Last Updated: 2017-11-01
After a week off, the Xfinity Series drivers are ready to pick it back up again for this week’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. This is the second race in the Round of 8 for the inaugural Xfinity Series playoffs. This week’s race and next week’s race at Phoenix, the Ticket Galaxy 200, is all that stands between the drivers and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Ford EcoBoost 300.
The only thing bigger about Texas in this instance is the capacity for this track, which seats over 180,000 spectators. It is a pretty standard 1.5-mile track otherwise, with 20-degree banking in the first two turns and 24-degree banking in the last two turns. This is the second stop at Texas for the season. The first was the My Bariatic Solutions 300 back on April 8. That race was won by Erik Jones.
As far as the standings go as we look to cut the field of drivers still eligible for the championship in half after the race at Phoenix, Justin Allgaier continues to lead the way with 3,066 points. William Byron is second with 3,064 points. Elliott Sadler is third with 3,055 points. Those three should be safe to advance, but anything can happen in these two races.
Things get dicey for Brennan Poole, who is fourth with 3,038 points. Matt Tifft is fifth with 3,033 points. Ryan Reed and Daniel Hemric are tied for sixth with 3,032 points. Cole Custer is bringing up the rear with 3,030 points. All scores were reset to 3,000 points, with bonus points from the races to date factored into the equation. Allgaier’s lead is based on stage points gathered throughout the season.
The favorite this week according to 5Dimes Sportsbook is Kyle Larson at +175. Larson has not been a Cup Series pro for at least five seasons, so he does not fit the restrictions that are keeping veteran drivers out of the playoff races. This is, however, Larson’s first Xfinity Series start since the postseason began. He’s got three wins, a couple of seconds, a couple of thirds, a fourth, a seventh, and a 40th in his Xfinity races to date. Larson did not run the race at Texas earlier in the season, but he was second in the Cup Series race. Larson won this race last year to snap what was a pretty mediocre string of finishes at this track. He’s a deserving favorite and is probably worth a little bit of an investment given how well he has run overall this season.
Ryan Blaney is next on the board at +350. Blaney did run the spring race in Texas and finished second. It was one of five second-place finishes for Blaney during the regular season. In three postseason races, Blaney has a win and two third-place finishes. He is not points eligible, but he has been a factor in all but ones of his races. He finished 26th at Chicagoland. The 23-year-old has had very little success at Texas on the Cup Series side, but has three top-five finishes out of four starts at this level. He hasn’t run this race since 2014, when he finished third.
Erik Jones is +400 this week and then there is a huge drop-off to William Byron at +1150. Jones won the spring race for Joe Gibbs Racing and also won the following week at Bristol. Jones regularly has some of the best equipment on the race track, but maximizing it is another story. Jones has won three of the last four stages, but has finished 30th and 15th. He did the same thing at Chicagoland by winning the first two stages and leading the most laps, but he finished 18th. Until Jones starts to finish off some of these strong performances, he’s hard to back as a race winner. This is similar to last season in the Xfinity Series when he had a dominant car more often than not, but couldn’t get to Victory Lane. He was fourth and second in his two runs at Texas. Perhaps the track just gives him a little bit more margin for error than others. If you have to play a low price, Jones would be preferred over Larson, given the $2.25 difference.
William Byron won the second stage in the spring race, but his inconsistency makes him a hard bet. Byron has two top-five finishes in the postseason, but also has an 18th and a 16th at tracks that should have been tailored to his skill set. At Kentucky, he was in a race without the Cup Series guys and Charlotte is in his home state. Byron won three races in the middle of the series, with wins at Iowa, Daytona, and Indianapolis, but he hasn’t finished higher than third since and is a tough bet to make, even at +1150.
Christopher Bell won the race two weeks ago in Kansas and might be a popular look this week at +1200. The 22-year-old is a fill-in for Joe Gibbs Racing and runs for Kyle Busch’s team in the Camping World Truck Series. Bell has had a few decent runs in his five starts. Along with last week’s win, he was fourth at Charlotte in the spring and led the most laps at Iowa earlier in the year. He certainly has the right team to be a sleeper pick, especially after breaking through for that win last week.
Overall, the best course of action this week is to pick a top driver and ride with him. We have seen some surprising winners lately with Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman, and Christopher Bell over the last four events, but this is a traditional speedway track and 1.5-mile races tend to go to the best equipment. The top guys can make that claim.
Coverage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 will be on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
Odds as of November 1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Kyle Larson +175
Ryan Blaney +350
Erik Jones +400
William Byron +1150
Justin Allgaier +1150
Christopher Bell +1200
Elliott Sadler +1350
Austin Dillon +1350
Field (any other driver) +1750
Cole Custer +2500
Matt Tifft +2750
Daniel Hemric +3300
Ty Dillon +3300
Brennan Poole +4400
Ryan Reed +6600
Brendan Gaughan +6600
Blake Koch +6600
Brandon Jones +6600
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
For the first time since October 15, there’s a NASCAR Xfinity Series race this week. In the first year of the Xfinity Series Chase, schedule makers needed to hold back a little bit in order to line up with the championship weekend at Homestead-Miami in two weeks, so the Xfinity Series has been dark for the last couple of weekends. That changes this week at Texas Motor Speedway for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.
The remaining races left are this week’s at Texas, next week’s Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix, and then the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami. The Xfinity Series Chase was open to 12 drivers and it was cut to eight after the race at Charlotte on October 9. The first race of the Round of 8 was the Kansas Lottery 300 and it feels like that race was run an eternity ago with so much other stuff going on in the world of sports.
It’s no surprise that Kyle Busch won that race at Kansas, but a couple of drivers set themselves up really well in terms of advancing to the Final Four and another driver had one of his best finishes of the season at one of the best times. Elliott Sadler finished second and he has a 12-point lead above the cut line. The same can be said about Daniel Suarez, who was third in Kansas. After that, things get really interesting. Blake Koch, who barely qualified for the Chase, had just his fourth top-10 finish of the season and he sits in third with 3,032 points. There’s a three-way tie for the final spot in the final four between Justin Allgaier, Erik Jones, and Ryan Reed, who finished 14th, 15th, and 16th, respectively, at Kansas. Brendan Gaughan and Darrell Wallace Jr. have a lot of work to do.
This is the second stop of the Xfinity Series season at Texas. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 was won by, guess who, Kyle Busch. Busch won for the fifth time in this event. He’s not racing this week, so the field is open to the other guys who probably wouldn’t have much of a chance otherwise. This particular race has been dominated by Cup drivers. In the 11 years since this event was added, Kevin Harvick has four wins, Kyle Busch has three, and Brad Keselowski has two. The other wins belong to Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne.
Even though both Harvick and Keselowski are in this week’s race, neither one of them appears at the top of the odds board at 5Dimes Sportsbook. The co-favorites this week are Kyle Larson and Erik Jones at +300. Larson finished 11th at Texas this season, his lowest finish by far outside of the restrictor plate race at Daytona. Larson has 10 top-five finishes at this level this season, including a fourth at Charlotte and a fifth at Kansas in the last two races. Larson hasn’t finished higher than ninth in this race, but he’s shown great speed on 1.5-mile tracks.
Erik Jones scored his first career win in the spring race in Texas last year. He has had one of the strangest seasons in recent memory. He’s with the best team and he may be the most talented points-eligible driver by a long shot, but he’s had several awful finishes this year, including races in which he’s led the most laps or has had the pole position. Jones had four wins during the regular season, but barely advanced to the Round of 8 with a fifth-place finish at Charlotte. He has 14 top-five finishes this year, but nine finishes outside the top 20. In three career starts at Texas, he’s finished first, fourth, and second.
Kevin Harvick is next in line at +450. Harvick isn’t nearly as dominant as you would expect in Xfinity Series races. He has six starts this season without a win and only has one top-five finish. He hasn’t taken the checkered flag in his last 15 Xfinity Series starts. He has won this event five times and he’s extremely strong on 1.5-mile tracks, but he seems to just be looking for familiarity or good racing grooves in these Xfinity Series events. He’s tough to bet on, despite his immense talent.
The same thing can be said about Brad Keselowski. Keselowski has two career wins in this event and yet his +500 price doesn’t seem high enough. Keselowski is 0-for-13 this season and hasn’t finished higher than third in any of his Xfinity starts. He did win this race last year though, but Keselowski also had eight top-five finishes in his nine races last season. He has four this season in 13 tries. Obviously he’s another strong racer on 1.5-mile tracks, with wins at Kentucky and Texas at this level last season and wins at Las Vegas and Kentucky on the Cup side this season. Perhaps he’s worth a look, but he has struggled at this level.
Austin Dillon is also in this race and he’s priced at +650. Austin Dillon has run quite a few of these races this season and has a couple of wins, but he’s finished 14th and 17th in his last two starts. Dillon has finished eighth or better in all eight of his starts at Texas at the Xfinity Series level, but he hasn’t won. This could be the week, but it is a pretty loaded event, even without Kyle Busch in the running.
Daniel Suarez has been strong on 1.5-mile tracks this season and that’s why he’s priced at +750. Most Joe Gibbs Racing vehicles do well on these tracks. He was second at Las Vegas, third at Kentucky, second at Kentucky the second time, third at Charlotte the second time, and third at Kansas. That’s a really strong showing for a sophomore racer running against some impressive fields. It’s hard to see him winning this one, but he could contend.
Interested viewers and bettors can take this one in on Saturday afternoon on NBC at 3:30 p.m. ET.
<< Previous PostNext Post >>