The AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway will mark the third race on a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track in the playoffs.
For most of the season, this track type was dominated by the Big 3, but Brad Keselowski won at Vegas and Chase Elliott took the checkers at Kansas and the tide shifted. Joey Logano has already punched his ticket to Miami and three more slots are open for four drivers. This is one of the last opportunities to not only make the Championship Finale, but also to warm up for the Ford 400 weekend that will close out the season.
Texas in particular and the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks in general reward streaks, so this week players will want to top load their rosters with drivers who have already proven to be successful.
1. Joey Logano
Having the freedom to do whatever is necessary is a huge benefit. Logano's win last week at Martinsville and a five-race Texas streak of results seventh or better makes him a great value.
2. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has the longest active streak at Texas with eight straight top-10s. His last three attempts ended in top-fives including last year's win.
3. Kyle Busch
His victory this spring was the first time since Texas was repaved that Busch cracked the top 10. His last five attempts on the old configuration all ended in top-fives.
4. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex will be looking for vindication this week after the Martinsville bump-and-run. He's been almost perfect on 1.5-milers and finished worse than 10th only once in the past two years.
5. Chase Elliott
The 1.5-mile tracks have not been uniformly kind to Elliott this year, but he won at Kansas in Round 2 of the playoffs. He also has a near perfect record of top-10s at Texas with four such results in five starts.
6. Brad Keselowski
When Texas was repaved and reconfigured in 2017, Keselowski swept the top 10 with a sixth and fifth. He crashed this spring and could not extend his streak.
7. Ryan Blaney
It would be easy to select all three Team Penske drivers this week. Blaney has finished seventh or better in his last three attempts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.
8. Kurt Busch
At Texas as on most tracks, Busch has been the king of consistency with a three-race streak of top-10s since the track was reconfigured as well as six of the last eight.
9. Kyle Larson
Pay close attention to Larson this week because he could go either way in race trim. He crashed in his last two Texas races, but has five top-fives and eight top-10s in nine races this year on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.
10. Clint Bowyer
With two races remaining before the championship finale in Miami, Bowyer and the remainder of the non-Big 3 contenders are practically in a must-win situation.
11. Erik Jones
Jones has had only one bad run on the 1.5-mile tracks this year and if not for an accident at Vegas to start the playoffs, he would likely be among the Round of 8.
12. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has struggled in his last two fall attempts at Texas, but he has finished inside the top 10 in his last two spring races.
13. Aric Almirola
Almirola could be a good value this week with three consecutive top-10s on 1.5-mile tracks. He will not earn maximum points among playoff contenders, however.
14. Alex Bowman
Bowman has made only sporadic starts at Texas in the last three seasons. This spring, he finished 28th in a race that featured high attrition.
15. Paul Menard
When he finds the right setup, Menard can be a solid value on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks with three top-10s and another four results of 17th or better in nine starts.
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
In nine starts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year, Stenhouse has been all over the board with one top-10, two more top-15s, a few tops 20s, and a worst of 30th.
17. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson has a feel for Texas, but it has been a while since he's run well on a 1.5-mile track. He has only one top-10 on them in 2018 - a fifth at Charlotte this summer.
18. Daniel Suarez
Joe Gibbs Racing has a strong record on 1.5-mile tracks and that raises Suarez's odds at Texas. We are still waiting for an announcement about where he will run in 2019.
19. Jamie McMurray
McMurray is handicapped by the numbers this week, but if a player is looking for a wild card they should know he has two top-10s in his last three Texas starts.
20. Ty Dillon
Texas has been one of Dillon's best 1.5-mile venues with a worst finish of 24th there last fall. His other three attempts all ended in top-20 results.
21. Ryan Newman
Newman is winding down his career with Richard Childress Racing on a track type that has not been overly kind in 2018. He has only one top-10 on 1.5-milers this year.
22. Chris Buescher
There will not be a great number of competitors that pay attention to Buescher this week, but he has four results of 15th or 16th in nine races on this track type.
23. William Byron
Largely because of the heavy attrition faced this spring, Byron scored a rare top-10 in the O'Reilly 500.
24. David Ragan
Ragan is going to fly well under the radar this week and that's good news. He has seven top-25s and a 27th in nine similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track races this year.
26. Austin Dillon
Dillon has made 11 starts at Texas with an average finish of 23rd to his credit. In his last four starts, however, he's finished worse than that three times.
27. AJ Allmendinger
The clock is ticking on several drivers. Allmendinger needs to close out 2018 with a solid performance on each of the final three tracks if he want to attract a Cup owner's attention.
28. Michael McDowell
McDowell is still making the highlight reels for a qualification crash at Texas, but it has not slowed him down on 1.5-mile tracks with all but one result in the top 30 this year.
29. Bubba Wallace
Eight of Wallace's 10 starts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks ended in results of 27th or better.
30. Matt DiBenedetto
With an average finish of 26.8 and a best of 16th on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year, DiBenedetto should be on most players' radar screens.
31. Regan Smith
Smith was easily the best bargain of the afternoon in his first 1.5-mile track this season - finishing 12th at Las Vegas. As each week passes, he gets more chemistry with this team.
32. Landon Cassill
In two races on 1.5-mile tracks with high attrition, Cassill finished 21st this spring in Texas and was 18th at Vegas.
33. Corey LaJoie
LaJoie has been a good value on 1.5-mile tracks in half of his starts this year with results of 26th or better. His worst was a pair of 34ths - most recently at Kansas.
34. Ross Chastain
Before crashing out of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas, Chastain had not finished worse than 30th on any of the 1.5-mile tracks this year.
35. Parker Kligerman
Kligerman made one start this year on a 1.5-mile track, but he made the most of it with a 27th in the Coke 600.
36. JJ Yeley
Yeley was a great example of how anything can happen in a Cup race after finishing 17th at Vegas in the first playoff race this year.
37. Reed Sorenson
Sorenson cracked the top 30 at Kansas this spring, but most of his results have been solidly in the 30s, which is where he's expected to run again this week.
38. Kyle Weatherman
In three starts on 1.5-mile tracks this year, Weatherman finished 33rd at Chicagoland, 26th at Vegas, and 35th at Kansas.
39. Timmy Hill
Hill has moved up via attrition on a number of occasions on 1.5-mile tracks. His best finishes were a pair of 32nds at Kansas and Charlotte this spring and summer.
40. Joey Gase
Gase has made only one start on a 1.5-mile track so far this year. He raced to a 32nd-place finish at Vegas in the spring.