The third race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is slated to be run this Saturday night. The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will also serve as the first playoff elimination race. The field of 16 drivers contending for a championship will be whittled down to 12 following Saturday’s race. It doesn’t get much better than short-track racing under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway, as any fan of the sport can attest. Add in the extra motivation that comes with this being a cutoff race in the playoffs and it seems safe to say we can expect the beating and banging to be turned up a notch.
Momentum is a fickle thing in NASCAR just like any other sport. New Orleans Saints running back and NASCAR brand advisor Alvin Kamara certainly knows a thing or two about Uncle Mo. Well, momentum plays a key role in this week’s NASCAR betting race handicap and picks.
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 12, 2021
The following outlines some of the best NASCAR betting picks for Saturday evening’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Analysis of the top odds and picks to win outright is also included.
Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Best Bets
The following sections detail the top NASCAR betting picks for Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Top 10 Finish: Ross Chastain (+130 at DraftKings)
Aside from the Joe Gibbs Racing quartet, one would be hard-pressed to say any driver in the NASCAR Cup Series enters the Bass Pro Shops Night Race with more momentum than Ross Chastain. Even though he is not a part of the NASCAR Playoffs this season, Chastain has been running right up front with the championship contenders in recent weeks. His seventh-place showing at Richmond last week marked his second consecutive top-10 result. Chastain was an even more impressive third in the Southern 500 the week before. He has been the top finishing non-playoff driver in each of the first two postseason races.
— Ross Chastain (@RossChastain) September 12, 2021
While it’s clear that Chastain and the No. 42 team have plenty of momentum coming into Bristol, the entire Chip Ganassi Racing organization has been performing well for the better part of the last three months. Chastain’s teammate, Kurt Busch, won his way into the playoff field. Aside from an obscure flat tire that led to him exiting last week’s race early, Busch has been a fixture in the top-10 every week. Unfortunately, the NASCAR betting oddsmakers are wise to Busch’s strong history at Bristol Motor Speedway (one win, four top-10s in his last five starts) and have adjusted his prices accordingly. While Chastain’s odds have been lowered tremendously compared to where they were two weeks ago, bettors can still take advantage of plus-money odds on a top-10 result. Look to continue backing the Ganassi cars until they give us a reason not to.
Race Matchup: Tyler Reddick Over Alex Bowman (+100 at DraftKings)
Both Tyler Reddick and Alex Bowman enter the Bass Pro Shops Night Race on the wrong side of the playoff cutline. As a result, each will be gunning for a solid finish to avoid elimination. Reddick has been no better than average in each of the first two playoff races, following up an 18th-place run at Darlington by finishing 15th at Richmond. Meanwhile, Bowman rebounded nicely from a disastrous Southern 500 to finish 12th last week. With neither driver having a clear edge in momentum, we turn our attention to their past results at “The Bullring”.
In actuality, the sample size for both young drivers is limited. In two previous races, Reddick had one awful finish before coming home fourth in this very event last year. Bowman has almost been the opposite. He scored a top-5 in his first Cup Series start at Bristol back in 2018. But after following it up with a top-10 that same year, he has failed to finish better than 15th in his four starts since. Two of those races saw him place outside of the top-20. Considering how well Reddick ran here a year ago along with Bowman’s lack of success and recent inconsistency, it’s somewhat surprising to see even-money odds on the No. 8 car in this matchup. In fact, the NASCAR betting odds for this head-to-head were verified to be much tighter at an alternative sportsbook. With that, we’ll gladly take the value and run.
Best Finish in Group F: Ryan Preece (+240 at DraftKings)
We are jumping all the way down to the sixth and final group matchup to round out this week’s NASCAR betting picks. Group F features four drivers who likely won’t factor into the race for the win on Saturday. However, a couple of the names in this foursome have actually run well recently at Bristol. With +240 odds, Ryan Preece is the second choice to win this group. There are rumblings that Preece might very well be in direct competition with teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for a ride in 2022. With JTG Daugherty Racing announcing that it would downsize to one car next season, one of these two talented drivers will not be able to return. With his job potentially on the line, Preece certainly has plenty of reason to run and finish well the rest of the way.
Speaking of finishing well, Preece has quietly done just that in recent Cup Series races at Bristol. He came home with a top-10 showing in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race just last year. All told, three of his four Cup Series starts at “The Last Great Colosseum” have seen Preece place in the top-20. When it comes to his Group F competition, he leads the way in terms of average finish. While playoff driver Michael McDowell has run well in his last two starts here, he is in the midst of a horrible stretch. After crashing out at Darlington, multiple pit road speeding penalties put McDowell way below the playoff cutline coming into this elimination race. Meanwhile, group favorite Chase Briscoe has never run a Cup race on the concrete surface, and longshot Corey LaJoie is unlikely to have the power necessary to compete on a short track.
Add everything up and Preece makes for an excellent choice in Group F at his current price. Given that he has averaged a 16th-place finish in his four prior starts at Bristol, bettors can also opt to play the No. 37 car to score a top-20 finish on Saturday. The return is not as great, but +160 odds are very intriguing.
NASCAR Betting Odds to Win | Bristol
The table below offers a comparison of the NASCAR betting odds to win the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race across three major U.S. sportsbooks. The top 20 drivers in terms of odds are included.
Favorite: Kyle Busch (+450 at BetMGM)
A quick glance at his last seven finishes at Bristol will inform bettors of why Kyle Busch is the NASCAR betting favorite to win the Bass Pro Shops Night Race. Dating back to this race in 2017, Busch has amassed three wins and six (yes, six) top-5 finishes in seven races on the concrete oval. He came home runner-up in this very event a year ago and is still in need of a solid finish on Saturday to advance into the Round of 12. It’s also worth noting that the first two playoff races were dominated by fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Busch go out and complete a Round of 16 sweep for JGR this weekend.
Value Bet: Denny Hamlin (+650 at FanDuel)
Given Denny Hamlin’s stats at Bristol and recent form, it’s a bit surprising to see him priced as long as he is ahead of Saturday’s night race. Hamlin ranks third among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers with an average finish of 10.8 over the last ten races at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile”. He won this very race back in 2019 and comes in with Uncle Mo on his side. After winning the Southern 500 to open the NASCAR Playoffs two weeks ago, Hamlin a great deal of last weekend’s night race at Richmond on his way to a runner-up finish. +650 is typically shorter odds than we look for when hunting for an outright value play. Betting value is relative though, especially given how impressive the No. 11 team has been the last two weeks.
A trip to one of his best tracks may be just what the doctor ordered. pic.twitter.com/om3NL3bLks
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 12, 2021
Longshot Hopeful: Kurt Busch (+1800 at FanDuel)
After propping up his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Ross Chastain, earlier in this article, it’s time to show Kurt Busch some love. There’s a reason why one would have to lay -135 on Busch to score a top-10 finish this week. Over his last ten starts at Bristol, Busch has an average finish of 12.8. The stretch includes a win in 2018, four top-5s and six top-10 finishes. Despite his misfortune last week, Busch still sits one point to the good when it comes to the NASCAR Playoffs cutline. A win would remove all doubt and automatically lock the No. 1 car into the Round of 12.
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