In this Nov. 3, 2019, file photo, Kevin Harvick (4) and Aric Almirola (10) battle for position during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, in Fort Worth, Texas.
In this Nov. 3, 2019, file photo, Kevin Harvick (4) and Aric Almirola (10) battle for position during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, in Fort Worth, Texas. |Larry Papke | Associated Press
NASCAR

NASCAR Sunday: The Eckel 4 have odds and picks for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway

Race time is 3 pm EDT and will be broadcast on NBCS

Mark Eckel

Kyle Busch is hoping for something that hasn’t happened all year, while Denny Hamlin is hoping for something that hasn’t happened ever.

NASCAR, fresh off its All-Star break, heads to Texas for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, Sunday. Busch and Hamlin are two of the circuit’s story lines.

Last year’s Cup Champion, Busch, has yet to win in 16 tries this season. He returns to a race Sunday where he’s the only three-time winner. Hamlin, who won this race a year ago is looking to become the first driver, in the 33-year history of the race, to repeat.

“It’s certainly been frustrating this year,’’ Busch said after a second-place finish to Chase Elliott in the All-Star race. “It seems like any time I fall into a rhythm; I back up myself just a little bit to 90, 95%, I’m going backwards. I’m getting passed, slowing down. You can’t run at 100% all the time every lap. When you do, you start making mistakes. We’ve just been run into a lot this year, too. When we’ve had nothing happen, we get run into. Those are bad finishes, as well. I don’t know. We can chalk it up to a whole bunch of things. For lack of a better term is we’ve got to be faster.”

Busch won five times in 2019, finished first in the point standings and went on to win the Cup Championship. This season he sits in 11th place, 15 points behind his brother Kurt, who is 10th and 98 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

“It’s tough. We’re struggling right now,” Busch said. “There’s just no speed in our race cars for some reason. I don’t know what’s going on.

“We do have six second‑place finishes. I think, four, five, six, whatever the hell it is. We’ve been close a couple of times.’’

Here is the way the Eckel 4, which includes Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker, Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney and Barry “Dr. NASCAR’’ Davis see the race. Use the picks to win, place in the top 3 or 5 and in your fantasy plays.

Kevin Harvick (3-1): It’s hard to pick such a short favorite, but it’s even harder to leave out Harvick, who has been dominant this year and dominant in Texas. Since 2017 he has three wins and five top 5 finishes in the Lone Star State.

Kyle Busch (6-1): Not only is “Tobacco Road’’ sticking with Busch, but he has “Left Turn’’ on the Rowdy bandwagon with him.

Aric Almirola (25-1): He continues to do two things: Race well and be ignored by the oddsmakers. He won’t be overlooked by The Eckel 4.

Ryan Blaney (11-1): He’s never won in Texas, but he’s having a really good year, especially at 1.5-mile tracks.

Denny Hamlin (6-1): The Eckel 4, or at least two of the four, think a repeat is very possible.

Longshot Plays: Clint Bowyer (50-1); Eric Jones (25-1)

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