This week’s race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
Traditional Name: Texas 500
Other Notable Names: Duck Commander 500, NRA 500, Samsung Mobile 500, Samsung / Radio Shack 500, Harrah's 500, DirecTV 500, Primestar 500, Interstate Batteries 500
One might be tempted to toss out the statistics for Texas Motor Speedway now that the track has been repaved and reconfigured. The drivers certainly did not seem very comfortable in the opening practice.
The similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks are a variety of courses with different degrees of banking, different radiuses to the corners, and wear on the circuit. At the end of the day, the same cast of characters rise to the top, and that will almost certainly continue to be true this week as well.
Folks, it ain’t gonna be pretty and fantasy players are likely to get another few gray hairs, but keep the faith until the final laps are run.
10 best drivers at Texas
Over the past six races, these drivers have the best average finish on this track.
1. Kyle Busch
Last six races average finish at Texas: 3.40 (5 starts)
Career avg. finish: 13.0 in 24 attempts
Busch enters the race with a five-race streak of top-fives to his credit and seven such finishes in his last eight attempts. Victories in 2013 and last year make him a favorite this week despite the fact that he slapped the wall in the first practice and did not get a qualification lap in the books.
2. Chase Elliott
Last six races average finish at Texas: 4.50 (2 starts)
Career avg. finish: 4.5 in 2 attempts
Like Busch, Elliott had trouble in the first practice session. He destroyed his primary car, failed to qualify on time, and rolls off the grid from deep in the pack. He will have so much company back there, that a poor starting position is not going to make much difference. Better still, he is almost guaranteed to earn positive place-differential points.
3. Jimmie Johnson
Last six races average finish at Texas: 7.17
Career avg. finish: 8.4 in 27 attempts
Johnson has been great on every track he visits, but no one can ignore the fact that he is struggling this season. With the third-best, three-year average there is a strong likelihood that he will finish in the top 10 again, but he will not post dominant numbers on Sunday.
4. Brad Keselowski
Last six races average finish at Texas: 9.50
Career avg. finish: 16.2 in 17 attempts
Keselowski was not great last year at Texas with an 18th in the spring and 14th in the fall. Six of his previous seven efforts on this track landed in the top 10, however. Keselowski qualified well and is perhaps the best position to capitalize on the misfortune of others this week.
5. Joey Logano
Last six races average finish at Texas: 10.33
Career avg. finish: 16.6 in 17 attempts
Texas is prone to some incredible streaks and Logano has one them. Since joining Penske Racing, he has finished in the top five six out of eight times and 12th on one occasion. The only time he did not have a decent run was when he suffered crash damage in fall 2015, but that is somewhat offset by a victory the year previous.
6. Martin Truex Jr.
Last six races average finish at Texas: 10.50
Career avg. finish: 13.8 in 23 attempts
Truex is moving up this grid. His last four races all ended in top-10s, with the two that preceded it landing outside the top 15. The No. 78 should replace one of those modest results with another strong one and he will appear to be an even better value when the series returns here in the fall.
7. Kevin Harvick
Last six races average finish at Texas: 10.83
Career avg. finish: 12.0 in 28 attempts
Harvick has had as nearly a disappointing season as Johnson—but he took a step in the right direction with his pole winning run on Friday. In 2015, he swept the outside pole in both races on this track before finishing second in the spring and third in the fall.
8. Jamie McMurray
Last six races average finish at Texas: 11.67
Career avg. finish: 16.8 in 26 attempts
McMurray climbs into the top 10 with a mix of consistency and speed. In his last six Texas races, he has three top-10s. Two of his remaining three efforts landed outside the top 15, but none were worse than 20th.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last six races average finish at Texas: 12.00 (5 starts)
Career avg. finish: 13.4 in 28 attempts
Earnhardt’s three-year average has been severely impacted by a lap-12 crash in spring 2014. He finished 43rd that afternoon, so no matter how he crosses under the checkers this week, he will improve his average.
10. Matt Kenseth
Last six races average finish at Texas: 14.60 (5 starts)
Career avg. finish: 9.4 in 28 attempts
Kenseth is in the top 10 on the strength of three strong runs in his last six efforts. Two of his remaining three races landed outside the top 25, so it is difficult to recommend him based on these numbers. Watch him closely in Saturday’s practices
Most caution flags: 13, 2014 AAA Texas 500
Fewest caution flags: 2, 2012 Samsung Mobile 500
Average number of caution flags per race: 7.8
In 2017: 8.2
Final Caution, last five races:
November 2016: Lap 291 of 293: Rain, to shorten the event.
April 2016: Lap 289 of 334: 13-car accident on the backstretch (Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, Regan Smith, Michael Annett, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Brian Scott, and David Ragan)
November 2015: Lap 311 of 334: debris in turn 2
April 2015: lap 310 of 334: 1-car accident in turn 3 (AJ Allmendinger)
November 2014: 336 of 341: 1-car spin in turn 3 (Jeff Gordon)
Most caution laps: 73, 1997 Interstate Batteries 500
Fewest caution laps: 10, 2012 Samsung Mobile 500
Average number of caution laps per race: 40.1
In 2016: 45.8
Leading the way
Most leaders: 17, 2000 DirecTV 500
Fewest leaders: 4, 2009 Dickies 500
Average number of leaders: 10.1
In 2017: 8.7
Most lead changes: 33, 2010 AAA Texas 500
Fewest lead changes: 13 (2 times), 2009 Dickies 500, 2007 Samsung 500
Average number of lead changes: 21.9
In 2017: 18.3
Last five winners (starting position):
November 2016: Carl Edwards (ninth)
April 2016: Kyle Busch (15th)
November 2015: Jimmie Johnson (eighth)
April 2015: Jimmie Johnson (fifth)
November 2014: Jimmie Johnson (third)
Worst starting position for race winner: 31st, Matt Kenseth: 2002 Samsung / Radio Shack 500
A race at Texas has been won by the pole sitter 3 times and from the front row 6 times in 32 races.
Recent races won from the pole:
April 2013: Kyle Busch, NRA 500
November 2012: Jimmie Johnson, AAA Texas 500
April 2006: Kasey Kahne, Samsung / Radio Shack 500
Active winners at Texas
Jimmie Johnson: 6
Denny Hamlin: 2
Matt Kenseth: 2
Kyle Busch: 2
Kurt Busch: 1
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 1
Kasey Kahne: 1
Joey Logano: 1
Ryan Newman: 1
First time winners at Texas:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2000 DirecTV 500
Jeff Burton: 1997 Interstate Batteries 500
All time Winners (Top 10)
Jimmie Johnson: 6
Carl Edwards: 4
Matt Kenseth: 2
Kyle Busch: 2
Tony Stewart: 2
Greg Biffle: 2
Jeff Burton: 2
Denny Hamlin: 2
Dale Jarrett, Elliott Sadler, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Terry Labonte, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, and Kurt Busch: 1 apiece.
Similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Charlotte, Texas, Las Vegas, Kansas, Chicagoland, and Kentucky) (All time)
Jimmie Johnson: 26
Jeff Gordon: 16
Dale Earnhardt, Sr.: 14
Tony Stewart: 12
Matt Kenseth: 11
Richard Petty: 11
Bobby Allison: 11
Cale Yarborough: 10
Mark Martin: 10
Carl Edwards: 10
Brad Keselowski: 10
Running at the End
The following active drivers have been running at the end of every Texas race they started:
Kyle Busch (22)
Denny Hamlin (22)
Brad Keselowski (17)
Aric Almirola (11)
Danica Patrick (9)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (8)
Cole Whitt (5)
Chris Buescher (3)
Matt DiBenedetto (3)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (2)
Chase Elliott (2)
Ty Dillon (1)
Erik Jones (1)
Matt Kenseth failed to finish his first race in 2000, but has been running at the end of the last 27.
Austin Dillon had been running at the end of seven consecutive races until he crashed out of last fall’s event.
Active drivers with top-10s in their first start on this track:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: first (2000)
Kasey Kahne: second (2004)
Kurt Busch: fourth (2001)
Chase Elliott: fifth (2016)
Jimmie Johnson: sixth (2002)
Tony Stewart: sixth (1999)
Denny Hamlin: seventh (2005)
Kevin Harvick: seventh (2001)
Jamie McMurray: 10th (2003)
Kasey Kahne started third in his first attempt at Texas
Kyle Busch, five top-fives
Kevin Harvick, five top-fives
Martin Truex Jr., four top-10
Chase Elliott, two top-fives
Joey Logano, two top-fives
Kasey Kahne, two top-10s
Jimmie Johnson finished 11th last fall, which snapped a four-race, top-five streak
On Similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Charlotte, Texas, Las Vegas, Kansas, Chicagoland, and Kentucky)
Matt Kenseth, nine top-10s
Joey Logano, four top-10s
Chase Elliott, three top-fives
Martin Truex Jr., three top-10s
Brad Keselowski, two top-fives
Kyle Larson, two top-fives
Jamie McMurray, two top-10s
Brad Keselowski, five top-fives
Kyle Busch, three top-10s
Chase Elliott, two top-10s
Joey Logano, two top-fives
Clint Bowyer, two top-10s