Podium Preview: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas

All things considered, today's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas may prove as a hotly contested NASCAR Cup Series race! (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

All things considered, today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas may prove as a hotly contested NASCAR Cup Series race! (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Without a doubt, today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas might serve as one of the toughest tests of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. After all, beyond marking as the halfway point of the year, it’ll be one of the hottest race days of the year.

Sure, if you’re a Chevrolet racer, this 1.5-mile quad-oval track proves treacherous. However, for those in a Ford or Toyota, this 23-year-old track may prove favorable and quite fast.

Certainly, if Kentucky favored the bold, Texas gravitates towards the confident, fearless drivers. Undoubtedly, for those not named Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick, today’s another chance with a race win and chance to contend in the Playoffs.

Each week, The Podium Finish’s panelists, Ashley HobbsChrissi LuttrellCody ShoppeIsabelle Beecy, Kobe LambethMatteo MarcheschiMichelle RaynorTerra Jones, and yours truly will share their thoughts on the latest happenings in NASCAR.

First, we consider aspects of NBC’s NASCAR coverage and the next first-time Cup winner!

Podium Preview: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
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Question 1
First, how will the NASCAR on NBC booth fare during the COVID-19 pandemic? (Photo Credit: NBC Sports Media)

First, how will the NASCAR on NBC booth fare during the COVID-19 pandemic? (Photo Credit: NBC Sports Media)

NBC takes over coverage of NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series races for the remainder of the year. Given these current times, what are some things that you look forward to with NBC covering these races?

Sisoler : I think NBC will have a bit of a challenge, but not as much as FOX did with trying to figure things out basically on the fly. FOX set the guidelines, if you will, for doing remote coverage during this pandemic. And they did a great job in a nearly impossible situation. NBC now just has to pick up where FOX left off, and they should be alright.

I’m looking forward to seeing the rapport between Rick Allen, Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. back on screen for the rest of the season. They’ve had a great one since Dale Jr. joined them after his retirement. And, hearing the way the quartet are seamless in their banter during coverage is like hearing old friends as drivers chat watching cars go around during practice rather than broadcasters separated from the track.

Lambeth :  First and foremost, I want to acknowledge FOX for their coverage during an unprecedented season. At the beginning of 2020, I am sure that broadcasting NASCAR races in the middle of a global pandemic was not in their plans. Kudos to them for adjusting and making the most of the current situation. With that said, I am looking forward to NBC for the remainder of the 2020 season.

Rick Allen, Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. do an amazing job by sharing their perspective with the viewers at home. They always offer unique coverage on NBC. In a way, it seems more conversational. It is similar to watching a race with your buddies and discussing the action with them. Last year, I really enjoyed the #MyTrackMyRoots feature. It will be interesting to see what they come up with this year. Without a doubt, I think we should see another year of excellent coverage by the NBC Sports crew.

Hobbs :  I hope for a more laid back approach, to be honest. I have never been a fan of the suit and tie approach both networks take to broadcasting because it does not fit the sport. I think NBC can learn from FOX as to what worked and what did not work when it came to remote broadcasting.

But ultimately, we will just have to wait and see. However, I can say that I will miss the drone footage from FOX; NBC will have to come up with something unique to compete with that footage.

Marcheschi :  I’m certainly looking forward to the perspectives of our former drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Burton, as well as the insight of Steve Letarte. I’m excited to see what NBC can come up with to compete with FOX’s drone cam and what they may come up within other departments that FOX hasn’t even considered yet. While the pandemic will certainly limit NBC’s personnel at the track, I expect their coverage to be solid nonetheless.

Jones :  While both networks have their pros and cons, I have felt in recent years that the NBC team is akin to watching a race with friends. So I am definitely looking forward to the insight that Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Burton, and Steve Letarte bring to the broadcast. I, like other members on our team, look forward to seeing their take on remote broadcasting and what fun tricks they have up their sleeves (please, no more nausea-inducing, upside down drone shots!) for the next stretch of the season. 

Raynor : I am looking forward to seeing and hearing Steve, Jeff, Rick and Dale Jr on the broadcast. They bring a different kind of energy than FOX. This team explains better what is going on and if you have never seen a race before they do a great job at making you understand. I love how enthusiastic Dale Jr is and he truly brings life to some of the most boring races we have. We don’t have to worry about the broadcast itself as NBC does a better job in that department.

Torres :  Not having to worry about number font woes on the race graphics. Okay, it boils down to the genuine and honestly not forceful team chemistry. Albeit they’re not at the track, they’ll make most of the coverage where I don’t feel like questioning facts or any of that silly stuff.

NBC has been super consistent in that department and I don’t see things being any different where my mind will change. The network values the sport that goes beyond the bare minimum, so it’ll be great seeing the Peacock gang at it for another compelling year.

Most importantly, they know how to catch things where we don’t have to worry about what in the world happened to bring out a caution like FOX.

Question 2
Cole Custer has caught a wild Pokémon! (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Cole Custer has caught a wild Pokémon! (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Following Cole Custer’s first Cup Series win at Kentucky, which driver has the potential to score their maiden victory?

Tiongson :  Firstly, congratulations to Cole Custer on his first-ever Cup win. He absolutely earned it and he showcased his incredible talents during the waning moments of an exciting sprint to the finish at Kentucky.

As for anyone who could duplicate Custer’s surprising win, John Hunter Nemechek or Tyler Reddick, his fellow rookie rivals, have massive potential to score victories in 2020. If it came down to a relatively “experienced” driver who remains winless in Cup, William Byron and his No. 24 team have the potential to score a victory, perhaps as early as Texas!

Shoppe :  While Tyler Reddick has been performing better so far this year, I still think Christopher Bell has a chance to be the next rookie winner! Bell, with all his truck and XFINITY success, he will be a winner sooner rather than later! 

Beecy :  I have a feeling Tyler Reddick will be the next one to get his first win soon. He’s been doing really well the past few weeks. So, it’s only a matter of time before he takes home the checkers.

Luttrell :   Talk about an exciting finish! I would be lying if I said I thought Cole Custer would be the first out of the XFINITY Series rookies to get a Cup win. He has shown steady growth throughout this unconventional rookie season. And he’s continued to improve each week with his finishing positions.

Looking back over his season so far, I am not actually surprised that he was able to pull off a win during such a chaotic last lap. So a huge congratulations to him and his entire team!

Moving forward, Tyler Reddick has been showing real strength and speed on track. He’s been running consistently well each race, finishing in the top 10 five times and one top 5. I expect to see Tyler score his first Cup win this season.

By all means, two laps around Texas proves quite enjoyable! Now, let’s review last Sunday’s wild action from Kentucky!
However, wouldn't it be nice if the machine relinquished the points lead?

However, wouldn’t it be nice if the machine relinquished the points lead?

Next, Ashley Hobbs crunches the numbers for today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas!

How does your favorite team fare at Texas?

Next, consider the stats for manufacturers at this Lone Star State track.

Next, consider the stats for manufacturers at this Lone Star State track.

Since 2004, the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 winner has an average starting spot of 8.5, led an average of 90.6 laps, started within the top-five 56.25 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 75 percent of the time.

Since 2004, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 winner has an average starting spot of 8.5, led an average of 90.6 laps, started within the top-five 56.25 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 75 percent of the time.

Fortune favors Rowdy.

Fortune favors Rowdy.

Next, here's your trends since 2010.

Next, here’s your trends since 2010.

Now, here's the trends since 2015.

Now, here’s the trends since 2015.

Ultimately, don't be surprised with the machine's pick.

Ultimately, don’t be surprised with the machine’s pick.

Ultimately, winning matters, so here’s our picks for today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas!
All in all, seven race picks means shuffle up and deal at Texas!

All in all, seven race picks means shuffle up and deal at Texas!

Hobbs :   Two-steppin’ his way to victory in Texas and ready for a pair of six-shooters is none other than Denny Hamlin.

Shoppe :  With his past success at TMS, as well as the great season he’s had so far, hard to bet against the 11 this weekend at Texas!

Luttrell :  I’m going with Denny Hamlin to win Texas. He’s had an awesome season so far, and has honestly been the strongest contender for JGR thus far. 

TPF Stats :  Brace yourself for a rumble in Texas as the field tries to dethrone Kevin Harvick.

Sisoler :  Could it be any different? When it comes to the wild west oval at Texas, there’s no better gunslinger than the driver of the No. 4 Mustang out of the SHR stables, Kevin Harvick. Expect “Happy” to be firing the six-shooters in victory lane on Sunday.

Beecy :  Kyle Busch is starting near the front this week and has several wins at this track. So, I think Rowdy is going to get his fourth cowboy hat this weekend.

Jones :  It’s been a few weeks since I picked Jimmie Johnson. And I think it’s time the seven-time champion finds Victory Lane this season. He knows his way around Texas, having picked up a few cowboy hats along the way. And he will add another to the collection this Sunday night.

Lambeth : Aric Almirola has certainly been Almirolling lately, scoring six top 10s in-a-row. His eighth-place finish at Kentucky ended a streak of five consecutive top-fives. But, he still managed to bring home a top-10 in the Bluegrass State. I expect him to carry the momentum into Texas and secure his playoff berth this weekend.

Marcheschi  :  Martin Truex Jr finished second at Kentucky, and led 57 laps. He has never won at Texas Motor Speedway. But, he’s finished inside the top-10 in eight out of the last 10 races there. So, it’s reasonable to assume that win is coming.

Between a second-place finish at Kentucky, which is similar to Texas, as well as two top-10 finishes at Charlotte, another similar track, Truex may have what it takes to take victory at Texas.

Tiongson :  I like Joey Logano’s chances this Sunday to snap out of this strange sneaky streak with an O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 win.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this Sunday’s race? Who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  Please stay safe and wear a mask if you must go out!

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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