NASCAR Odds & Picks for Phoenix: How to Bet Christopher Bell vs. Alex Bowman for Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout
For the first time this season, the NASCAR Cup Series’ Next Gen car will take on a short, flat track in a points-paying race.
The Next Gen car did race on a quarter-mile circuit at the L.A. Coliseum for the preseason Busch Light Clash. However, Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) will be the first of these tracks with points on the line.
And while we can consider both Phoenix Raceway and the L.A. Coliseum as “short, flat tracks,” they’re really not all that similar.
Phoenix is a one-mile, tri-oval compared to the Coliseum’s quarter-mile oval, so how the cars handle might be quite different.
With this in mind I’m focusing more on historical performance at Phoenix Raceway when projecting performance for the Ruoff Mortgage 500.
And after doing so, one side of the Christopher Bell vs. Alex Bowman featured driver matchup is showing enough value to bet right now.
NASCAR Picks for Phoenix
*Odds as of Tuesday morning
The reason I like this bet is equal parts buying on Bell and fading Bowman.
While it was more than five years ago, there’s still some idea floating around among NASCAR bettors and DFS players that Phoenix is a good track for Bowman.
Sure, he had an incredible performance while subbing for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. back in the Fall of 2016 at Phoenix, a race in which Bowman piloted the No. 88 Chevy to a sixth-place finish that included the most fast laps run, the most laps led and the best driver rating.
However, it’s important to remember that the No. 88 team had Phoenix figured out during this time period no matter who was driving, with Earnhardt posting finishes of second, eighth, first and fifth in four of the five races leading up to Bowman’s stellar run.
Since that race in 2016 Bowman has struggled a bit at Phoenix, finishing 13th, 30th, 35th, 23rd, 14th, 16th, 13th and 18th, while leading exactly zero laps and averaging just 1.5 fast laps per race in those eight starts, all of which came while driving Hendrick Motorsports’ top-tier equipment.
Throw in the fact that Bowman is coming off an exciting win at Las Vegas last week, a track that has essentially zero similarities with Phoenix, and it’s reasonable to assume that he’s a bit overvalued for all of the factors above.
On the other hand, Bell has been very solid at the short, flat tracks since getting his shot in Joe Gibbs Racing’s elite equipment prior to the start of last season, including two ninth-place runs at Phoenix in 2021.
Additionally, Bell has a win at Phoenix in the XFINITY Series, so he’s certainly capable of running up front if provided with a fast racecar.
Just like previous weeks’ featured NASCAR matchups the edge here isn’t massive, but Bell should be a short favorite over Bowman, making his +100 price tag at BetMGM one worth considering.