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A high volume amount of data doesn't always equate to good data. All week long, we've been talking about how difficult it has become to handicap races on 1.5-mile tracks. That has a much bigger impact on betting lines than it does on fantasy games, but the challenge remains.
This week, it's not so much that drivers lack skill on this track type. In fact, the opposite is true. Since NASCAR began concentrating on unrestricted intermediate speedways, specifically the 1.5-mile tracks, teams have been forced to concentrate the lion's share of their effort there. With an increase in road course races this year that has changed some, but not as much as one would think.
Be prepared to set multiple lineups.
It will take a while for the increased diversity to have a ripple effect in the drivers’ skills. For now, this track type is among the most important to them in terms of marketing potential and the bang that a team gets for their buck. The tracks are big and more people fit in the stands. Once they get home, they remember this style of racing and casual fans are likely to tune in to a greater degree. Since money makes the sport go round, performing well on this track type remains important for sponsors.
Texas Motor Speedway and the Autotrader EchoPark 500 is the first of two 1.5-mile races. And while there has been parity on this track type for some time, you will want to use this race to help handicap next week's event at Kansas Speedway.
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Kevin Harvick ($10,900)
Success is the best revenge. The only thing that matters to Harvick now is finding Victory Lane and erasing his season long winless streak. Winning on a 1.5-mile track is difficult. Over the course of seven races this year, six drivers have graced Victory Lane. Of course, Harvick is not one of them, but he came close in the first Kansas race when he finished second to Kyle Busch. Notably, that was the first victory of the season for Busch. Equally notable, Busch snapped his long winless streak on this track last year soon after being eliminated from playoff contention last fall. NASCAR is filled with symmetry and no one would be surprised to see the same thing happened to Harvick. Moreover, his problems last week on the Charlotte Roval are a blessing in disguise, because he lines up 24th and can earn a lot of place-differential points.
Chase Elliott ($10,100)
There is an old truism in NASCAR. Drivers who run afoul of one another on the track almost always find themselves parked next to one another in the garage the following week. That's not literally true this week, because Elliott remains a playoff driver while Harvick was eliminated. But what is true, is that they are going to have similar races at Texas and will be near one another often throughout the race. That will be up front. NASCAR has told Harvick and Elliott to calm their feud for the moment and that they won't allow anymore shenanigans to impact the playoff race, but both drivers feel they have something that needs to be proved. The stakes are equally high for both, but in order to advance to the Championship 4, Elliot needs to win. We're not sure if he will, but a top-five should be in the cards.
Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)
Kyle Busch ($9,800)
We're surprised to see Busch priced under $10,000 this week. While there have been six different winners on 1.5 mile tracks, Busch has been the most consistently strong driver there. Dating back to the beginning of the 2020 playoffs, he's finished in the top five in all but two races. One of the events in which he failed to finish that well, he was sixth. In the other, he was 10th. In that span of time, he has two victories. One came on this week's venue at Texas and the other came on next week's venue at Kansas. Overall this year, he has not shown the strength needed to get to the Championship 4 on points. But since only one driver is likely to get there on that criteria, with the other three taking victories in the next three weeks, that is going to be where Busch's focus is. If he misses the top spot, it's not going to be by much.
Ryan Blaney ($9,500)
One has the sense that Blaney may be one of the most undervalued drivers for now. He's quietly amassed points, and advanced to the playoffs. He's been uneven on 1.5-mile tracks, but it was his victory in Atlanta 1 that locked him into the playoffs. He was fifth in both Vegas races and fifth in Atlanta 2. All three Team Penske drivers have made the Round of 8, but Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski do not have the stats on 1.5-mile tracks this year to suggest that they are going to clear this hurdle.
Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)
Tyler Reddick ($7,700
Reddick being this cheap is an absolute gift. With the exception of problems in Vegas 1 and Atlanta 1, he's been perfect on this track type in regard to top-10s. He almost won at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His last four attempts on 1.5-mile tracks all landed in the top 10. While it is difficult to find a betting line that is attractive, that is not the fantasy player’s problem. If a driver under $8,000 can score a top-10, there is absolutely no reason not to take him. Reddick not only deserves to be on your lineup, he should be the first driver you put there.
Austin Dillon ($7,500)
Group C is probably the easiest group to handicap this week. That is because of the strength of Richard Childress Racing. What Dillon lacks in raw power, he more than makes up for in consistency. Dating back to the 2020 playoffs and a 11th-place finish at Kansas, he has a perfect record of top-12 finishes. None of those were top-fives, but two were sixth-place finishes. Even if he slips a little and lands in the low teens, his points-per-thousand is going to be among the best in the field. In fact, we won't be surprised to see him as one of the top 10 point earners. He starts 15th this week, and that gives him enough room to earn positive place differential points.
Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)
Chris Buescher ($6,500)
If Buescher was more expensive, we would not highlight him this week. Despite this being his home track, hailing from just up the road in Plano, he has only finished in the top 15 once. He's never finished in the top 10. That would keep him from being a good value even in Group C, considering the high number of choices one has up there, but taking Buescher this week, increases your price-per-driver by about $400. That will allow you to upgrade your Group B and C drivers marginally and is worth the risk. Roush-Fenway Racing has lost some of their luster in recent years, but excitement is starting to build again with Keselowski coming their way in 2022. Buescher is not going to challenge for a top-five, but with three top-10s and two more results hovering around the top 15th-place mark, it is highly likely that he's going to finish in the mid-teens.
Bubba Wallace ($6,400)
Even Wallace knew that he was not going to run particularly strong last week on the Roval. He didn't think of it as a throwaway, but he also knew it was an unfortunate place to go after winning his first Cup race. Still, the excitement and momentum of that victory helped propel him into the top 15, and now he has results of 16th or better in his last four efforts this season. Winning changes a lot; it doesn't change everything. Wallace won't suddenly contend for the victory on a 1.5-mile track, but he could very easily challenge for a top-10. Even if he finishes in the mid-teens, he's a great value this week. In his freshman season, Wallace scored an eighth-place finish the first time he was on this track. He was 14th in the spring 2020 Texas race.