Texas Motor Speedway is an example of a new way of thinking in NASCAR.
Hearing the clamoring for more road course races, they sensed the inevitable and found a way to continue to profit by leasing the Circuit of the Americas and moving one of their two Cup dates there. Now Texas officially has one date plus the May All-Star race in May.
This is even more notable because in 2002, a minority investor went so far as to sue NASCAR because he alleged the series failed to deliver on a promised second date. TMS – and Texans – are feisty.
Even with the elimination of Texas’ spring date, similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks continue to dominate the schedule. In 2021, there were nine races on this course type featuring six different winners. Kyle Larson was the only driver to win multiple times and one of these came at Texas in the EchoPark 500. If NASCAR had not shortened the leased race at COTA, he might well have won there also.
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Each of the so-called “cookie-cutter” tracks is different, of course. Weather patterns, the age of the pavement, and slight variations to corner entry angles and banking make a difference that is big to the drivers, but only makes a minor blip on the stats’ sheets. Currently the nine races on this track type are held on six different venues. One might also toss Michigan International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway into the mix and call this group unrestricted, intermediate speedways, but no matter how you consider them, there is a ton of data to parse.
Texas was awarded that hard-fought second date in 2005 and until last year, they ran two events there per year. Add in a slew of Xfinity and Truck Series races, and most of the drivers in the field have a ton of experience there. Experience counts on this track. Of the seven active drivers with Texas wins, three have each earned three or more. Kyle Busch leads the group with four. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have three apiece.
In the past three races, two drivers have earned their first victories. Larson’s 2021 win cannot be described as anything except expected given the heater he was on at the time. Austin Dillon winning in spring 2020 was much less anticipated, but it bears noting that it came during the early months of a return to racing after the COVID-19 break.
One of the data points we look at to determine if dark horses will run well on a given course is the average win number for the victorious drivers. Two drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton, earned their first Cup win on this course. Ryan Newman and Elliott Sadler scored second wins with Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, and Dillon getting their third.
Altogether, only 10 of 41 drivers have scored a single-digit career win on this course, and except for Dillon and Joey Logano (with his fourth win in 2014), that feat has not been accomplished in the last 30 Texas races.
Anything can happen in NASCAR, but one can reasonably expect the winner this year to be someone who already has double-digit victories.
Another storyline of note this year is that Texas’ second date moves from the Round of 8 to the Round of 12.
In 2020, the EchoPark 500 was the second race of the first round; last year it was the first race of that round. For 2022, this race will kick off the second round after four drivers, including (quite possibly) a couple of drivers who squeaked their way into the playoffs with carburetor-restricted superspeedway lottery wins or surprise strategy calls.
Since 90 percent of the wins during the knockout format have gone to current playoff contenders, this ups the likelihood of that a favorite is going to win.
Still, that doesn’t mean some longshots won’t be relevant to your betting strategy. Larson’s win in 2021 came with a favored line of +325 at PointsBet Sportsbook, but Christopher Bell finished third at +4000. That should have drug his top-three and -five odds to a plus level on many books. Second-place William Byron and fourth-place Brad Keselowski had closing lines of +1600.
2022 Race (Round of 12, Race 1)
September 25, EchoPark 500
14: Kyle Busch
13: Kevin Harvick
11: Joey Logano
7: Denny Hamlin
6: Brad Keselowski
5: Martin Truex, Jr.
4: Kyle Larson
3: Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones
2: Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez
1: William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola
Christopher Bell: 2 top-fives; 2 lead lap finishes; running at the end of all 3 races
Kyle Busch: 5 top-10s; 7 lead lap finishes; running at the end of all 31 races
Ryan Blaney: 4 top-10s (and 7 of 8); 4 lead lap finishes
Brad Keselowski: 3 top-10s; 3 lead lap finishes
Austin Dillon: 6 lead lap finishes
Tyler Reddick: 3 lead lap finishes (all); running at the end of all 3 races
William Byron: 2 lead lap finishes
Denny Hamlin: 2 lead lap finishes
Chase Elliott: running at the end of all 11 races
Erik Jones: running at the end of all 10 races
Daniel Suarez: running at the end of all 9 races
Ross Chastain: running at the end of all 5 races
Josh Bilicki: running at the end of all 4 races
BJ McLeod: running at the end of all 3 races
Bubba Wallace: 4 consecutive accidents
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Atlanta Motor Speedway
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road)
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Michigan International Speedway
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Watkins Glen International
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