NASCAR

NASCAR Betting Guide: Bass Pro Shops Night Race

Denny Hamlin won at Bristol in 2019 and has been dominant in the 750-horsepower package throughout 2021. Can he top Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch and win the Bass Pro Shops Night Race?

Entering Saturday night, everything revolves around the Kyles.

Kyle Busch (+420 at FanDuel Sportsbook) and Kyle Larson (+480) are the two favorites to win the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol, and it makes complete sense. Busch is an eight-time winner here, and Larson has had a first-place average running position in both concrete races this year. They're going to be tough to beat.

Unfortunately, their implied win odds (19.2% and 17.2%, respectively) are too high for me to bet. It'd solve a lot of problems if we could just lock those puppies in. Instead, if I want to dabble in outrights this week, I need to find someone who can beat them.

I think that can be done. It just might not be easy.

Let's run through the one favorite and one mid-range option I think could top the Kyles this week. Then we can chat about which Kyle we should prefer and other markets where their presence is less daunting.

Denny Hamlin to Win (+650)

Joe Gibbs Racing has been mighty kind to us in the first round of the playoffs as we've hit on outrights with Denny Hamlin (+800 at Darlington) and Martin Truex Jr. (+550 at Richmond) the past two races. Let's run it back one more time, this time turning back to Hamlin.

The case for Hamlin revolves around his dominance in the 750-horsepower rules package. Across 10 oval races in this package, Hamlin has led 868 laps; nobody else has led more than 692, and just two others have topped 275.

It's also not as if Hamlin has been bad at Bristol, even if he hasn't reached Busch levels of dominance. Hamlin won the night race here in 2019. You could push back by -- correctly! -- asserting that the win took place in a different rules package. But in the 750 package in last year's spring race, Hamlin led 131 laps and had a fifth-place average running position. That speed, though, was masked by a poor finish after Hamlin spun while battling for the lead.

My win simulations have Hamlin taking the checkered flag 16.1% of the time, edging both Larson and Busch for the top spot. They have the track-history advantage, but with Hamlin boasting the better form and still being good here, I'm fine trusting the sims and betting his outright.

Ryan Blaney to Win (+1800)

Ryan Blaney's raw stats make Bristol look like a rough track for him. His average finish in 11 races is 20th, and he has just one top-five finish.

There's a whole lotta bad luck in that resume, though, and it doesn't seem as though oddsmakers are accounting for this.

Across the past 6 Bristol races, Blaney has led 100-plus laps 3 times, and he led 60 circuits in another. But in two of those four, Blaney wrecked with lapped cars while running in the top two spots. Buddy needs an exorcism on his firesuit or something.

Blaney has done a better job of capitalizing on his speed this year. He has won three times, and two of them were races he didn't have the fastest car. The speed's about the same as previous seasons, but he's doing more with it.

Blaney's coming off races at two of his worst tracks historically, Richmond and Darlington. He still managed a top-10 average running position in both races, and he had a top-10 mark at Dover earlier in the year, too. Now that we're back on a track where Blaney has historically competed for wins, I'm back in on betting his outright.

Kyle Larson Over Kyle Busch (-110)

Just from a sheer entertainment perspective, we want some action on the battle of the Kyles this weekend. Luckily, FanDuel has us covered with a matchup bet with Larson at -110 and Busch at -116. At those odds, give me Larson.

The reasoning goes back to something we discussed in the open: Larson has been filthy on concrete this year. He led 527 of a combined 700 laps at Nashville and Dover, finishing 1st and 2nd, respectively. He would have won at Dover, too, had teammate Alex Bowman not beaten him off pit road during the final stop.

Busch had the better speed last week in Richmond and could have won that race if not for a speeding penalty, but the short, flat tracks have been an issue for Larson all year long. Concrete hasn't. Busch's best run at the two concrete tracks was an 11th-place finish at Nashville.

Busch's strong history at Bristol and his speed last week suggest we shouldn't worry too much about his poor record on the 750-horsepower tracks this year. But with Larson, we can get exposure to the elite track history without settling for lower-tier current form. That makes Larson the preferred side of what should be a thrilling matchup.

Tyler Reddick Over Alex Bowman (-108)

In most of the places where Larson runs well, Tyler Reddick follows. They have similar strengths, so this isn't a surprise, and it should give us confidence in betting Reddick over Bowman.

Reddick showed in the Xfinity Series that the Larson overlap isn't just a narrative. Reddick won at Bristol in 2019, one of three podium finishes in four races on concrete that year. He was second in the other Bristol race that year.

Last year proved Reddick could carry those skills to the sport's top level, as well. He had a 10th-place average running position in the Bristol fall race and wound up finishing 4th. That's better than Bowman's career-best finish at Bristol (5th), and Bowman has had a top-13 average running position just once.

Bowman did win on concrete at Dover and has the better overall form in the 750-horsepower package. But my model projects an average running position of 14.4 for Reddick compared to 15.9 for Bowman, so I'll side with Reddick here and hope he builds on his solid run last year.

Chase Briscoe to Finish Top 10 (+600)

After Reddick and Christopher Bell graduated to the Cup Series, it was Chase Briscoe's turn to take up the mantle of Concrete King in the Xfinity Series. This number (which you can find at FoxBet with no top-10 odds up at FanDuel) undersells his skills on these tracks.

Briscoe started his reign in the fall of 2019 race at Bristol, finishing second to Reddick. Then, across four concrete races in 2020, Briscoe had two wins and a runner-up. Briscoe's best runs generally came on tracks with high banking, and few check the high-banking box more emphatically than Bristol.

Things haven't been great for Briscoe this year as his top finish in the 750-horsepower rules package on an oval is 11th. He has run well enough on road courses, though (which utilize the same rules package), to show that he's not completely out to lunch. In what could be a race with heavy attrition, taking a longshot top-10 bet on Briscoe feels fully appropriate.