Buckle up, NASCAR bettors! Only two races remain before the start of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. As such, there are plenty of juicy storylines heading into this weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The 2-mile D-shaped oval never fails to deliver some wild racing, thanks to an ultra-wide surface that allows drivers to run three and four wide around the track. In fact, this marks the first time NASCAR will race on an oval track in over a month. Two road course events followed the Olympic break, but the sport returns to its roots on Sunday.
The following outlines some of the best NASCAR betting picks for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400. Analysis of the top odds and picks to win outright is also included.
FireKeepers Casino 400 Best Bets
The following sections detail the top NASCAR betting picks for Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.
Top 5 Finish: Denny Hamlin (+150 at DraftKings)
Despite being spun out just laps from his first win of the season last weekend, Denny Hamlin is officially locked into the playoff field. Unfortunately for the No. 11 team, the run-in with Chase Briscoe cost them that elusive first win of the year. They have lost their grip on the top spot in the points standings and are now chasing Kyle Larson for a regular-season championship. Nonetheless, Hamlin continues to be among the most consistent drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series. His performance on the road courses in the last two weeks speaks volumes to the quality of driver he is. Now, Hamlin sets his sights on Michigan International Speedway, a track where he has unsurprisingly been one of the best in the sport in recent years.
Two races left, and it's a two-man race. 👀@KyleLarsonRacin leads Denny Hamlin in the regular season standings, which earns the winning driver 15 bonus points for the entire playoffs. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/pynHVGngny
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 17, 2021
Over the last ten races at Michigan, Hamlin ranks tenth among all Cup Series drivers with an average finish of 10.3. He has four top-five showings over that span, including a pair of runner-up results in the last three races. Last year, he followed up a sixth-place effort in the first race with a second-place showing in the FireKeepers Casino 400. Hamlin will start ninth on Sunday and certainly figures to have some added motivation after last week’s late-race debacle. On a weekend in which the Chevrolet and Ford manufacturers always have some added motivation given the race takes place in their backyard, expect to see the Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry among the top five finishers.
Best Finish in Group 3: Kurt Busch (+330 at FanDuel)
Shoutout to FanDuel Sportsbook for laying out a trio of group matchups for the FireKeepers Casino 400. As such, bettors have the opportunity to compare lines between FanDuel, DraftKings, and any other shops they might have available to them. As it turns out, FanDuel’s “Group 3” mirrors DraftKings’ “Group E” in terms of the four drivers included. Ryan Blaney (+175) sits as the favorite at both books. Christopher Bell (+220) is the second choice, followed by Kurt Busch and Tyler Reddick (+360). While Reddick may be the driver locked in a points battle to make the playoffs, it’s impossible to play against Busch based on his recent form and history at Michigan International Speedway.
Bettors who have been on Kurt Busch during the summer portion of the NASCAR Cup Series season are undoubtedly in the green when it comes to their bankrolls. Of course, the highlight came in the form of an outright victory at Atlanta back in July. Looking beyond that, however, Busch has been a fixture in the top-10 during the last couple of months. He survived the late-race demolition derby at The Brickyard last week to finish sixth. Over the last ten races at the track they call ‘Wide and Fast,’ the elder Busch brother ranks sixth among all drivers with an average finish of 9.9. That average ranks well ahead of any of the drivers he is matched up against in this group. Busch has seven top-10 results over that span and has only finished outside of the top-12 once.
In what we now know is the final year in NASCAR for Chip Ganassi Racing, look for Busch and the No. 1 team to turn in another solid showing and continue building momentum ahead of the playoffs. The +330 price at FanDuel offers a slight edge in value over DraftKings’ +320 offering. Either way, bettors have a great chance to land a solid return.
Best Finish in Group B: William Byron (+300 at DraftKings)
Just like the Kurt Busch group pick above, bettors are wise to shop the odds and groups at the sportsbooks available to them. “Group B” at DraftKings is also identical to “Group 2” at FanDuel. But with an eye on backing Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, the better price resides at DK. After giving kudos to the consistency of Denny Hamlin above, it’s only fair that we do the same for Byron. If not for the curb disaster at Indianapolis last week, Byron was well on his way to a top-5 showing and possibly even a win. While the No. 24 car has not found victory lane since the third week of the season, Byron has been running well every time out. His average driver rating of 97.5 for the season ranks sixth among all Cup Series drivers.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 15, 2021
The DraftKings betting odds see Byron slotted in as the third choice to win Group B this week. Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are +250, while Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Alex Bowman, is the group longshot at +350. While Michigan is the home track for both Ford and Chevrolet, it’s worth noting that the Mustangs have struggled mightily this year on the high downforce tracks. With the 550 horsepower package being run this weekend, this spells concern for the Fords of Logano and Keselowski. While Byron has a modest average finish of 16.8 at Michigan in six prior starts, this has actually been a track that teammate Bowman has struggled on thus far in his young career (average finish of 20.8 in seven starts). Of all the drivers in the group, Byron has the most appealing upside. A potential 3-1 return cinches the choice to include him amongst this week’s NASCAR betting picks.
NASCAR Betting Odds to Win | Michigan
The table below offers a comparison of the NASCAR betting odds to win the FireKeepers Casino 400 across three major U.S. sportsbooks. The top 20 drivers in terms of odds are included.
|Martin Truex Jr.||+750||+800||+800|
Favorite: Kyle Larson (+260 at FanDuel)
Based on nearly a full regular season’s worth of data, no one but Kyle Larson deserves to be the favorite for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400. Some people had questions coming into the 2021 season, Larson’s first driving for Hendrick Motorsports. What a maiden voyage it has been. His victory at Watkins Glen brought his season total to five, two more than any other driver. Larson followed it up with a third-place run last week at The Brickyard. In recent weeks, he has wrestled the points lead away from Denny Hamlin and is closing in on a regular-season championship. Larson has the top driver rating on the year and is a close second to Hamlin in average finish. With Chevrolet looking like the manufacturer to beat on the high downforce tracks to date, Michigan could very well be another dominant run for the No. 5 team.
Perhaps being spun out in the closing laps last week was just the extra motivation Denny Hamlin needed to finally reach victory lane this season. For the same reasons he is an attractive top-5 bet this week, Hamlin should not be overlooked when it comes to winning the race outright either. The regular season points championship does have playoff implications in the form of bonus points. Hamlin would certainly love to pad his total in advance. A Joe Gibbs Toyota in victory lane at Michigan would be a party spoiler. Nonetheless, to say the No. 11 team is overdue is an understatement.
While I am hesitant to back many Fords this weekend given the manufacturer’s struggles with the high downforce package, there is a great opportunity for bettors looking at longshot outright winners. Fan-favorite Matt DiBenedetto is desperate for a win to sneak into the NASCAR Playoffs. After numerous early-season struggles, the No. 21 team has been operating much smoother in recent weeks. Going all the way back to Road America in early July, DiBenedetto has three top-10s and no finish worse than 11th. Despite taking damage last week at Indy, the team hung in and finished fifth. In addition to needing a win to make the postseason, DiBenedetto still does not have a Cup Series ride for next season. It’s a longshot for a reason, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Could all-time win No. 100 for Wood Brothers Racing come right in Ford’s backyard this weekend?
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