This Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Texas Motor Speedway for the second leg of Round of 8.
Joey Logano won in Kansas last week, punching his ticket into the Championship 4. This will be the second trip to Texas of the 2020 season—Richard Childress took the top-2 spots in July with Austin Dillon winning and Tyler Reddick finishing second.
Below I've listed my five best bets for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500.
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Ryan Blaney (-110) over Brad Keselowski
Blaney was the car on the track in the summer race at Texas, pacing the field with 86 fastest laps and 150 laps led. Since joining Roger Penske in the 2018 season, Blaney has four top-10s in five races at Texas. Blaney was forced to park it in the first Texas race in 2019 but has an average finish of 5.5 in his other four in the No.12 car.
His Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, has not had the same success at Texas in recent years. He's crashed out in two of his last five trips to this track, with an average finish of 22.0. The two drivers are tied for the best average finish (7.1) at 1.5-mile tracks this season, but Blaney has a better track record at Texas and has been much more consistent recently.
Kurt Busch (-120) over Aric Almirola
Kurt Busch earned his ticket to the Round of 8 with a win at Las Vegas but has struggled since. Sitting eighth in points, Busch will likely need to win his way into the Championship 4, and Texas is his best chance to do that. Martinsville would be his last chance next week, and that has statically been his second-worst track over his career. Busch has finished in the top-10 in all three of his races at Texas in the Chip Ganassi No.1. Busch also has the eighth-best average (12.1) on 1.5-miles in 2020.
Almirola also has a strong record at TMS but hasn't been in the finest form as of late. With an average finish of 20.8 in his last four races, his recent performance and Kurt Busch's desperation to win the race has me leaning towards Kurt. His team will be taking chances to get the car out-front all day, and that improves his chances of finishing in the top 5.
Erik Jones (-120) over William Byron
Jones has been pressing as of late, trying to land a ride for 2021. It was announced on Wednesday that he'll be moving to the Richard Petty Motorsports No.43 next year, so that is a huge weight off of his shoulders heading into the weekend. Now he can focus on getting his first win of the season and third of his career this Sunday. Jones has a terrific chance to do so. He has the best average finish (7.2) over the last five races and the third-best average finish (8.13) at Texas since 2018. That gives me confidence in Jones producing another top-10 this weekend, something Byron has only done twice in five tries at Texas.
Erik Jones win outright (+3000)
Why not double-up on Jones? Is he likely to win this race? No. But at +3000, he's worth a shot. He's one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR right now and six straight top-10s at Texas, with three of those being top-5s. History suggests he'll be at the front for most of Sunday's race, so there's a chance he'll be the first to take the checkered flag.
Kevin Harvick (-150) over Denny Hamlin
Harvick and Hamlin have been trading blows all season long. The two drivers have won 48.5 percent of the races this season, so there's a pretty good chance one of them will be at the front on Sunday. If you're going to put money on one of them, it's definitely Harvick. He has won two out of the last four races at Texas and the best average finish (4.25) there since 2018. Hamlin on the other hand has finished 20th or worse in four of the last five races at Texas Motor Speedway but does have three career wins here.
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