The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 is the first race of a Texas two-step on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The second step is more than three months away, but play along with the reference here, if you don’t mind.
This is a race typically held in April, but it will be held in the sweltering Texas sun on Sunday July 19 because NASCAR had to move it from the seasonable conditions of March 29 to the sauna-like conditions of July because of the coronavirus outbreak. It is slated to be 97 with a heat index of about 220 degrees on Sunday afternoon.
But, it is what it is and the drivers and teams will have to adjust. They’ll be frying bacon on the hood and burning up the tires with each passing lap. It will be interesting to see how much different the track does play. After all, the other Texas stop has always been at the tail end of the year.
Kevin Harvick is your +300 favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook, so all of y’all in Colorado, Indiana, and the other states where DraftKings is legal will have to either take the low price on the favorite or look down the board for some better values.
Harvick has never won this race. He has, however, won the fall race each of the last three years. He has 11 top-five finishes in 34 tries on this track and his 22 top-10 finishes are tied with Jimmie Johnson, who has one fewer race at Texas to his name. Harvick already has four wins this season and is locked in another groove with four straight top-five finishes. He’s -125 to grab a top-three finish and +125 to be the top Ford finisher.
Let’s talk about Kyle Busch for a minute here. He’s +600. He’s regularly the second or third choice on the board, but Busch has one win his last 38 races. It came at Homestead-Miami in last year’s championship race, so at least he timed it right, but we’re not really talking about just some bad luck from this year. We’re talking about a Sahara Desert type of drought with one passing shower.
His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin is also +600. If you found $20 on the ground and had to choose between Busch and Hamlin in a matchup, who are you taking with how this season has transpired? This isn’t to badmouth KyBusch, but it is to point out that this dude has been burning up money as one of the shortest prices on the board for each and every race.
Hamlin has three wins and seven top-five finishes in his 28 starts at Texas. That is the same number of wins as Busch and also Harvick. Only Jimmie Johnson has more.
Johnson is priced at +2000 this week, which is the same price as Aric Almirola, who has actually looked like a guy that could win a race recently. He had five straight top-five finishes before finishing eighth at Kentucky Speedway, but Almirola won Stage 1 and led the most laps in the Quaker State 400. Again, I ask you, who would you take in a head-to-head with Johnson and Almirola?
Picking the driver to win the race each week is a challenge, but some of these matchups, or at least some of the group bets, definitely look like they are worthy of an attack.
One of the reasons why it is tough to pick the winner each week is that these are fast cars running very close to each other, but there are other reasons, too. For example, you’ve got Busch and Hamlin at +600, Chase Elliott at +700, Martin Truex Jr. at +900, Brad Keselowski at +1000, and his Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano at +1100.
Couldn’t you make a logical case for each and every one of those drivers? The answer is yes. Are they interchangeable? Some would say so. Others would not.
Logano at 11/1 looks like a decent wager this week. He’s been really quiet of late and hasn’t had a great car. In fact, he only has one top-finish outside of his wins, however, he has a win and 10 top-five finishes at Texas. Logano had stage wins in both Charlotte races on the 1.5-mile track and won at Las Vegas. If his team can get it all together this week, he’s had some nice runs here. Logano is also +550 to be the top Ford car.
Almirola is +2000, which isn’t a great price for him given where he has been historically listed, but he’s also going through the best run of his career with six really good races in a row.
One last prop bet to consider this week is Erik Jones at +800 to be the best Toyota finisher. In seven career starts here, Jones has three top-five finishes and five top-10 finishes. At this point, all of the drivers below the playoff cut line have to get aggressive because Cole Custer’s win took away a playoff spot. That means guys like Jones have to take a few more chances. He’s run well here in the past.
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be on Sunday July 19 with a 3 p.m. ET start time.