The NASCAR Cup Series tackles another 1.5-mile speedway when it makes the trek to Texas Motor Speedway for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Originally slated for the spring, Texas moves to a midsummer date due to NASCAR’s coronavirus schedule adjustments.
A July race in the blazing Texas sun and heat will be a challenge for drivers as it was last week at Kentucky Speedway. The conditions will also impact competition on the track, which was recently repaved and reconfigured. Like Kentucky, expect drivers to have a difficult time passing and overcoming the aerodynamic challenges created by the rules package in use. The result means restarts and gaining spots on pit road will be the best opportunities for track position.
A traction compound to add grip to the track surface will be used in hopes of creating side-by-side racing. However, the extreme heat expected Sunday will make it difficult for the substance to take full effect until the race wears on.
Texas is the second of three consecutive 1.5-mile speedways on the schedule, coming after Kentucky and before Thursday’s visit to Kansas Speedway. Several teams will use the same setup across the three tracks despite each having some minor nuances.
Here’s a look at the favorites for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500:
He’s already a four-time winner this season and has shown great strength at intermediate tracks like Texas with victories at Darlington Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick has won three of the last six Texas races and carries a streak of 11 straight top-10 finishes at the track. He led 119 laps on his way to winning at TMS in November.
The 2018 Cup Series champion is in a bit of a slump and didn’t have the best finish at Kentucky despite being fast early in the race. Logano has an average finish of 6.67 in the previous six Texas races and has five top-five finishes dating to 2016. He won the spring Texas race in 2014.
The Team Penske driver keeps getting better as the summer rolls on and pulled out a good finish last week in Kentucky despite his car jumping out of gear early in the race. Blaney’s Texas performance includes four top-10 finishes in the last five races at the track, including a second-place effort in 2018.
Hamlin has been kind of hit and miss of late at Texas, but he is a three-time winner at the track, including the 2019 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. He also has won four times this season with intermediate-track wins at Darlington Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.