Fantasy Update: The battle of Hendrick vs. Toyota continues at Texas

Fantasy Update: The battle of Hendrick vs. Toyota continues at Texas

Earlier this week, Kyle Larson was on the absolute edge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, running the second-quickest speed in an open test in preparation for next month‘s Indianapolis 500. The 2021 Cup Series champion backed that up by putting together the fastest pole-winning speed on a 1.5-mile track in the Next Gen era, mimicking the sensation of speed that he felt earlier this week. Hendrick Motorsports and the Toyota teams of Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing put eight of its collective 10 entries in the top 11 starting positions for Sunday‘s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400.

RELATED: Set your Fantasy Live lineup

Dustin Albino‘s race-day lineup:

Starter 1: Kyle Larson
Starter 2: William Byron
Starter 3: Tyler Reddick
Starter 4: Bubba Wallace
Starter 5: Ty Gibbs
Garage pick: Ryan Blaney

NEXT IN LINE: Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.

RISING: Ty Gibbs has never been fond of Texas, as he hasn‘t seen instant success like he has at many of the other race tracks on the NASCAR circuit. In two Cup Series starts, he has a best finish of 20th — and he wrecked out last fall. The No. 54 team put that notion to rest on Saturday, as Gibbs equaled the best qualifying effort of his career in second. Gibbs also cracked the top five on 15- and 20-lap averages.

Looking outside the Hendrick and Toyota sphere, we noted earlier this week that Briscoe was one of three drivers to have top 10s in all three Next Gen races at Texas. The No. 14 team showed up to the track with contending speed yet again, though he fell off on long-run pace. For the sixth time this season, Briscoe made the final round of qualifying and matched his best start of the season in fifth (Martinsville).

FALLING: The hits keep on coming for Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing in this young 2024 season. Midway through Group B practice, the No. 8 car got loose and backed into the wall. It was reminiscent of his wreck in the Round of 12 race at Texas last fall, going as far as putting the car in reverse down the backstretch to not drag the diffuser. The severity of the damage was enough for the No. 8 team to unload the backup car. Randall Burnett, crew chief of the No. 8 Chevrolet, wasn‘t enthused, stating on the radio: “We‘ll be lucky if we even get the backup ready to race.”

The concern within RFK Racing might rise a bit after Brad Keselowski qualified 22nd. There isn‘t a real read on the No. 6 car because it was one of eight cars that never made a run of at least 10 laps in practice. I‘m staying away from Keselowski this weekend, knowing he‘s another one of the drivers that has top 10s in all three Texas races in the Next Gen car.


William Byron vs. Kyle Larson: As Larson summed it up so eloquently following his pole-winning lap, Byron has taken away many wins from the No. 5 team over the past two seasons. The most recent was just last weekend at Martinsville. Both cars looked to be real contenders for the win on Sunday, but this has been a place Larson has been among the best at since joining Hendrick, having led 99 or more laps in two of the three races.

Daniel Suarez vs. Brad Keselowski: The No. 99 team is likely disappointed with a 17th-place qualifying effort because Suarez — and Trackhouse — ranked towards the top in all categories on Saturday. Keselowski had a ho-hum day, so I‘m making the switch to Suarez after practice and qualifying.

Bubba Wallace vs. Tyler Reddick: This matchup rivals Larson vs. Byron as the epitome of tough choices going into race day. However, Reddick has a slight advantage in every metric possible and was the fastest car in the field on 10, 15 and 20-lap averages. Wallace has a hot rod, but I‘m not sure that he has the raw speed to outduel his 23XI teammate.

Ryan Blaney vs. Chase Elliott: Blaney has excelled at Texas in recent years whereas Elliott has gone in the wrong direction from earlier in his career at this track. That struggle continued into practice and qualifying on Saturday, with Blaney having the superior car to the No. 9 team. Bank on Blaney this weekend.