NASCAR Cup Series: Top Bets for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is in Bristol, Tennessee, this weekend for Sunday’s Food City 500. Bristol Motor Speedway is a 0.533-mile, steeply-banked concrete track that often leads to damaged vehicles and hot tempers.
The key stats that go into my machine learning model this weekend are quality pass percentage over the past eight Bristol races, driver rating at the past eight steep-track races, year-to-date performance, and, to a lesser extent, long-run speed in final practice. I’ll also use the RotoViz Driver Sim Scores to gauge race-winning upside.
Because Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are the heavy favorites at a high-variance track, I’m giving you five plays who offer value at longer odds. Additionally, both Larson and Busch are fine to bet as parlays with your favorite prop bet.
As always, make sure you shop around for the best lines.
Erik Jones: +1200
Jones is a fantastic play at TheGreek.com — he’s only +975. Jones dominated his second ever race at Bristol last year, leading 260 laps before finishing second. In his three most recent starts at Bristol in the Xfinity Series, Jones won twice. He nearly pulled off his first career Cup Series win at Texas last weekend before ultimately finishing fourth. Per the Sim Scores, Jones’ most comparable Bristol driver is 2011 Kyle Busch, who went on to win the race.
Denny Hamlin: +1200
Hamlin was very happy with his car in final practice, and it showed when he posted the third-best speed in both single- and 10-lap average. Hamlin has the fourth-highest projected finish among all drivers in my model and should finish second or better 15 percent of the time according to the Sim Scores. He starts 25th, but that could put him in position to play a bit of strategy to get out front.
Joey Logano: +1200
Logano checks all the boxes this weekend. He has a strong track history, winning twice in the past seven Bristol races, and he has led at least 38 laps in four of seven. The model gives him the second-highest average finish among all drivers, and the sim scores show that three of his 18 closest comparable drivers in the past also went on to win at Bristol. Logano had only the 10th-fastest 10-lap average in final practice, but that’s not a big concern: His most recent Bristol win came after he posted the ninth-best 10-lap speed.
Kevin Harvick: +1650
Anytime I can get the best driver of the year at +1650, I pretty much auto-bet him. I don’t care that Harvick starts 39th. With the rain, NASCAR will likely have an early competition caution, which will help him stay on the lead lap. His final practice times weren’t eye-popping, but Harvick is a feel driver, and his crew chief Rodney Childers tweeted that the car is to his liking. Harvick has a strong Bristol history with the second-best driver rating over the past eight Bristol races and the fourth-most laps led (by percentage), behind only Kyle Busch, Larson, and Jones.
Clint Bowyer: +2500
Clint Bowyer has a strong track history, with three top-eight finishes in the past five Bristol races despite racing in far inferior equipment for the two Bristol races in 2016. Bowyer has finished eighth or better in 11 of the past 22 Bristol races, and he is now in arguably the best equipment of his career. He posted the eighth-best 10-lap average in Happy Hour.
Pictured above: Erik Jones