Elliott’s most recent success. Elliott opened as the betting favorite, but has been passed by Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and even Kyle Busch. You know I’m jumping all over Elliott at +800. Elliott has seven top-10s in the last nine road course races and an average finish of 8.11. He’s one of the best in the business at road courses, and Hendrick equipment has been nearly unbeatable the past few weeks. Take Elliott and don’t look back.
Ryan Blaney ($9,100)
Blaney also has a win on road courses over the past three years, winning the original race at the Charlotte Roval. Blaney has been quite good at all road courses over the past few seasons, finishing in the top 10 in five of the last nine races. He sports an average finish of 12.67 and has led 30 laps in those nine races. Don’t forget, Blaney also held the lead in the Busch Clash to open the season at the Daytona road course before he was crashed by Elliott in the final corner. Blaney lines up as a solid choice to have a nice run this weekend.
A.J. Allmendinger ($8,500)
The $8k range is absolutely loaded this week. There are a ton of guys here that I like, but I’ll take the road course ringer, A.J. Allmendinger (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it). Anyway, Allmendinger finished seventh at the Daytona road course earlier in the season, and he did so battling back from multiple setbacks all race long. Allmendinger could easily steal a win away from the sport’s top dogs. His one and only win as a full-time Cup Series driver came at a road course in Watkins Glen, so he knows how to wheel his way around. He has two top-10s in four road course races over the past three seasons. Other drivers I like in this area include Austin Cindric, who has been dominating road courses in the Xfinity Series over the past few years, as well as Christopher Bell, the winner of this season’s lone road course race at the Daytona road course in the second week of the season.
Michael McDowell ($7,400)
McDowell is back in the must-play section of the column this week due to his pedigree on road courses. Despite never winning at a road course, McDowell grew up as an open-wheel driver and has always excelled at road courses. McDowell has an average finish of 17.78 over the past nine road course races with a high finish of eighth which he just recorded earlier this season at the Daytona road course. Look for McDowell to snag another top-10 this week, and at a bargain price of $7,400, he could supply a solid return on investment.
Chris Buescher ($6,900)
Buescher also profiles as a solid road racer. Despite finishing in the top-10 in just one of the last nine road course races, Buescher sports an average finish of 14.67 in those races. Buescher hasn’t finished below 20th in any of the last nine road course races. He finished 11th at the Daytona road course this season and Roush-Fenway racing has seemed to have taken a step forward this season with Buescher picking up top-10 finishes in two of the last three races and currently inside the playoff cut line with a 28-point cushion. I also like Chase Briscoe and Ty Dillon in this price range.
Drivers I’m Avoiding
Denny Hamlin ($10,100)
The $10k range is tough to fade, but I’m going to fade Denny Hamlin this week. Road course racing has not been Hamlin’s best, as he hasn’t seen victory lane in any of the last nine road course races. He also seemed slow in practice as he was unable to keep pace with teammate Kyle Busch. Hamlin has led just 31 laps in the last nine road course races, and despite an average finish of 9.11 in those races, he profiles as the least likely to score points in the $10k range this weekend.
Brad Keselowski ($9,300)
Keselowski has also struggled on road courses over his career. Keselowski has never won at a road course in 25 career tries. In those 25 races his average finish is 14.08, and over the last nine road courses his average finish is 14.33. Keselowski has just three top-10s in the last nine road course races with a high finish of fifth and a low of 31st. I expect Brad’s road racing struggles to continue this weekend.
Kurt Busch ($8,100)
Another tough area to fade, I’m going with Kurt Busch. Busch’s road course results over the course of his career mirror those of Brad Keselowski’s. Busch has picked up one road course victory in 43 tries and has a career average finish of 14.12 on road courses. Busch has been a little better than Brad in recent road course races and did pick up a fourth place finish on the Daytona road course earlier this season, but Busch and his Ganassi crew have been struggling more recently. Busch’s last top-10 finish came at Homestead in the third race of the season. His best finishes since then have been a pair of 13ths at Richmond and Dover. I would fade Busch this week in hopes that his recent struggles continue.
Austin Dillon ($7,000)
To put this as nicely as possible, Austin Dillon is bad at road course racing. Even at $7k-even he won’t be worth putting in your DraftKings lineup this weekend. In 16 career road course races, Dillon has never finished in the top-10. His best finish in any road course event is 16th. He has never led a lap on a road course and has a career average finish of 24.75 on road courses. Dillon is a must avoid this week.
Ryan Newman ($6,700)
Newman has also had his career struggles at road courses, including just one top-10 finish in the last nine races. Newman’s average finish over that time is 20.89 and he hasn’t led any laps. Newman has never won on a road course in 41 career tries, and I’m not expecting him to do so this weekend.
($50,000 budget, 6 driver lineup)
Last weeks DraftKings lineup looked really good until about 100 laps to go when Aric Almirola’s tough season continued. Almirola blew a right front tire and crushed the wall, ending his day and any chance we had at bringing home some dough. All of our other five drivers ran very well as we racked up nearly 228 points between them. Last week’s highlighted drivers: Denny Hamlin (37.00), Kevin Harvick (41.95), Aric Almirola (-0.55), Cole Custer (54.90), Daniel Suarez (50.45). Last week’s avoid drivers: Chase Elliott (72.55), Joey Logano (47.95), Ryan Blaney (27.80), Matt DiBenedetto (12.00), Michael McDowell (13.00).
Last week: 227.65 pts.
1. Denny Hamlin ($11,100): 37.00 pts.
2. Kevin Harvick ($9,800): 41.95 pts.
3. Aric Almirola ($8,200): -0.55 pts.
4. Cole Custer ($7,700): 54.90 pts.
5. Bubba Wallace ($6,900): 43.90 pts.
6. Daniel Suarez ($6,300): 50.45 pts.
Remaining Budget: $0
Last week’s perfect lineup: 473.95 pts.
1. Kyle Larson ($11,500): 165.10 pts.
2. Alex Bowman ($9,200): 111.95 pts.
3. Chase Elliott ($10,700): 72.55 pts.
4. Cole Custer ($7,700): 54.90 pts.
5. Daniel Suarez ($6,300): 50.45 pts.
6. Quin Houff ($4,600): 19.00 pts.
Remaining Budget: $0
Some late-race bad luck bit us again last week as Joey Logano passed Kevin Harvick for fifth place with just 10 laps remaining. Had Harvick held his position, he would have gotten us money on a top-5 finish as well as finishing as the top Ford. Kyle Larson’s inability to close races also cost us, as he led over 200 laps once again, but was passed on pit road in the final 100 laps, losing to teammate Alex Bowman and costing us money as the top Chevrolet as well as the race winner. We did win back a small amount, hitting on Austin Dillon over Matt DiBenedetto and Cole Custer over Erik Jones. In all, we still lost 4.75 units and are down 18.1 units on the season… Maybe I ought to quit… Nah. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing any prop bets out there this weekend, so I guess we’ll just lay some money down on a few potential winners and see what happens.
Kyle Busch to win (+800, 1 unit)
Ryan Blaney to win (+1600, 0.5 unit)
A.J. Allmendinger to win (+3000, 0.25 unit)
Michael McDowell to win (+5000, 0.25 unit)
One and Done
*Rules for One and Done: Each driver can only be picked one time over the course of the season, unless you pick the race winner, then that driver can be picked again. Driver’s finishing position is the number of “points” you score each week. Goal: Finish with as few points as possible. Feel free to play along!
We got a really solid run out of Cole Custer last weekend as he brought it home in 10th position. Custer exceeded my expectations a bit, as I was hoping for just a top-20, but Custer and the Stewart-Haas cars may finally be starting to find a rhythm. The 10th place finish was a big boost to us this season as we’ve been having quite a bit of bad luck.
This week: Austin Cindric
Back to the part-timers this week as we’re going with Austin Cindric. I had originally planned on going Michael McDowell, but when I heard Cindric was running this road course I had to jump on the opportunity. Here are Cindric’s finishes on road courses in the Xfinity series over the 2019 and 2020 season… 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 1st, 1st, 6th. Those are pretty inpressive numbers that I’m hoping can carry over into the Cup Series. He’ll be in Penske equipment, so he should have a solid car underneath him. We’ll see if he can carry over his success.
Race Driver Finish
Daytona 500 Jamie McMurray 8th
Daytona RC A.J. Allmendinger 7th
Homestead Tyler Reddick 2nd
Las Vegas Kevin Harvick 20th
Phoenix Kyle Busch 25th
Atlanta Kurt Busch 39th
Bristol Stewart Friesen 23rd
Martinsville Ryan Blaney 11th
Richmond Austin Dillon 10th
Talladega Harrison Burton 20th
Kansas Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 34th
Darlington Kyle Larson 2nd
Dover Cole Custer 10th