The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas after Cole Custer stole, er, won last weekend’s Kentucky race spectacularly.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) July 12, 2020
If you followed this column last week, you’d know I had picked Ryan Blaney to win and to finish top-5. His last-lap miscalculation meant that neither of those bets cashed. Tough. So we move on to the next one.
Past Performance at Texas and Charlotte
The sport heads to another 1.5-mile track this weekend. Unlike Kentucky, which is a D-shaped tri-oval, Texas is a quad-oval. That means it has two dead-straight straightaways, not one straight and one curved. It compares well to Charlotte, another quad-oval, so I’ve combined drivers’ statistics at the two tracks. Two of the drivers with top-5 driver averages at Texas also have top-5 average finishes at Charlotte. The active driver with the most wins at Texas (Johnson) also has the most wins at Charlotte.
|Driver Name||Avg Finish||Races||Wins||Top 5’s||Top 10’s||Driver Rating (Last 22)|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||13.57||57||3||11||29||110.30|
Jimmie Johnson has dominated at quad-ovals throughout his career. He has seven wins at Texas and eight at Charlotte, but he’s only managed one top-5 finish since 2018. That said, I think he’s turned a corner. He’s put together some strong runs recently that were derailed by wrecks or disqualification, so he’ll get the result he deserves soon.
Johnson’s teammate, Chase Elliott, has the next-best average finish at these tracks. Like Johnson, he’s found success at both Texas and Charlotte. Since he should’ve won both races at Charlotte this year, I’m expecting him to put together a solid run at the series’ other quad-oval. His driver rating jumps to 99.38 when you look at only races after 2018, and that’s with a rating of 32.7 in last fall’s Texas race.
You can’t write about NASCAR and not mention Kevin Harvick in 2020. Harvick hasn’t finished outside the top-5 since June’s Talladega race, and he has finished outside the top-10 just three times this year. His trends at these tracks are similarly dominant: Harvick hasn’t finished outside the top-10 at a quad-oval since 2018. Also, Harvick has won three of the last five Texas races, and he hasn’t finished outside of the top-10 here since 2014.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. have the next-best drive ratings after Harvick. At Charlotte, Truex had notched three wins and five top-5s at Charlotte going into this season. He then finished sixth and ninth there in 2020, and Gibbs hasn’t flashed the same speed they once had at 1.5-mile tracks. Likewise, Kyle Busch has also performed worse at these tracks in 2020 — he failed to lead a lap at either Charlotte race earlier this year, and he finished fourth and 29th.
Joey Logano has an elite driver rating at these tracks, and that’s propelled by his success at Texas. In the last eight races here, Logano has five top-5s and seven top-10s. He hasn’t won here since 2014, but he’s a good bet to be competitive on Sunday.
Logano’s teammate, Ryan Blaney, has a pedestrian career average finish at these tracks. However, it jumps to 13.08 if you only look at races since 2017. His recent driver rating proves that he’s improved at these circuits. He’s come close to winning Texas twice, once in 2017 and again in 2018, and he posted a pair of third-place finishes at Charlotte earlier this year.
Lastly, rookie Tyler Reddick leads the way in average finish. He finished eighth in the Coke 600 and 14th in the Alsco 500. To expand the sample size, Reddick has one win and three top-2 finishes at quad-ovals in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He may not contend for the win, but he should compete for a top-10.
Equipment often limits drivers in NASCAR, so it’s essential to factor recent speed into our betting predictions. Since driver rating weighs stats like laps led and average running position, it’s a useful metric to gauge how well a driver’s car has performed from week to week. I’ve limited the sample to each driver’s performances in the intermediate track package.
|Driver||Driver Rating (Intermed.)|
Again, Kevin Harvick has been the most dominant driver in 2020. That’s not a question. While his worst finish came in the intermediate package, he’s won four times at intermediate tracks. He finished fifth and 10th in the two Charlotte races earlier this year.
Chase Elliott’s best results have come at intermediate tracks. Six of his seven top-5s took place at these circuits, and his lone win came at Charlotte. Elliott had an average driver rating of 120.95 for the two Charlotte races, so I’m expecting big things from him at Texas.
Ryan Blaney trails Elliott by a small margin. Unlike Elliott, however, Blaney’s best results have come at Superspeedways. Intermediates are his next-best tracks, and he’s been especially good at 1.5-mile courses. In the six races at those tracks, he has four top-5s and five top-10s, and he finished third at Charlotte twice.
Team Penske won the Charlotte race that Elliott lost. While it was Joey Logano’s teammate that came across the line in first, Keselowski and Blaney have proven that Penske equipment can contend at these tracks. Logano has fallen off somewhat since his pair of early-season wins, but he could recover this weekend.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won since 2017. Texas and Charlotte are two of his best tracks, however, so a rebound could come this weekend. He had a top-5 at Charlotte earlier this year until his disqualification, so he hasn’t lost the skill — he just needs to follow the rules.
Tyler Reddick doesn’t have a great intermediate driver rating, but it jumps to 87.85 when you treat the Charlotte races in isolation. That’s not good enough to compete for wins, but it’s enough to compete for a top-10.
Let’s take a look at the betting odds for our featured drivers over at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Kevin Harvick is a clear favorite at just +300. For some perspective, that line implies that Harvick has a 25 percent chance to win on Sunday. That’s not far off from his actual win rate — he’s won 23.5 percent of the races in 2020,
Best Bets for Texas
Last week’s predictions went two for five. Until the final straightaway, they were three for five.
To Win: Kevin Harvick (+300) AND Chase Elliott (+800)
I don’t want to bet against Harvick this weekend. He’s won three of the last five Texas races, and he’s racing at an even higher level in 2020. As a result, I would recommend taking him to win alongside one of two longer-odd options. Elliott’s dominance at Charlotte bodes well for him at the similarly-shaped Texas Motor Speedway, and I expect him to rebound from a disappointing result at Kentucky.
To Win: Kevin Harvick (+300) AND Ryan Blaney (+900)
Blaney is my other recommended play. He almost won two 1.5-mile races this year (Las Vegas, Kentucky), and he finished third at Charlotte twice. Blaney is bound to win an intermediate race this year, and I want to have money on him when he does.
To Finish Top-5: Chase Elliott (+130)
If Elliott doesn’t win, he should compete for a top-5 result. His first and second-place finishes at Charlotte mean that I could take him to finish top-3 (+225), but it’s safer and not much less profitable to take him to finish top-5. He has finished top-5 in three of six races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, and that rate exceeds the implied odds of 43.48 percent by a decent amount.
To Finish Top-5: Ryan Blaney (+135)
While DraftKings is more bullish on Elliott, I favor Blaney here slightly. He has finished top-5 in four of six races at 1.5-mile tracks, one better than Elliott, and his two finishes out the top-5 came in two races he nearly won. Blaney needs to finish races, but this is a generous plus-money line for someone who should compete for a top-5 on Sunday.
To Finish Top-10: Jimmie Johnson (-122)
Johnson has posted a top-10 result in 63.7 percent of his races at Texas and Charlotte. That’s a bit better than his implied odds for this line (54.95 percent), but it also overlooks his recent decline in performance. But since Johnson contended for a top-10 at both Charlotte races, I’m comfortable playing this line based on his career stats.
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our Sports Betting Strategy and Advice page is for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.