Welcome back to my early NASCAR best bets ahead of Watkins Glen! In February, if you asked me who the first driver to win back to back races this year would be, my answer would not have been Kevin Harvick. But on Sunday Harvick did just that. Harvick was slow out of the gates, finishing 20th in stage 1. But during his first pit stop his team worked wonders, and his car came to life.
Joey Logano had a rocketship all day, but as cloud cover came in Joey faded. At the same time Joey was fading, Harvick was coming to life. Midway through the third stage, Harvick took the lead. Harvick had to battle for the win, first holding off Chris Buescher and then outlasting a charging Chris Bell (who was on an alternate tire strategy), but at the end of the day the #4 team was back in victory lane.
With Richmond now in the books, we turn back to road course racing at Watkins Glen. NASCAR will be running the 2.45 mil short circuit track at the Glen for 90 laps. This is the fifth road course of the season so we have a good deal of data to look at.
Projecting Watkins Glen
I’m primarily focused on two things when handicapping road races. First: overall recent speed on all tracks. Second: driver performance at road courses with an emphasis on those with more similarity to the current track. Putting those factors into the hopper we get an expected performance metric that, based on road course performance alone, is somewhat surprising. My raw metric was very high on Toyota, putting all four JGR cars in the top 10.
That my metric likes Toyota isn’t surprising to me, in incident adjusted speed over recent races Toyota has been fast. However, while Toyota did perform somewhat better at the Indy Road Course, I just can’t trust them at road courses right now. So I added a manual anchor to the Toyota cars. Honestly, this feels like I’m just matching what the manufacturer has done at road courses.
What’s left makes a lot of sense and won’t surprise many. Chase Elliott is my top ranked driver, with Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson hot on his heels. Austin Cindric also makes appearances as a driver who would be expected to perform well. What might surprise some is that Kevin Harvick and Chris Buescher also make appearances as higher rated drivers. Unfortunately, books are onto us somewhat with the very top-tier drivers. Fortunately, this does open up some value on the mid-tier, so onto the picks.
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Go Bowling at the Glen: Early NASCAR Best Bets
#4 Kevin Harvick +3000| (Barstool and BetRivers Sportsbooks)
What are the odds Harvick goes back to back to back for the second time in his career? I’d say it’s around or slightly above the 3.23% implied odds of this +3000 bet. Harvick has had plenty of pace recently, and it’s not like he has been bad at road courses this year as he has been slightly above field average in speed at road courses.
He has finishes of 11th, 4th, and 10th to go with a late-race wreck at Indy (although admittedly he wasn’t running very well at that point). Harvick has won here before, he is a crafty veteran who gets position, and he is running very well right now. This is worth a small play at 30/1. I would bet this to +2500.
#4 Kevin Harvick +140 over Ryan Blaney | (DraftKings Sportsbook)
My expected performance metric is not a big fan of Blaney this week, while it really likes Kevin Harvick. That alone would make me want to take Harvick here, but beyond that, the current points situation between Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. suggests Blaney is likely to be off the optimal finishing strategy.
Right now Blaney has a 26 point lead on Truex for the last playoff spot. Blaney may be worried about a surprise 16th winner that would take him out. But I think the bigger concern should be a wreck at Daytona taking him out early letting Truex try to cruise around and point his way in over him. So on Sunday points racing may be the name of the game for Blaney.
Toyota has had anchors out at road courses. So this is a great opportunity for Blaney to put space between him and Truex. If Blaney is racing for stage points he will be staying out at the breaks and falling back at the start of stage 3. That gives Harvick, who is racing as good as he has in years, a huge leg up. I’d bet this all the way down to even money.
#17 Christopher Buescher +2500 | (DraftKings Sportsbook)
My expected performance metric sees upside with Buescher this week. I personally missed him at 30-1 when DraftKings initially posted because I was still tweaking things and wasn’t sure where I was. That was a mistake. Buescher is getting bet heavy across every book and is down to as low as +1600 at Kambi books. The only book left where I would bet Buescher is DraftKings where he is still at +2500.
Buescher has road course finishes of 21, 2, 6, and 10 so far this year and is coming off his second-best race of the year at Richmond where he finished 3rd. Overall his speed, like that of his teammate/owner Brad Keslowski has been average, but he is coming to race at road courses, and I’m not going to keep sleeping on him. Add in the good karma vibes from him steering into Dale Jr. calling him Christopher all race on Sunday, and I’m in for half a unit. I wouldn’t go below +2500 though.
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