Through the Field: Chaos Brewing for Texas Motor Speedway
“Through the Field” is a seasonal column by Elliot Hicks. It follows the NASCAR season and provides broad driver analysis to support Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and NASCAR betting. Elliot is in his third season writing the column and sharing his perspective on life with the In-Between Media community. This week, he recaps the Bristol race and gives his NASCAR DFS and betting picks for Texas Motor Speedway as the Cup Series begins its Round of 12.
My last column discussed how the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington was summed up by the word “unpredictable.” I’ve got a similar theme for this one, with just one word to sum up the Round of 16 finale at Bristol and the upcoming tracks in the Round of 12.
This past weekend’s Bristol race saw a multitude of cars with issues, from “crappy-ass parts” – as Kevin Harvick would say it – resulting in many power steering failures to Kyle Busch’s interesting engine failure. Tack on tire and pit road issues for quite a few playoff contenders, some of whom were able to rebound.
The race was a battle of attrition. Those who could survive all 500 laps were generally those who advanced into the next round.
In that next round, teams will need to have just as much attrition matched with a little bit of luck. After a relatively milquetoast racetrack that is Texas Motor Speedway at the moment, Talladega and the Charlotte Roval will set up to be chaos that could far surpass anything that’s happened in the playoffs so far.
Those who can’t necessarily avoid the chaos, but thrive in it, will be better off in this round.
Of the dozen drivers left in the playoffs, here’s a trio that I’ve got my eye on.
Three Drivers Looking to Go Big at Texas Motor Speedway
Christopher Bell: No driver in the series is hotter than Christopher Bell. He was able to clinch a spot in the next round before anyone else. Yet, he still went out in what was a pressure-free race at Bristol and led laps while running competitively. Bell has truly come into his own and has to be among the championship favorites at the moment.
Alex Bowman: I always feel a bit awkward giving positive Alex Bowman advice, as I’ve made it obvious he’s my driver of choice. But the No. 48 team has regained positive momentum after a summer slump (just like his teammate William Byron), and the trio of chaotic tracks could set up well for Bowman. He’s perhaps best at the intermediate, 1.5-mile tracks. He’s also been involved in crashes while running in the top two in the last three playoff races at Talladega. Bowman also has the third-best average finish at the Roval, behind only Chase Elliott and Joey Logano. It’s a longer road to climb than most, and the team can afford no major mistakes. Still, it’s certainly possible to see Bowman advance.
Ross Chastain: Eventually, I feel like Ross Chastain will fail to have good finishes and fail to advance due to payback from other drivers with the season he’s had. But the key for the No. 1 is to win and advance, avoiding payments for such transgressions on the racetrack. He’s the most recent race winner at Talladega. Trackhouse has also been the hottest team at road courses this season, setting him up well for the elimination race.