The good times of the young NASCAR season settle in the suburbs of Phoenix this weekend as the Cup Series concludes its west coast swing.
California and Las Vegas were equally exciting as they were profitable. Phoenix is usually more of the same. However, the sport is implementing a new low-downforce package, adding an extra layer of uncertainty. Opinions vary on how much it’ll change things.
We’re accounting for everything and have more than enough data sets to consider:
- Recent performance & current standings
- 2022 shorter flat tracks Total speed rankings via ifantasyrace.com
- Track history at Phoenix & comp tracks:
- New Hampshire
Here are my best bests as NASCAR heads to the Valley of the South:
Also, take a look at our other best bets for Sunday:
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2023 United Rentals Work United 500: NASCAR at Phoenix Odds, Picks & Predictions
All bet recommendations are for 1u.
Top 5: Kevin Harvick (+170 via Barstool Sportsbook)
The No. 4 team enters Phoenix as one of only six drivers with two top-10 finishes in point races this season. Even more impressive, Kevin Harvick has reeled off 19 straight top-10 finishes at Phoenix. His 8.7 career average finish in 40 races here ranks as one of the modern marvels of the sport.
Harvick has always thrived on the shorter flat tracks. And somehow, he hasn’t lost a step at them. He had the second-best total speed ranking on shorter flat tracks last season to only Joey Logano. The Bakersfield, Calif. native is also just one of three drivers who ranked top five in speed ranking here in both races last season, joining teammate Chase Briscoe and fellow Ford Ryan Blaney. “The Closer” should again put himself in contention down the stretch.
Top 10: Christopher Bell (-140 via Caesars Sportsbook)
If there is an heir to Harvick as the sport’s short flat specialist, it’s Christopher Bell. He’s become an ace at comp track Richmond, posting an 80 percent top-10 rate there in five starts. New Hampshire is a different track, same story, as Bell has a 66.6% top-10 rate there and one win in three starts. Overall, Bell finished 2022 with the ninth-best total speed ranking on shorter flat tracks.
While he hasn’t been as dominant at Phoenix, the 28-year-old has a 50% top-10 rate here in six starts. He was seventh in total speed ranking last week in Las Vegas and is tied for the most top-5s in NASCAR (two) with Alex Bowman. Bell is also one of just seven drivers who performed a test run here in this package back in January. Considering his usually-sound qualifying, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bell’s odds shrink even more by Sunday.
Matchup: Chris Buescher (-125) vs. Noah Gragson (-105) via BetUS
I couldn’t believe my ears when this matchup was highlighted on our most recent episode of “The Backroad.” But yes, it’s true. Bet US is listing Cup rookie Noah Gragson against veteran Chris Buescher head-to-head.
I’m a believer in the long-term talent of Gragson. However, this is one of the most veteran-friendly tracks. In his first three point races as a full-time top series driver, Gragson has an average finish of 25.3 and sits 30th in points. He has also never raced a Cup Series race at Phoenix.
Meanwhile, Buescher placed 10th at this very race last season. He also placed third and was a threat to win comp track Richmond last year. So far, Buescher has the 10th-best average finish (12.7) on the year. I’ll happily take one of the sport’s more consistent drivers against a rookie still finding his way here at Phoenix.
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Seth Woolcock is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more sports betting and fantasy sports analysis from Seth, check out In-Between Media and follow him @Between_SethFF.