UPDATED – Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Matchup Props: Bet on Brad Keselowski at Toyota Owners 400
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski
- Matthew Freedman continues his series featuring at least one of his favorite bets for each day of 2019.
- On Saturday, he looks at the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX) and highlights the driver matchups featuring Brad Keselowski.
Each day, I publish 1-2 pieces highlighting props I like. See my master list of 2019 prop bets for more information.
In this piece, I’m looking at a few driver matchups I like for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
For daily player props outside of NASCAR, follow me in The Action Network app.
2019 Year-to-Date Record
526-400-32, +82.28 Units
- NFL: 21-13-0, +11.72 Units
- NBA: 251-189-5, +34.85 Units
- NHL: 66-80-7, -7.57 Units
- MLB: 29-30-7, -5.34 Units
- Golf: 5-7-1, -1.00 Units
- NASCAR: 6-8-0, -0.83 Units
- NCAAB: 125-70-12, +38.82 Units
- NCAAF: 0-1-0, -1.00 Units
- Exotic: 23-2-0, +12.64 Units
Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway
In the words of Elton John, “Saturday night’s alright for driving.” Normally we get our NASCAR races on Sunday, but Richmond Raceway hosts all of its events in the evening, so today we get the first nighttime race of the year.
Given that one of the nicknames for Richmond Raceway is “Action Track,” you know this race is going to be good to us.
Richmond is a 0.75-mile D-shaped asphalt track with minimal banking. As a short flat track, it presents a few challenges.
Because it’s short, drivers (especially those starting near the back) are at risk of being lapped early in the race. Additionally, because the track is flat — or at least flatter than most tracks on the circuit — it’s hard for cars to maintain speed as they turn through the corners, which ultimately means that it’s harder for cars to pass one another. As a result, track position (starting position and running position) is important at Richmond.
For this race, we typically have two practices on Friday during the day followed by qualifying at night. Considering that this is an evening race and that all of the practices take place during the day and before qualifying, the speed that cars show in practice might not be representative of what they will do in the race itself.
Add on top of that the fact that second practice yesterday was canceled because of rain, and the value of practice speed is really uncertain.
Because of that, I’ll be looking most at driver history at Richmond in particular and short flat tracks in general, as well as year-to-date performance and starting position.
I won’t ignore practice times altogether, but I won’t give them as much weight as I normally do.
Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Driver Matchups for Toyota Owners 400
Here are three matchups I like quite a bit and have already bet.
Kyle Busch vs. Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch: -200
- Brad Keselowski: +170
In a chaos-fueled sport like NASCAR, +170 feels too good to pass up, especially considering that Kez is probably a top-five driver. For reference: Busch has the highest DraftKings salary for the race at $13,000; Kez has the fifth-highest salary at $10,600.
Since the new aerodynamic and rules package was introduced at Atlanta Motor Speedway seven races ago, no one has been better than Busch, who has three victories, two additional No. 3 finishes and two more top-10 performances. Busch is just dominating right now.
But Kez has maybe been the second-best driver since Atlanta with two wins and two more top-three finishes.
In practice, Busch was first in 10-lap speed while Kez was 22nd — but, again, practice times might not be representative of what we’ll see, and Kez throughout his career has been notoriously poor in practices anyway.
Since NASCAR introduced the Generation 6 car in 2013, Kez has arguably been the top driver at Richmond, where he’s outraced Busch in every key metric (per the RotoViz NASCAR Splits App).
- Driver rating: 110.0 vs. 104.9
- Running position: 6.7 vs. 8.1
- Quality pass percentage: 71.4 vs. 66.7
- Laps led percentage: 17.5 vs. 6.6
- Fastest laps percentage: 8.6 vs. 5.0
- DraftKings points: 68.75 vs. 55.55
Given Keselowski’s Richmond dominance, I’d bet him down to +150.
The Pick: Keselowski (+170)
Joey Logano vs. Brad Keselowski
- Joey Logano: -135
- Brad Keselowski: +115
You might be seeing a trend here: I like Kez. There’s nothing at all wrong with his Team Penske teammate, who has a win and two more top-three finishes under the new aerodynamic and rules package.
But Kez has just been significantly better at Richmond in the Gen-6 era (in races they’ve finished).
- Driver rating: 110.0 vs. 103.3
- Running position: 6.7 vs. 9.8
- Quality pass percentage: 71.4 vs. 61.8
- Laps led percentage: 17.5 vs. 5.9
- Fastest laps percentage: 8.6 vs. 2.7
- DraftKings points: 68.75 vs. 49.63
Additionally, Kez had the better 10-lap speed in practice (22 vs. 29). Logano starts No. 4 while Kez is No. 12, but over the course of the race that starting position will become less important.
I’d bet on Keselowski down to +100.
The Pick: Keselowski (+115)
Denny Hamlin vs. Brad Keselowski
- Denny Hamlin: -120
- Brad Keselowski: +100
UPDATE (7:00 p.m. ET): Hamlin’s starting position has moved from No. 18 to No. 30 because he failed inspection, making Kez even more of an attractive play.
As the song goes, “Save a car, ride Keselowski.” Or something like that. Once again, I’m backing Kez.
Hamlin has one win and three additional top-five finishes under the new aerodynamic and rules package. He’s in good form.
And he’s also been a strong driver at Richmond, his home track. In the Gen-6 era, he has six top-six Richmond finishes, including a victory at the fall race in 2016.
But he still trails Kez in every key Richmond metric (in races finished).
- Driver rating: 110.0 vs. 95.4
- Running position: 6.7 vs. 11.1
- Quality pass percentage: 71.4 vs. 56.5
- Laps led percentage: 17.5 vs. 6.0
- Fastest laps percentage: 8.6 vs. 4.7
- DraftKings points: 68.75 vs. 46.30
Hamlin had the better 10-lap speed in practice (6 vs. 22), but Kez has the superior starting position (12 vs. 18), and he has the fifth-highest DraftKings salary ($10,600) while Hamlin has the 10th ($8,900).
I’d bet on Kez down to -115.
The Pick: Keselowski (+100)
UPDATE (7:00 p.m. ET): Additional Driver Matchups
After seven drivers failed inspection, I’ve decided to place more bets.
Kevin Harvick (-185) over Denny Hamlin (+155): Harvick has a dominant Richmond history (108.7 driver rating), had the second-fastest 10-lap average and starts on the pole. Hamlin failed inspection and will start 30th.
Kevin Harvick (-125) over Martin Truex Jr. (+105): Harvick has superior Richmond history (108.7 driver rating vs. 97.7) and the better starting position (1 vs. 5).
Ryan Blaney (+135) over Denny Hamlin (-160): This line has almost not certainly been adjusted to account for Hamlin’s move to the back of the field. Blaney has the superior starting position (22 vs. 30) and has four top-five finishes with the new aerodynamic and rules package.
Ryan Blaney (+115) over Chase Elliott (-135): Like Hamlin, Elliott has moved to the back of the field and starts No. 32. Elliott had two top-five Richmond finishes last year, but with the new aerodynamic and rules package he has just one top-five performance this year.
Clint Bowyer (-110) over Aric Almirola (-110): Like Hamlin and Elliott, Almirola failed inspection and now starts No. 31, so Bowyer has a big edge in starting position (No. 14), and he also has the superior Richmond history (88.6 driver rating vs. 79.9).
Kurt Busch (-140) over Aric Almirola (+110): Busch starts No. 2 while Almirola has moved to the back of the field.
Kyle Larson (+115) over Aric Almirola (-145): Larson starts No. 10 while Almirola has moved to the back of the field.
Kyle Larson (-125) over Erik Jones (-105): Larson starts No. 10 while Jones has been moved to the back of the field and will start No. 35.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+160) over Jimmie Johnson (-195): I might be wrong, but this number just seems way off even if Johnson’s move to the back of the field isn’t taken into account. Johnson is no longer an elite driver and has just one top-five finish under the new package — and now he’s starting at the back of the field (No. 34) while Stenhouse starts No. 11.
Ty Dillon (-115) over Ryan Preece (-115): I made this same bet last week, and I see no reason not to make it again now. Dillon isn’t great, but he’s also never placed outside of the 20s in his four Richmond races. Preece, meanwhile, has just 13 Cup events to his name and has never raced at Richmond.