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The Setup – AAA Texas 500 Race Preview
By Tyler Miller

This week, NASCAR visits Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500. This race presents a unique challenge as drivers have not raced 500 miles around a 1.5 mile track since The Coca-Cola 600 back in May (Not counting Darlington which is a 1.366 mile track). That extra 100 miles may not seem like much, but this is a significant change from all the 400 mile races at 1.5 mile tracks throughout the season. For DFS purposes, a 500 mile race at Texas means that there are more chances for miscues on pit road and mechanical failures which we saw at Texas back in March. Looking back at my advice and DFS lineups from the first Texas race, my lineup was killed by pit road mistakes from Joey Logano and an engine failure on Ryan Blaney’s team. Denny Hamlin won the race at Texas on March 31st, but Clint Bowyer scored the most DFS points finishing the race second. There is a lot to get to, including a recap of the wild race at Martinsville and a pay line break down. Let’s get to it.

Race Distance: 334 laps. Stage 1 ends on lap 85, Stage 2 ends on lap 170.
Lineup Lock 3 pm eastern Sunday
Spring Winner: Denny Hamlin (started 6th)
Spring Pole Sitter: Jimmie Johnson (finished 5th)
Last year’s winners – Kyle Busch (Spring, started 8th) – Kevin Harvick (Fall, started 3rd)
Last year’s pole sitters: Kurt Busch (Spring, finished 7th) – Ryan Blaney (Fall, finished 2nd)
Past Winners: Spring/Fall
2017: Jimmie Johnson (24th)/Kevin Harvick (3rd)
2016: Kyle Busch (15th)/Carl Edwards (9th)
2015: Jimmie Johnson (5th)/Jimmie Johnson (8th)
2014: Joey Logano (10th)/Jimmie Johnson (3rd)

Martinsville Recap:
What went right?

The 2019 Fall Martinsville race will forever be known as the race when Clint Bowyer’s crew screwed up my DFS lineup by not changing a flat tire on pit road. I’ll get over it eventually, but for now I am quite bitter. There were several things that went right though, including the Sunday morning pivot to Ryan Newman who failed inspection, started 35th and finished 10th, 5th in Fan Duel scoring. Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were ok, finishing 7th and 11th on Fan Duel. I wrote up Martin Truex Jr. but I played Hamlin over Truex and that really hurt. Ty Dillon was ok, starting 27th and finishing 24th 2 laps down. Ross Chastain was written up initially in Victory Lane and he finished 29th, 4 spots ahead of where he started. Once drivers failed inspection I went off of Chastain which was the right move. Harvick was written up in Victory Lane and he finished 6th in Fan Duel scoring and Kurt Busch finished 2nd in Fan Duel scoring.

What went wrong?
Not playing Martin Truex Jr. obviously was a big mistake. When Newman and LaJoie failed inspection I wanted to make a pivot from Kurt Busch to Newman and from Ty Dillon to LaJoie if it meant I could pay up to use Truex over Bowyer. The salaries just didn’t add up, I was $300 over. I ended up playing Hamlin, Logano, Bowyer, Newman, and Ty Dillon for a total score of 371.2.

There really isn’t anything I could do or predict about Clint Bowyer having two flat tires and his crew deciding to only change one of them. Bowyer’s issued snowballed from there and he ended up costing me all of my entry fees except for one $1 EPE double up. In hindsight I should have made a pivot off of Bowyer to Newman instead of moving from Kurt Busch to Newman. A lineup of Hamlin, Logano, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Ty Dillon would have scored 428.9. If I would have also made the pivot from Ty Dillon to Corey LaJoie my lineup would have been Hamlin, Logano, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Corey LaJoie which would have scored 442.6. I don’t think there could have been a better possible lineup that didn’t use MTJ.

Side note, if you don’t have a star next to your name on Fan Duel you really need to take advantage of the EPE contests because the pay lines are much lower than the contests open to everybody. My time in EPEs are certainly numbered but some of you may be new to DFS and really need to take advantage of these contests. Below is a full breakdown of the pay lines and winning scores of every contest I entered at Martinsville so everyone can see the difference contest selection makes. This is critical for races like Martinsville when one of your drivers wrecks, you can still cash if you are playing in the right contests.

Pay lines and winning lines
I played in more contests for Martinsville than I have all season. Below are the contest names, entry fee, lowest cashing score, and winning score for contests I entered at Martinsville.

$200 Reserve Weekly FDP Loyalty Free Play: 492.9 (won $.02) 508 (won $20)
NAS $1 Double Up (EPE): 359.1 ($2) 495.4 ($2)
NAS $2 Double Up (EPE): 371.5 ($4) 425.1 ($4)
$200 NAS Double Up ($2): 406.9 ($4) 493.3 ($4)
$100 NAS Double Up ($2): 412 ($1.33) 493.9 ($4)
$250 NAS Double Up ($5): 412 ($10) 493.9 ($10)
$200 Sun NAS BIG $5 Double Up: 405.3 ($10) 493.3 ($10)
50/50 Contest ($2): 420.8 ($3.60) 493.9 ($3.60)
50/50 Contest ($1): 421.9 ($1.80) 470.4 ($1.80)
50/50 Contest ($1): 404.5 ($1.80) 493.9 ($1.80)
$450 Sun NAS Restrictor Plate ($15 Single Entry): 433.9 ($30) 459.4 ($125)
$1200 Sun NAS Left Turn ($3 Single Entry): 429.9 ($6) 496.4 ($120)
$1500 Sun NAS Pit Stop ($1 Single Entry): 421.9 ($1.58) 501.4 ($57.50)

A few thoughts. As per usual, the larger entry fee single entry contests have a lower score to win than the smaller entry fee contests. There is a huge advantage in playing EPE double ups. I was surprised to see that double ups and 50/50s have nearly the same pay line. I have been frustrated recently with how few of the 50/50 contests fill. I have been entering all of the guaranteed contests early in the week and waiting until the weekend to see which 50/50 contests are filling up and entering those. I still get several entry fees return each Sunday when the race starts for contests that don’t reach capacity. I thought this was a good opportunity, as we head towards the final three races of the season, the make sure everyone understands the importance of contest selection on Fan Duel.

What to watch for in practice/qualifying:
Is Ryan Blaney for real? Texas is a good track for Blaney. In the spring race at Texas Blaney led 45 laps before blowing an engine and finishing 37th. I have gotten Blaney wrong all season long, so I have no idea how Texas will play out for the 12 team, but he could go a long way towards proving that he is a legitimate championship contender with a strong showing this weekend.

Who fills out the championship four? Truex has punched his ticket to Homestead. I think it is likely that one of the other championship favorites follows suit by winning at Texas this weekend. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin would seem to be the favorites to make that happen. We will need to follow practice and qualifying closely to decide which high salary drivers to play on Sunday.

What about Jimmie? Jimmie Johnson finished 5th at Texas in March, 1 of only 3 top 5 finishes on the season for the 48 team. Johnson could be a solid value play if he can contend for a top 5 finish at Texas this weekend.

Or the rest of Hendrick? William Byron finished second at Martinsville. Byron ran well in the spring at Texas qualifying 2nd and finishing 6th and leading 15 laps. Chase Elliott had mechanical issues at Martinsville and is in a must win situation to make the championship 4. Alex Bowman has run well at 1.5 mile tracks in the latter half of the season. Will any or all of the Hendrick drivers be viable in DFS this weekend?

No worries about retaliation
I am not worried at all about the feud between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin or Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch. I don’t think anyone wrecks anyone at Texas, though some games could be played by blocking and messing with rival cars on and off of pit road. Any unfinished business between these drivers will be on hold until next week at Phoenix. I would have no issue playing Kyle, Joey, or Denny if they showed solid speed in practice.

Qualifying strategy I expect there to be a split decision in qualifying between trimming out a car for one lap or setting up the car to race well on Sunday. Teams will practice twice on Friday, qualify Saturday, and race on Sunday. Pay attention to which drivers who sacrifice qualifying to race well.

What Vegas thinks (via Westgate):
Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr are favored at 5-1. There are five drivers at 7-1 leaving Ryan Blaney as the longshot of playoff drivers at 12-1. Jimmie Johnson opened at 40-1 and is worth putting a dollar or two down in my humble opinion.
Kyle Busch 5-1
Martin Truex Jr 5-1
Denny Hamlin 7-1
Kevin Harvick 7-1
Chase Elliott 7-1
Joey Logano 7-1
Kyle Larson 7-1
Ryan Blaney 12-1
Brad Keselowski 12-1

Driver Ratings at Texas:
1. Jimmie Johnson 103.0
2. Kyle Busch 102.2
3. Chase Elliott 97.3
4. Kevin Harvick 95.9
5. Martin Truex Jr 94.1
6. Erik Jones 91.8
7. Kurt Busch 90.0
8. Denny Hamlin 89.2
9. Joey Logano 88.5
10. Brad Keselowski 87.8
11. Ryan Blaney 87.0
12. William Byron 85.6
13. Clint Bowyer 84.5
14. Kyle Larson 83.2
15. Jamie McMurray 78.9

Average Running Position at Texas:
1. Chase Elliott 9.549
2. Kyle Busch 11.105
3. Jimmie Johnson 11.510
4. Erik Jones 11.862
5. Martin Truex Jr 12.291
6. Kevin Harvick 12.294
7. William Byron 12.560
8. Kurt Busch 13.436
9. Denny Hamlin 14.297
10. Joey Logano 15.208
11. Clint Bowyer 15.314
12. Kyle Larson 15.487
13. Brad Keselowski 15.812
14. Ryan Blaney 17.206
15. Jamie McMurray 17.242

Laps Led

1. Jimmie Johnson 1112 (11.5% of laps run)
2. Kyle Busch 930 (10.3)
3. Brad Keselowski 639 (8.7)
4. Martin Truex Jr 605 (6.5)
5. Kevin Harvick 493 (5.1)
6. Joey Logano 438 (6.0)
7. Kurt Busch 333 (3.4)
8. Denny Hamlin 277 (3.1)
9. Ryan Blaney 233 (7.9)

2019 Spring top 10:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Daniel Suarez
4. Erik Jones
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. William Byron
7. Aric Almirola
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Kurt Busch
10. Kyle Busch

2018 Spring top 10:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Jamie McMurray
4. Erik Jones
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Joey Logano
7. Kurt Busch
8. Bubba Wallace
9. Clint Bowyer
10. William Byron

2018 Fall top 10
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Ryan Blaney
3. Joey Logano
4. Erik Jones
5. Kyle Larson
6. Chase Elliott
7. Kurt Busch
8. Aric Almirola
9. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Austin Dillon

Only Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, and Kurt Busch have finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races at Texas.

Stay tuned for updated content following qualifying on Saturday.

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