NASCAR FanShield 500 Best Bets: The 2 Favorites & 1 Underdog to Bet at Phoenix on Sunday

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Photo by Lyle Setter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick

  • Nick Giffen details his favorite picks for the FanShield 500 at Phoenix, including two favorites and one underdog.
  • Because of changes in NASCAR's aerodynamic packages, evaluating the 2016-18 races is more valuable than the 2019 competition.
  • See the full betting breakdown below.

Today’s FanShield 500 is the first race at a short, flat track in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. Ordinarily, that means we’d look back to the previous year to see how drivers performed, but with NASCAR reverting back to a lower downforce aerodynamic package at these tracks, racing and driver ability should match the 2016-2018 seasons better than 2019.

What does it take to win at Phoenix under these conditions? Five of the six Phoenix winners from 2016-2018 displayed these characteristics:

  • A driver rating over the last eight short, flat tracks above 95
  • A driver rating over the last 15 races overall above 99
  • A top-14 speed over 10 consecutive laps in final practice

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The lone exception is Ryan Newman, who won the 2017 spring race by staying out under a late race caution and holding off drivers who took two or four tires. In other words, if we’re going to bet on a longshot, it has to be somebody who can still hang out on the lead lap, and win with strategy.

So which drivers offer the most value for today’s race?

NASCAR Fanshield 500 at Phoenix Best Bet Picks

Kevin Harvick +600

Harvick has won seven of the past 15 races at Phoenix, including two of the six during the lower downforce seasons of 2016-2018. He has the fastest 10-lap average in final practice, and was behind only Brad Keselowski across 15 to 25 laps. He also starts second, giving him clean air early on and one of the prime pit stalls for the race.

Harvick looks to have a better long-run car than Kyle Busch, and won’t have to contend with coming through the field to get to the front or a mediocre pit stall. The two grade out fairly evenly, but Harvick is discounted relative to Busch across the industry.

This line is available at both MGM in Las Vegas and PointsBet. I would bet him down to +550.

[Bet now at PointsBet. NJ only.]

Chase Elliott +1000

Elliott is often listed as the second favorite behind Busch at most books. However at BetMGM in New Jersey (+1000) he’s priced as either the third or fourth favorite. Elliott has been fast all weekend, grabbing the pole position and posting top-two times in single-lap speed in both practice sessions.

In fact, his second-fastest time in the opening practice session came in race trim!

In Elliott’s three incident-free Phoenix races in lower downforce after his rookie year, he had a driver rating of 114.7. That includes two top-three finishes. That is in the same range as Harvick (114.8) and Busch (119.6) in their incident free races. Considering he’s on the Harvick and Busch level and his excellent car, I’d bet Elliott down to +600.

[Bet now at BetMGM. NJ only.]

Aric Almirola +7000

Almirola doesn’t fit the mold of a winner, but he does have some Newman-like characteristics that could put him in position should late-race strategy come into play. In fact, his resume is better than Newman’s race-winning 2017 resume.

Like Newman, Almirola’s best track type outside of Daytona and Talladega is the short, flat track. He has finishes of fourth, seventh and ninth in his last three low downforce Phoenix races. That ninth-place finish came with the underfunded Richard Petty Motorsports in 2017.

Almirola also showed plenty of speed to hang out on the lead lap. He was fifth over 10 consecutive laps and third over a single lap. Newman was only 17th and 15th in those metrics. Almirola has plenty of speed in a sprint to the finish.

Almirola is going as low as +2000 at MGM and +2500 at FanDuel. But this +7000 line at Station Casinos is too good to pass up if you are in Las Vegas. He’s also +6000 at BetMGM and +4000 at PointsBet, which is as low as I’d bet him outright.

[Bet now at BetMGM. NJ only.]

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