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2023 AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400: Preview, Best Bets, Longshot Pick

The second elimination phase of the NASCAR Cup Series begins with Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.

William Byron, who has won a series-best five races this season, and regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. hold a slim four-point edge over Denny Hamlin. Hamlin is coming off a win in Bristol and is nine points clear of Kyle Larson to begin the Round of 12.


Tyler Reddick, who won two weeks ago and is the defending champ this week, currently occupies the eighth and final spot that will advance after the next three races. But that’s only three points ahead of Ross Chastain and Brad Keselowski, with Ryan Blaney another three points back and Bubba Wallace currently eight points behind Blaney. “I’m looking forward to Texas,” Byron said. “It will be hot there and slick, which will lead to guys making mistakes. We just need to not be one of them and stay ahead of all that. We need to try to win it or at least maximize our points day. “You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get if you want to run for a championship. There are only 12 cars left. You need to execute. This is the time to really show what you have.”


Our motor racing experts preview Sunday’s race and provide their five best bets to win this week along with one longshot worth keeping an eye on.


AUTOTRADE ECHOPARK AUTOMATIVE 400

Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas The Date: Saturday, Sept. 24, 3:30 p.m. ET The Distance: 400 miles Defending Champion: Tyler Reddick Cup Series Leader: William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. TV: USA Network Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR Radio


5 BEST BETS Denny Hamlin (+525 at BetMGM) The three-time Daytona 500 winning veteran is still competing for his first series title in a sure-bet Hall of Fame career. He is one of only four current Playoff drivers (also including Larson, Reddick and Kyle Busch) to win a Playoff race at Texas. And his three Texas trophies are second only to the four-time winner Busch among active drivers. Hamlin has scored top-10 finishes in the last three Texas races.


Kyle Larson (+600) Larson’s 2.33 average finish in the opening three Playoff races is second all-time to Greg Biffle (1.67 in 2008) in a three-race Playoff span. He last won at Texas in 2021 leading a dominating 256 of the 334 laps — eclipsing Jimmie Johnson’s 255 laps led in a 2013 victory — and setting the stage for what would be his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Larson’s 13 top-five finishes are most in the series this season and he and Byron are tied for most top-five finishes (three) at 1.5-mile tracks. Larson is the book’s biggest liability this week as he leads the field with the most total bets (16.7 percent) and money (23.4 percent) backing him to win.


William Byron (+800) Byron boasts the most laps led (877) overall and has the best average finish (5.25) and most laps led (277) specifically on 1.5-mile tracks this season. He’s BetMGM’s third-biggest liability, having drawn 9.4 percent of the total bets.


Martin Truex Jr. (+800) Truex has had a rough start to the playoffs, with last week’s 19th at Bristol at least an improvement on his 36th at Kansas. He’s still in excellent position to begin the Round of 12, and is third at BetMGM with 10.1 percent of the money backing him to win.


Kyle Busch (+1400) The veteran is a threat at any track and is typically popular with the public. It’s no different this week, with Busch being the book’s second-biggest liability as he has been backed by 7.8 percent of the bets and 10.3 percent of the money. Busch is coming off a 20th at Bristol, but remains in contention in sixth place.


LONGSHOT PICK Kevin Harvick (+2500) Harvick, who has been eliminated from playoff contention in his final season after reaching the Round of 16, also has three wins on the Fort Worth high banks. He has yet to win this season, but does have 12 top-10s and six top-5s.

–Field Level Media (NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this story)

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