After nearly nine whole months, the NASCAR season is set to culminate this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Four drivers managed to stave off elimination in all three rounds of the playoffs thus far. Fittingly, the Championship 4 have all been among the most consistent (and dominant) drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series this season. This weekend, there are no points standings battles or rules trickeration. When it comes to deciding the 2021 NASCAR Champion, the format is as simple as it gets. The best finisher of the four title contenders will hoist the trophy. While the drivers battle for glory, this also stands as the final opportunity for bettors to cash some tickets this season.
The time is now. #Championship4
SUNDAY | 3 PM ET | NBC pic.twitter.com/jFTJQ7PJvB
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 3, 2021
The following outlines some of the best betting strategies and picks for Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race. Analysis of the top odds and picks to win outright is also included.
NASCAR Championship Race Betting Strategy
Unlike most other sports, the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race is not solely between the four championship-eligible drivers. While all they have to do is beat each other, there are still over 30 different cars out on the track along with them. The issue of non-playoff drivers racing playoff drivers “too hard” has been a hot-button topic throughout this postseason. It is undoubtedly something that bettors have to consider when handicapping Sunday’s championship race.
Now let’s crown a champion 🏆 pic.twitter.com/HJ00iKeXV5
— Phoenix Raceway (@phoenixraceway) October 31, 2021
If last season was any indication, the rest of the field gave the Championship 4 a free pass in the final race. This mindset is reflected in the NASCAR betting odds to win Sunday’s race later in this column. All four of the championship drivers sit well ahead of the rest of the field in terms of outright pricing. Bettors should note, however, that, unlike last season, there is practice and qualifying ahead of this weekend’s finale. So while bettors should expect non-championship drivers to stay out of the way when it comes to battles for position between the big four, don’t be surprised if a handful of cars still push hard for the race win.
NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race Best Bets
The following sections detail the top NASCAR betting picks for Sunday’s championship race at Phoenix Raceway.
Top 3 Finish: Martin Truex Jr. (+140 at FanDuel)
The only one of the four Championship 4 drivers with plus-money betting odds next to his name to finish top-3 is Martin Truex Jr. He is also the driver who won the spring race at the one-mile oval. Truex is considered the underdog of this year’s Championship 4 partly due to inconsistent results for the year and the three heavyweights he is going up against. While his victory in the spring marked his first since the track was reconfigured in 2018, Truex has scored three top-5s over the last seven races. His average finish over that same span sits at an even 10.0 and would likely look a lot better if not for a blown engine in one of those starts.
If @MartinTruex_Jr wins the title …
➡️ He will become the eighth driver to win championships with more than one organization
➡️ He will become the first driver to win championships with different crew chiefs since @TonyStewart in 2011 pic.twitter.com/IP1mY5OInn
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 6, 2021
Bettors are wise to consider how they see this championship race unfolding when it comes to this top-3 wager. If the rest of the field lets the Championship 4 run at the front like last season, Truex figures to have a far better shot at finishing top-3 than the betting odds imply. He enters with solid momentum after back-to-back top-10 runs that enabled him to overcome a points deficit and advance from the Round of 8. We have seen several times before the most unlikely of the Championship 4 rises to the occasion with a trophy on the line. That being said, Truex and the No. 19 team don’t have to beat all of the other title contenders to cash this top-3 ticket.
Best Finish in Group D: Chris Buescher (+250 at DraftKings)
After a tremendous start to the 2021 campaign, Chris Buescher wound up falling well short of even qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on points. However, he has continued to battle right down to the very end of the season. After an impressive run at Martinsville last week to finish ninth, Buescher has scored four top-12 results in the previous five races. Three of those saw him finish within the top-10, including a podium showing at the Charlotte ROVAL. Although Buescher has not cracked the top-10 in any of the last seven races at Phoenix, he has momentum on his side. With Brad Keselowski set to join him at Roush Fenway Racing next season, the future is bright for both Buescher and the No. 17 team.
Alongside the RFR Mustang in Group D this week are Erik Jones (+260), Daniel Suarez (+260), and Chase Briscoe (+280). Of the foursome, Jones has the best stats historically at Phoenix Raceway. However, he is admittedly in worse equipment now driving for Richard Petty Motorsports than while running for Joe Gibbs. Nevertheless, Jones is also coming off a top-10 result at Martinsville and figures to be the top competition for Buescher in this NASCAR betting group. One potential edge for the No. 17 car is that Ford has been notably stronger when running the 750-horsepower package all season—knowing that this will be the setup in use on Sunday figures to be a positive for Buescher’s chances of winning this group.
Race Matchup: Kyle Busch Over William Byron (+120 at DraftKings)
Both Kyle Busch and William Byron have been among the fastest drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series weekly this season. Look no further than last week’s Xfinity 500 at Martinsville, where they finished second and fifth, respectively. One challenge that both will be facing in Sunday’s finale is that they each have two teammates running for a championship. As a result, Busch and Byron might be two drivers who are less likely to mix things up at the front of the field.
Throughout the season, we have seen Byron run at or near the point on several occasions. However, the bulk of those races came on the 550-horsepower tracks where Chevrolet had a distinct advantage over their manufacturer counterparts. The playing field has been more even at the 750-horsepower tracks, of which Phoenix Raceway is one. Historical stats also favor Busch in this NASCAR betting head-to-head. Since the 2018 track reconfiguration, Busch has been one of the best in the sport, picking up two wins and scoring five top-5s in seven races. Meanwhile, Byron has not finished top-5 in any of the last seven Cup series events at Phoenix. Look for Busch and the No. 18 camp to surprise as a plus-money underdog in this NASCAR betting matchup.
NASCAR Betting Odds to Win | Phoenix
The table below offers a comparison of the NASCAR betting odds to win the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race across three major U.S. sportsbooks. The top 15 drivers in terms of odds are included.
|Martin Truex Jr.||+450||+500||+490|
Favorite: Kyle Larson (+200 at FanDuel)
After a dominant season that will go down in the NASCAR history books, Kyle Larson is the runaway favorite to capture his first career series championship on Sunday. We have seen the No. 5 car dominate the Cup Series all season long. Even when Larson hasn’t been reaching victory lane (which he did an astounding nine different times), he has been finishing at or near the front. Larson has scored 19 top-5 finishes, and 25 top-10s in the 35 races run thus far on the year. If he can achieve Win No. 10 on Sunday, he will fittingly be crowned the 2021 champion. Although Larson has not won at Phoenix Raceway, he has the best average finish (7.0) of all four championship contenders since the 2018 track reconfiguration.
Value Bet: Martin Truex Jr. (+500 at BetMGM)
Just like the top-3 wager discussed above, Martin Truex Jr. similarly has the longest outright odds of the four championship drivers. We have certainly seen him have success running at Phoenix Raceway before, as recently as his impressive victory here back in March. However, as the Championship 4 underdog, one could also argue that Truex has the least amount of pressure this weekend. When the No. 19 team has struggled this season, it has primarily been due to self-inflicted wounds. Be it pre-race inspection failures or pit-road penalties, Truex has arguably been much faster than his season-long stats would suggest. As a former NASCAR Cup Series Champion, he also knows what it takes to finish the job.
Longshot Hopeful: Kevin Harvick (+3400 at FanDuel)
Betting on a longshot to win Sunday’s race outright is risky this week, given that none of the Championship 4 drivers are longshots. While this is a longshot play for a reason, the one driver who would undoubtedly love to spoil the championship party is Kevin Harvick. It has been a frustrating and uncharacteristically poor season for Harvick. While he maintained consistency throughout, the “0” in the wins column sticks out like a sore thumb. No NASCAR betting analyst could have predicted a winless 2021 season for the No. 4 team and one of the best drivers in the sport’s history. Phoenix Raceway is a circuit that Harvick has dominated over the years. His average finish of 5.0 over the last seven leads all Cup Series drivers. Can he finally score a win in the season finale?
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