NASCAR Betting Guide: Quaker State 400
The past three NASCAR Cup Series races have been all about Kevin Harvick (+370) and Denny Hamlin (+550). The two have combined to win all three races, and they could have swept the top two spots in each had Hamlin not wrecked while leading late in Indianapolis. Nobody else has been in the same stratosphere as these two.
But now, the Cup Series is going back to a 1.5-mile track. Harvick and Hamlin have one win each on that track type, but there haven't been any repeat winners through the first five races on these tracks.
Harvick and Hamlin (along with Chase Elliott at +550) have the shortest odds at FanDuel Sportsbook, and those three are also the tops in my model. But with how things have worked this year, it looks like we have some leeway to look beyond those three and take some swipes at drivers with longer odds.
Of those three, Hamlin seems to be the best value. If you want to bet a favorite, he's likely your best outlet. But who else could climb their way into victory lane on Sunday? Let's check it out.
Kyle Busch (+700)
This is the 17th Cup Series betting guide we've published on numberFire in 2020. In the previous 16, Kyle Busch has been recommended exactly one time. That was prior to the Busch Clash in Daytona, which isn't even a points-paying race.
We're going to break that streak today. Busch's odds have finally gotten to a point where he shapes up as a bit of a value.
As mentioned, Harvick, Hamlin, and Elliott are the top three in my model, but there's really a couple of tiers here. Harvick and Hamlin are in their own tier. Then Elliott is in a second tier, followed closely by Busch and Ryan Blaney (more on him in a second). So Busch gets us access to that second tier without laying down some sort of crazy number.
He also benefits from the starting order, which was set on Wednesday night. Busch drew the pole position for the race, and Harvick is the only other guy in these top two tiers who drew within the top eight spots. That'll get Busch plus track position, something he hasn't had most of the season.
Although Busch is yet to win either a stage or a race this year, he hasn't been whiffing completely. He was runner-up in Atlanta and had a fourth-place average running position, and he was fourth in the first Charlotte race. Busch has had a top-five average running position in seven of nine career races in Kentucky. If he's going to snap out of this slump any time soon, there aren't many spots better than Kentucky for that to happen.
Ryan Blaney (+1200)
Unlike Busch, Blaney has not been a stranger to these betting guides. If we've done 16 of them, he has probably made 23 appearances. But we're going to run it back again here.
The main reasoning is that Blaney has had big-time speed on the 1.5-mile tracks. Blaney has four finishes of fourth or better across five races. In the other race, he was leading late but decided to pit when a caution came out. He couldn't make up the track position and finished 11th. Add it all together, and Blaney has been in contention in all five races on this track type in 2020.
Kentucky isn't Blaney's best track, but he does have a runner-up finish here in 2018 in which he had a fourth-place average running position. With tracks like Kentucky, though, where the Cup Series makes just one stop per season, we need to put more weight on current form than track history. Doing so makes Blaney -- once again -- a clear betting value at 12/1 for Sunday's race.
Alex Bowman (+1900)
With the return to a 1.5-mile track, we should be inclined to buy back into Hendrick Motorsports. They had top-tier speed here earlier in the year but have fallen off on the fast, flat tracks.
The most logical route would be Elliott, but as mentioned, he's +550 and in the same tier of my model as Busch and Blaney, both of whom have longer odds. Instead, we can get exposure to the team by checking out Alex Bowman.
Bowman is due for some progression on the 1.5-mile tracks entering the weekend. In the first five races on this track type, he has exactly zero top-10 finishes. However, only Harvick has led more laps than Bowman on these tracks. He was pushing Blaney for the lead late in Las Vegas before that caution derailed things, and Bowman had a ninth-place average running position in Homestead. Bowman's first career Cup Series win came last year in Chicago, another 1.5-mile track with moderate banking.
This streak of bad luck is going to snap for Bowman eventually. If he can put together a full race, he's a good bet to contend for the win, and he'll be starting up in the fifth spot. With where each driver's odds sit, Bowman seems to be the best route for buying Hendrick, making him a high-quality bet for the field as a whole.
Matt DiBenedetto (+7000)
Matt DiBenedetto's recent hot streak started on tracks dissimilar to Kentucky, and we need to keep that in mind. However, speed is speed, and he keeps showing again and again that he's got it.
Over the past six races, DiBenedetto has had a top-10 average running position three times. That's something he had done three times in his entire Cup Series career before that point. He seems to have gotten used to his new team at Wood Brothers Racing, and he's finally cashing that in with quality runs.
This is yet another driver who ran up front back in Las Vegas. After Blaney and Bowman and others pitted, DiBenedetto stayed out and started third on the final restart. DiBenedetto gave Joey Logano (+900) a run for his money but ultimately finished second. With the similar banking between Las Vegas and Kentucky, we should put plenty of weight in what we saw there, and what we saw out of DiBenedetto was some upside.
If we look at just the current form section of my model, DiBenedetto sits sixth. That's overrating him for sure, so I wouldn't rank him there personally. However, the speed has been there recently, and he'll start the race in the 10th position. With his odds down at 70/1, we can afford to put some stock in those recent runs and put some money on DiBenedetto getting his first win.