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Race Preview: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas
- Updated: April 7, 2017
Race Preview: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas
Throw out the notebooks, folks. Texas Motor Speedway features a repaved race surface, as well as a redesigned turns 1 and 2. All of this means that past trends at this race track will mean virtually nothing this weekend. Instead, we’ll look at two key metrics in dissecting what this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas might look like. Even with it’s new look, Texas is still a 1.5 mile speedway with fairly high banking. The banking in turns 1 and 2 has been cut from 24 degrees to 20 degrees, and has been widened significantly. However turns 3 and 4 retain their pre-renovation dimensions, albeit with new asphalt. Speaking of asphalt: the asphalt used to repave Texas has been treated and “aged” in a similar fashion to Kentucky, who’s surface underwent a transformation prior to last season. Keep those two things in mind when looking toward this weekend’s event.
The Cookie-Cutter Kings
While there are differences between the 1.5 mile “cookie cutter” race tracks that make up the bulk of the NASCAR schedule, the players at those race tracks don’t often change very much. With that in mind, expect to see familiar faces such as Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch toward the front on Sunday. 2017’s new front runners should continue their good fortunes as well, as Kyle Larson and Chase Elliot have both seen success at similar venues.
Talkin’ Bout Practice
Nobody has been in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car on Texas’ new surface. Not so much as a Goodyear tire test has taken place, due to the timing of the project’s completion. Therefore, teams will look to the weekend’s practice sessions to figure out exactly what they need to be fast on the new surface. Those fast on the practice board, as well as drivers who make significant improvements throughout the weekend, will be the ones to watch come Sunday. This opens up the potential for some surprises, but not many. The best teams and drivers will still be at the top of their game.
Joe Gibbs Racing Still Searching…
Six races into 2017 and Joe Gibbs has had nary an opportunity to stand in victory lane. Kyle Busch has twice come oh-so-close to getting it done for JGR, and has twice faltered. It’s important to note though, that both of those opportunities were on tracks 1-mile and shorter, with fairly little banking. That team is still searching for speed on the downforce tracks such as Texas. The pressure is mounting for them to win, and soon.
…and so is Hendrick Motorsports
Chase Elliott has been the standard bearer for HMS in 2017. Not 14-time most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, seasoned veteran Kasey Kahne, or 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson, but the kid from Dawsonville, GA. Anyone who predicted that going into 2017 should start playing the lottery. The fact is, things have been off at HMS thus far. While Chase is proof that the cars are still capable, overall the HMS program is missing something. Not only are they winless, but Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr have zero (0!) top-5’s thus far. Kasey Kahne started the season on a high note, but has slipped in recent weeks. It’s still early, but time is ticking for these guys to get headed in the right direction.
About those Kentucky Notes
Kentucky Speedway underwent a similar transformation to Texas prior to the 2016 season. That race saw a unique top 10, at least at the time. Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing both placed drivers in the top-10 that day. This season, both of those teams have picked up their performance significantly. All of that adds up to a decent chance they run well come Sunday. Chip Ganassi’s Jamie McMurray also notched a good finish in Kentucky, and that team looks to be firing on all cylinders this season. Look for both McMurray and Kyle Larson to be up front come Sunday
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Fantasy Insider
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson should be major players in Sunday’s race, as they have been all season. Keep an eye on the speed charts throughout the weekend, as a mix of Hamlin, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Truex Jr, and Logano could always be a factor at a track like Texas. For some cheaper options, look at Ryan Blaney, as his Penske Teammates will likely be running well, along with Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer. Other good options may lie in Austin Dillon and Erik Jones, as they don’t cost a lot but have been very consistent top-15 finishers this season.
Catch all the action of The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas on your local Fox station @ 1:30 EDT.