We’ve got some Saturday night racing under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway which is known as the world’s fastest half-mile track.
It’s the second time this season the NASCAR Cup Series has visited the .533-mile concrete bullring and it will also be the 24th race of the season meaning there are only three races to go before the 16-driver playoff field is set for the South Point 400 in Las Vegas.
The pressure is mounting for a few drivers sitting on the fence of making the playoffs or not and the bumping and banging of Bristol is going to cause a few drivers to lose their tempers and for some reason, the night race always triggers drivers to lose their cool.
And Bristol really is the world’s fastest half-mile. No one has questioned Bristol’s claim around the world so I’m cool with it. But if we just look at the other half-mile track in the Cup Series at Martinsville you can see the massive differences in speed and it comes from the difference in banking. Martinsville is flat and the pole-winning qualifying speed in March was 97.8 mph by Joey Logano. In April’s day race at Bristol, it was Chase Elliott winning the pole at 131.7 mph.
That’s a huge disparity for the same distance, but it’s Bristol’s 26 to 30 degrees of variable banking that allows the centrifugal force to keep the cars sticking to the track at high speeds. Think of a ball on the roulette wheel being able to stick and spin round and round as long as it keeps speed. It’s kind of the same thing with Bristol’s speeds.
The first thing we have to do before handicapping Bristol is understanding that Kyle Busch is the active leader with eight wins and 2,303 laps led over 28 starts. He led 71 laps in an April win to give him wins in three of his last four starts there.
Something else we should also understand is that Busch, who is a massive 9-4 favorite to win Saturday night, hasn’t won since June 2. His Pocono win was his fourth of the season and it came in the 14th race of the season. He’s in a mid-season slump, as strange as that sounds.
But that’s where you have to make some decisions when creating your wagering gameplan this week. If you left Busch out of the equation last week at Michigan, or the last nine weeks, consider yourself lucky. I leave him out often because of his low odds and usually, when I do go with him it’s a strategy to basically be an insurance policy of breaking even for the week.
Busch winning three of the last four races at Bristol might be enough reason to change your normal strategy of staggering five or six drivers and go heavier with Busch and eliminate the bottom three drivers of your list. If your weekly bankroll is $100, maybe Busch gets $75 of that and the other $25 is placed between two other drivers.
So who would my top two other drivers be if I only had three wagers to make?
I’d go with drivers that had a decent past history at Bristol, but not necessarily make it even half of the decision. Kurt Busch has six wins at Bristol and was runner-up in the April race, but his runner-up is more important than his six wins even though he won this race last season. Yes, the Las Vegas Busch brothers have won the last four at Bristol, including the quinella this year.
Speaking of that horse racing reference, can somebody please get on that with all the new technology spilling into the states. U.S. Bookmaing’s Vic Salerno came up with a sports parimutuel system — Mega$ports — that included NASCAR in the late 1990s when he owned LeRoy’s sports books.
It made watching races more fun than ever with a few exactas, quinellas, trifectas and superfectas on the stock car races. They offered odds pools in the three major touring NASCAR Series — Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks. It was pooled into just about every sportsbook in Nevada, but the other sports didn’t catch on so Mega$ports was scratched.
I believe Salerno still owns the rights to the technology. Just like horses, except closer to a built-in 10 percent hold unlike the horses’ 20 percent, the sportsbooks couldn’t lose.
It was ahead of its time, but now with mobile phones and the entire country out there loving fantasy sports, I believe it could be the right time again.
Back to the Bristol race and why Kurt Busch’s runner-up is more important than his past wins. It’s all about the race package being used this week which has no aero ducts and engines with 750 horsepower. They are very similar to last season but the taller spoilers give it a different dimension.
Kurt Busch is a great candidate because of his personal skills on the track and a package that ran great there in April. But I also like the most consistent drivers with this package which includes Martin Truex Jr winning three of the eight races this season using it.
If I only had two choices to makes wagers on this week, it is Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney who has been stellar with this week’s race package.
Hamlin comes in with top-five finishes in his last five races on the schedule including a first and second-place finish on tracks they visited for the second time this season.
With this specific package, he has finished in the top-five in seven of the eight races. No other driver can boast that. He won at Bristol in 2012 and finished fifth there in April.
On another side note, Hamlin is having the best year of his career. He was 25-1 to win his first NASCAR Cup Championship before the season and has been dropped to 12-1 by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Blaney has finished fifth or better in six of the eight races using this package and is still searching for his first win of the season. He has dominated at Bristol in all three of his starts since being with Team Penske leading 379 laps, including 158 laps led in the April race where he finished a career-best fourth.