Saturday, April 7, 2018

Final Texas Driver Ratings: 2018 O'Reilly Auto Parts 500

Kevin Harvick is still the King of 1.5-mile tracks.
Kevin Harvick is still 'King of the Hill' on another 1.5-mile track, but unlike the first two at Atlanta and Las Vegas where he won, there appears to be -- on paper -- many more cars capable of hunting him down in Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. At least that's what speeds from Saturday's final two practices suggest.

And for the first time, we have a gaggle of Chevy's showing some speed, namely Hendrick Motorsports with seven-time Texas winner Jimmie Johnson posting the fastest lap (198.143 mph) during Saturday's final session. In Saturday's earlier session, Richard Childress Racing's Ryan Newman had the best 10-consecutive lap average and HMS rookie William Byron had the third best speed (198.741).

I came in believing the Team Penske trio would give Harvick the most trouble, but the practices show Joe Gibbs Racing as being the top contender with Daniel Suarez first and third fastest in the two sessions and Erik Jones seventh or better in both, including the second-best 10-consecutive lap average during happy hour, just behind Kevin Harvick in that category, of course.

However, I don't believe that everyone else got better all of a sudden. No way! How about we just say the track was awful and let's throw all the times in the trash and stick with the meat and potatoes based on recent Texas history and what happened in Atlanta and Las Vegas .

I'm not putting too much into the practice times and they don't factor much into my final ratings.

When Johnson runs only three laps in the final session while having the fastest time, something is wrong. This guy wants to build on finally having 2018 success, but he calls it quits and says, "we're good"? No, I'm not buying all is good.

Denny Hamlin didn't even run a lap during Happy Hour and had just five laps after posting the second-fastest lap in the early session. This isn't Talladega or Daytona where they do stuff like that.

So, while all the new faces and speeds posted near the top look promising, my suggestion is to be skeptical when wagering or setting your fantasy line-up.

I'm also expecting lots accidents. Be careful out there, boys.

SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2018 - 2:16 PM ET

 1. Kevin Harvick 3/1           2nd        2nd        5th       2nd
 2. Martin Truex Jr. 4/1        10th        6th      11th        5th
 3. Kyle Busch 4/1                 4th        8th      19th      11th
 4. Denny Hamlin 15/1         6th         5th       2nd      DNP
 5. Erik Jones 20/1               15th       21st       6th         7th
 6. Ryan Blaney 15/1              5th        4th      10th      10th
 7. Kyle Larson 7/1                18th     10th        8th        6th
 8. Brad Keselowski 8/1         8th      11th      14th      23rd
 9. Kurt Busch 40/1                1st        1st       12th        4th
10. Joey Logano 12/1             16th       7th         7th      24th
11. Aric Almirola 50/1            9th       12th      21st     12th
12. Clint Bowyer 30/1             3rd        3rd     22nd        9th
13. Jimmie Johnson 20/1       12th        9th        4th         1st
14. Ryan Newman 100/1       11th      25th      17th     30th
15. Daniel Suarez 100/1        13th      14th        1st        3rd

Opening odds courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Micah Roberts, a former Las Vegas sports book director, has been setting auto racing odds in Las Vegas since 1994.

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