Sunday was a bad day for Bubba haters. Bubba Wallace earned his second career cup victory in dominant style. After taking the lead for a second time on lap 225, Bubba built up a huge lead. He ultimately finished ahead of Denny Hamlin by a full second. So, with just Chris Bell, who finished third, locked into the second round of the playoffs, and just one more race before the first round of playoff cuts, Best NASCAR Bets is off to Bristol baby!
Bristol is a unique track. At just over half a mile with 26-30 degree banking in the turns, there is nothing else like it on the schedule. Short of Daytona and Talladega, it’s the most unpredictable track on the schedule. Making matters worse for bettors, the first Bristol race each year is now held on dirt, so we have no data from truly comparable tracks in the Gen 7 car. This makes handicapping the race more challenging than Darlington or Kansas where we had lots of recent data to use.
Dover is the best comparable data we have from 2022. While Dover is nearly twice as long, the track is concrete and has steeper banking (24 degrees in the turns). The other mile or shorter tracks, while flatter, also have shown some correlation to Bristol in the past. However, while I am blending these tracks into my performance metric due to the differences in surface type and banking, they are not given a lot of weight.
Nashville is another concrete track but it’s significantly longer at 1.333 miles. Nashville is also much flatter, with just 14 degree banking. Ultimately there was correlation between driver performance at Nashville and Bristol in 2021 so I am including it in my metric. However, like the short flat tracks, I’m not giving Nashville a large amount of weight. This means that without a lot of good 2022 data to use, my expected performance metric is relying far more heavily on driver performance in the Gen 6 car than in past weeks.
As I’m going to be relying heavily on prior performance, a brief overview is in order. Last year this race was dominated by Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick. Harvick had the car to beat late. But after an earlier dust up with Chase Elliott, payback was swift as Elliott blocked Harvick for several laps and held him off of eventual winner Kyle Larson. Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney also led meaningful laps. With all of these drivers back in the playoffs, I expect them to again be factors.
Kurt Busch entered the Cup Series in 2001. Since that time the Busch brothers have won 14 of the 41 Bristol races. That translates to an astounding 34% win rate. Kyle has eight wins here for a 25% win rate. I know I’m sounding like a broken record on Kyle Busch, but sooner or later speed and talent turn into results.
Tyler Reddick, Chris Bell, Noah Gragson, and Chase Briscoe also have a history of success at Bristol. None have won here at the Cup level, but they all have Xfinity wins and multiple top 10 finishes at this track. Erik Jones has had even more success here. While he has never won at the cup level, he has two Xfinity series wins and has five top 10 finishes in nine cup starts. This includes an eighth-place finish last year. Finally, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a number of strong performances here in his Roush days including a pair of second place finishes.
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#18 Kyle Busch +800 | (DraftKings Sportsbook)
I get it, I’m becoming repetitive with my Kyle Busch pitch. But in fairness, I’ve been right about him having speed the past two weeks. At Darlington if the engines in his and Martin Truex Jr’s cars hadn’t blown up late they would have been the two drivers to beat. Last week at Kansas he was making good progress though the field before an incident on lap 138. Turning to this week, Kyle has another great opportunity to get back into victory lane.
Kyle Busch owns this track. As noted above, he has eight Cup wins here, good for a 25% win rate. He has led 2,593 (17%) of the 15,242 laps he has run here. At the Xfinity level he has another nine Bristol wins, which translates to a 33.3% win rate and has led 32.98% of the laps he has run here in that series.
Kyle has performed well at relevant tracks this year too. He had the car to beat at Dover. By the start of the third stage he was leading and had the fastest car on the track. Unfortunately while he was in the middle of a green flag pit stop on lap 322 AJ Allmendinger lost a wheel bringing out a caution. This shuffled Busch to the back of the field. Despite this terrible luck he still managed to work his way back to the top 10 and finish seventh. At Nashville Busch led 54 laps and had 39 fastest laps.
All things considered at +800 I simply can’t pass on the eight time Bristol winner. I’m not worried about him leaving JGR, I believe Busch has at least one more win at JGR in him. I have a unit on Kyle Busch to win and I’m comfortable betting this down to +700.
#43 Erik Jones +5000 and Top 10 +180 | (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Two weeks ago at Darlington Erik Jones Top 10 was one of my favorite plays given his history at the track at Furniture Row and JGR. The same logic applies this week at Bristol. In his eight starts with Furniture Row and JGR Jones finished in the top 5 four times. Last year he added another top 10 finish, coming in either and making him five for nine in this feat.
This year Jones was 10th at Dover in May and qualified inside the top 10 at both Richmond races. Plus Jones is just running well this year in general, with 10 top 10s in 28 races. He has led 122 laps which is more than his past two years combined. I have .2u on Jones outright bet and a full unit on him top 10. I wouldn’t bet either of these options below their current prices though.
#47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Top 10 +300 | (DraftKings Sportsbook)
I actually put a small bet on Stenhouse at +12500 to win when Kambi first released odds at Barstool and BetRivers, but those odds are gone and in any event on further reflection, for reasons I’ll explain below, I don’t know that I like the bet. I do like Stenhouse at Bristol, but I’m more comfortable with his top 10 odds than I am with his outright odds.
Early in his career with Roush, Ricky had a string of three straight top 10 finishes in 2014/2015. He had another three top 10 finishes between 2016 to 2018. Overall Ricky had six top 10 finishes in 14 starts (42%) while driving for Roush.
My issue with Ricky is that despite a pair of second place finishes with Roush, he has never once led a lap here at Bristol. Turning to this year, he finished second at Dover, giving me confidence in his top 10 ability, but again he didn’t lead a single lap that race. So Ricky clearly has what it takes to get into the top 10, but he hasn’t yet shown he can put it over the finish line here at Bristol.
By dropping down to top 10 odds we are buying a lot of cushion for Ricky to run well, but not forcing him to do something he has never done at this track. At +300 the implied probability of the odds is just 25%, well below his historical top 10 rate here. I have a full unit on this bet but wouldn’t go below +300.
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