Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 Preview: New Date for Texas

Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 Preview: New Date for Texas

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

NASCAR has wrapped up its early season short track schedule and this week the Cup Series visits Texas Motor Speedway for a return to intermediate ovals. This is potentially good news for championship contender William Byron. He is on a roll so far in 2024 with three wins already to this point. Considering that Byron is our last Texas winner, he should have a slugger's chance of winning and capturing his fourth victory of the season. After a big win this past Sunday at Martinsville, he will ride that momentum into Fort Worth this weekend and will be looking to make a big impression at Texas. So Byron will be swinging for the fences in this 400-mile shootout. His strong performance in this event last year is a good indicator that he has the potential to pull off the win this Sunday. 

Another driver worth keeping an eye on this Sunday is Kyle Larson. He won earlier this season at Las Vegas, a similar sized oval, and finished runner-up this past weekend at Martinsville Speedway. The one-time Texas winner (2021) has been a major threat on intermediate ovals in recent seasons, and he led 99 laps in this event one season ago before getting into an accident. Another major threat for victory lane this Sunday afternoon comes in the form of Tyler Reddick and his No. 45 Toyota team. He is a one-time Texas winner (2022) and has led over 100 laps in his last two Texas starts. Reddick was a runner-up finisher to Kyle Larson at Las Vegas earlier this season and clearly has the intermediate ovals pegged. With Reddick, Byron and Larson squarely in the spotlight this week, it looks like Sunday's contest could be a big moment for the drivers of Joe Gibbs Racing. The team has not won here since 2020 and has watched Chevrolet collect three-straight Texas victories since.       

It's been a while since the last NASCAR Cup Series points race at the Texas oval. In fact, it was this event in September of last year. Fast forward seven months and we're racing at the same track but in a different calendar slot. NASCAR moved Texas out of the playoffs and into the early-Spring part of the schedule. While Texas has some minor differences that set it apart from tracks like Atlanta and Charlotte there are still enough similarities to draw some comparisons to those events. Still, we need to take a quick look at the recent numbers of the tri-oval at Fort Worth and get a feel for our driver group before we make any predictions for this weekend. Here are the loop stats for the last 35 races at Texas Motor Speedway.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Kyle Busch12.31,2376731,0697,70799.9
Tyler Reddick10.4231861111,08194.7
Ryan Blaney16.36123024323,38094.0
William Byron12.14681181272,19993.1
Martin Truex Jr.14.61,2133876897,76292.7
Erik Jones11.85631061162,84691.0
Kyle Larson18.66483784483,42590.9
Chase Elliott13.1576119893,11490.4
Denny Hamlin13.31,3812982927,13189.7
Joey Logano13.98762454805,61589.3
Brad Keselowski15.89553906855,29187.4
Christopher Bell13.017837570175.3
Daniel Suarez16.032454351,64474.7
Austin Dillon19.658375372,84471.5
Chase Briscoe10.0882045171.1
AJ Allmendinger20.93524511,42767.1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.21.640936331,95066.3
Carson Hocevar16.0242012366.0
Bubba Wallace21.31673311373564.8
Alex Bowman23.934775581,59263.8

William Byron won this event last September. That was the last time the NASCAR Cup Series went points racing at Texas Motor Speedway. The Hendrick Motorsports youngster led just 6 laps but outmaneuvered Bubba Wallace late to capture the win in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. It was Byron's first-career victory at the Fort Worth oval. The No. 24 Chevrolet team have just come off their third win of the season this past week at Martinsville Speedway, so a trip to Fort Worth could be a major opportunity for this driver and team to keep their boots on the throats' of the field.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway back in March is our most recent look at the drivers on a similarly sized oval and maybe our best barometer of what to expect this weekend. The Chevrolets were strong and captured two of the Top 4 spots. Toyota and Ford drivers brought home second- and third-place, so we had good manufacturer parity in that event. We could be in for a sequel to Vegas' action in Sunday's Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. Kyle Larson also came out on top in that recent Las Vegas race, so we'll need to give him very close examination. Additionally, the Toyota of 23XI Racing and driver Tyler Reddick was strong, but clearly second fiddle to the Hendrick Chevrolets. That's something to commit to memory before filling out your fantasy racing lineups for Texas. We'll take a look at the contenders for the win and the spoilers from the field that could jump up and surprise this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

William Byron – Byron rides a three-race Texas Top-10 streak into this weekend's action and that includes 103 total laps led during the span. His last visit netted his first-career victory in Fort Worth and his Top-10 rate at the oval now stands at a strong 56-percent. Byron is standing tall in the current season with three wins already in this 2024 campaign and he comes to Texas riding a ton of momentum from his big win at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday. If the odds-makers were paying closer attention they'd have Byron opening +425 like they have Kyle Larson, instead of the current +650. That seems like a pretty good deal to us. Regardless, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet will be a major factor in the outcome this Sunday in Fort Worth. 

Kyle Larson – Coming off strong runner-up finish at Martinsville and carrying a two-race Top-5 streak into this week, Larson is in good position to challenge for the win at Texas. The Hendrick Motorsports star has won twice at this track in the past three seasons. Larson grabbed the victory in the 2021 All-Star Race at Texas and then he returned to the track in this event in 2021 to dominate the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has been strong on intermediate ovals this season with a dominant performance and victory at Las Vegas back in March. Larson's career numbers don't look great at Texas Motor Speedway, however, realize that his surge in performance here the last three seasons has put him squarely in the contenders list for this week.

Tyler Reddick – With his win here in 2022 and his runner-up finish at Fort Worth in 2020, it's clear that Reddick loves this oval. He's led a combined 106 laps in his last two Texas starts and that's a lot of time up front at this track. The 23XI Racing youngster now sports a 60-percent Top-10 rate at Texas and carries a strong 10.4 average finish at this oval. Those are two very good indicators over a five-race span. Reddick was a runner-up finisher to Kyle Larson earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and that's probably the best comp so far to Texas in the 2024 race calendar. Given that Reddick was very impressive in that most recent intermediate oval race, we have to give top attention to this driver and team at Texas.  

Ryan Blaney – The recent string of intermediate oval performances indicate Blaney is likely our best contender from the Ford camp at Texas Motor Speedway. His last five races on ovals this size have netted two runner-up and one third-place finish dating back to the end of last season. Blaney was a third-place finisher most recently at Las Vegas Motor Speedway back in March. He also has five Top-10 finishes in his last six Texas starts coming into this weekend's action. The Penske Racing star has led well over 400 career laps at Texas Motor Speedway and he cracks the Top 10 here at a solid 53-percent rate. While Blaney has never won at the Fort Worth track, he's been very close to breaking through. He should be considered your upset minded contender Sunday in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400.

Solid Plays – Near locks for a Top 10 with an outside shot to win

Denny Hamlin – The three-time Texas winner has proven over the years that this isn't his best intermediate oval, but he brings home run potential to this track when the racing really matters. With close to 300-career laps led and his last Texas victory as recently as 2019, we have to take Hamlin very serious in this race. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota finished eighth-place at the similar sized oval in Las Vegas earlier this season, and that's a good indicator of potential this Sunday. Hamlin's 16 Texas Top 10's stands at a steady 49-percent rate and he's finished inside the Top 10 in three of his last four Texas Motor Speedway starts for a robust 8.8 average finish over that most recent span. We don't expect Hamlin to upset the Hendrick Chevrolets this weekend, but he'll be close on their heels.  

Ross Chastain – Chastain has been a model of consistency in his last five intermediate oval starts dating back to the end of last season. He's grabbed three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in those five events for a stellar 9.8 average finish. That span includes his last start at Texas Motor Speedway, which was a career-best Texas finish of second-place. While the Trackhouse Racing driver doesn't sport the dominant career stats we'd like to see at Texas, Chastain has been sharp on these ovals the past couple years. His last Texas Motor Speedway outing speaks for itself to a certain extent. The last time we saw the No. 1 Chevrolet team in action on a similar sized oval, Chastain wheeled to a strong fourth-place finish at Las Vegas in March.

Joey Logano – The Penske Racing star is a consistent intermediate oval performer and what better track to visit than Texas. Logano is a one-time Texas winner and he cracks the Top 10 here at a strong 54-percent rate. Intermediate ovals have been some of his better tracks dating back into the end of 2023. Logano grabbed an eighth-place finish at Homestead near the end of last season and he racked up a pole position and ninth-place finish at Las Vegas in early March. The driver of the No. 22 Ford is heating up with an 11th, second and sixth-place finish in the last three events. It will be up to Logano to stay on a roll this Sunday and post a statement Top-10 finish in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400.

Brad Keselowski – The owner/driver of the No. 6 Ford is coming off a good stretch of short track performance, now he'll look to keep it going on the intermediate ovals. Keselowski is riding a five-race Texas Top-10 streak into this Sunday's Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. The veteran driver has been a productive performer on the intermediate tracks for many years and has the accomplishments to back that up. Texas Motor Speedway has held a lot of success for Keselowski over the years. He's a one-time Fort Worth winner and cracks the Top 5 and Top 10 at respective 21 and 46-percent rates across 28 career starts. His performance in this race one year ago netted a strong seventh-place finish.

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Texas & solid upside

Chase Elliott – After fifth and third place finishes in the last two events at Richmond and Martinsville, Elliott has clawed back some of his lost fantasy racing value. We'll see if it holds up on an intermediate oval this week in Fort Worth. Elliott's last look in a points race at the Texas track was in this event last September. He qualified a distant 29th- but had little trouble driving up to a respectable 11th-place finish at TMS. His six Top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth track equal a respectable 46-percent Top-10 rate. This is not one of Elliott's best intermediate ovals, but he can hold his own here. With the No. 9 team on the upswing a Top-10 finish seems very likely.

Christopher Bell – The young Joe Gibbs Racing driver has been an impressive performer on these intermediate ovals dating back to last season, with one pole position, one win, 87 laps led, three Top-10 finishes. Bell has five-career Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, and he's captured three Top-5 finishes in those efforts for a 60-percent Top-5 rate and respectable 13.0 average finish. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota's last start at Texas resulted in a ninth-place qualifying effort and fourth-place finish in last September's Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. Given the current momentum of this driver and team and Bell's track specific success at Fort Worth, we believe he's a solid fantasy racing play this weekend.   

Bubba Wallace – The last time we saw Wallace in action at Texas Motor Speedway, he grabbed the pole position, led 111 laps and finished a surprising third in last September's Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. That is in addition to his recent successes on intermediate ovals. The 23XI Racing veteran as three Top 10's in his last five starts on 1.5-mile tracks. The qualifying has been excellent on these tracks with a 6.6 average start over that span. Needless to say, the 60-percent Top-10 rate is well above Wallace's career average. The driver of the No. 23 Toyota really hasn't had much career success at Fort Worth prior to his last start, but obviously that performance is fresh on the minds of this driver and team.

Ty Gibbs – Riding a three-race Top-10 streak on the intermediate ovals into this weekend, Gibbs looks good to keep it rolling at the Fort Worth track. His last intermediate oval start was an impressive fifth-place finish at Kansas Speedway a few weeks ago. As to Texas Motor Speedway, Gibbs doesn't have much Cup Series experience nor luck here. This will be just his third-career start at TMS. The driver of the No. 54 Toyota grabbed 12th and third-place finishes at Texas Motor Speedway during his Xfinity Series career, so he's well aware of what it takes to succeed here. Riding a lofty seventh in the championship standings into this weekend, this event is very important to Gibbs in the championship chase. He'll be ready for this 400-mile Texas battle.          

Chase Briscoe – Briscoe has been racing reasonably well the last five events. As the team continues to get traction in the 2024 campaign, the young driver has been posting good results. Briscoe has two Top-10 and four Top-15 finishes in the five events leading up to Texas Motor Speedway for a sound 12.6 average finish. That performance has come on a variety of tracks as well. His last three starts at the Fort Worth track are of note as well. The driver of the SHR No. 14 Ford has grabbed finishes of 15th, fifth and 10th-place in his last three starts at TMS. The driver has not only been trending well, but also performing well at this oval during the past three seasons. That's a great combination ahead of Sunday's Texas battle.       

Daniel Suarez – The stealth guy running under the radar this week is likely Suarez and his No. 99 Chevrolet team. The veteran driver has 11-career starts at Texas Motor Speedway and he's converted four of those into Top 10's, two of those Top 10's in his last three trips to Fort Worth. His finishes have been 10th, 12th and eighth-place in those three starts. Suarez has also been dependable on the intermediate ovals in recent months. The Trackhouse Racing driver has earned a win (Atlanta), two Top-10 and four Top-15 finishes (10.2 average finish) in his last five starts on 1.5-mile tracks. Suarez makes a steady play in Sunday's Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400.

Slow Down – Drivers to avoid this week

Kyle Busch – The Richard Childress Racing star leads all active drivers with four-career victories at Texas Motor Speedway, but has struggled on cookie cutter ovals of late with just two Top-10 finishes in the last five for a 40-percent Top-10 rate. His last outing at a similar oval netted a disappointing 26th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a few weeks ago. Busch has struggled in his last two starts at Texas motor Speedway despite his 55-percent career Top-10 rate at the track. He's crashed out of both events and finished 36th and 34th-place in those events. Given Busch's current struggles and his last couple visits to Fort Worth, we believe it's prudent to keep the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet on the bench this week.

Martin Truex Jr. – The Joe Gibbs Racing star could face some headwinds this weekend at Fort Worth. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota has never won this facility, but Truex cracks the Top 10 here at a strong 50-percent and he has led well over 600-career laps at TMS. However, more recent visits to Fort Worth have been pretty lean for Truex. He has just three Top-10 finishes here since the 2018 season and during that time he has four finishes outside the Top 20. That average finish works out to 18.7 over the last nine Texas Motor Speedway starts. Truex's last start at the Fort Worth oval netted a subpar 17th-place finish last September. Of the top tier drivers, he seems like the best one to pass on this week for lineup leagues. 

Ryan Preece – Preece has had some considerable struggles on the intermediate ovals the last five events. The Stewart Haas Racing veteran has just one Top-15 finish and an average finish of 20.2 on the 1.5-mile tracks dating back to the previous Texas Motor Speedway race. Most recently he finished a distant 23rd-place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Preece has seven-career Texas Motor Speedway starts and just one Top-20 finish in those efforts. The average finish is hanging around 28.3 during that span. Due to a lack of track specific performance, lack of current performance, and struggles on intermediate ovals, we cannot give Preece our recommendation this weekend.

Alex Bowman – The Hendrick Motorsports veteran has had sort of an up-and-down season to this point. Bowman is coming off a strong eighth-place finish at Martinsville, but the switch back to intermediate tracks could be a bit bumpy. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet has struggled over his career at Texas Motor Speedway with just two Top-10 finishes in 14 starts for a lowly 14-percent Top-10 rate. Bowman hasn't cracked the Top 10 at this facility in his last three attempts. Additionally, 1.5-mile tracks have been a problem for this driver and team in recent months. Bowman's last five starts on similar sized tracks have netted no Top-10 finishes and a disappointing 22.2 average finish. Of the Hendrick drivers who bring value to the table this weekend, Bowman is the one to pass on.

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Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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