2021 Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Race Preview
Last week's elimination race at the ROVAL provided a dramatic close to the Round of 12, which ultimately ended with Kyle Larson in victory lane despite battling alternator problems all afternoon. Larson has been incredible since joining Hendrick Motorsports, and his victory at the ROVAL was Larson's 7th win of the season. With just four races remaining, the Cup Series will travel to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday for the running of the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500. Unlike previous years, Sunday's appearance in the Lonestar State will be the only race of the season at Texas Motor Speedway and will undoubtedly be another pivotal race in the Cup Series' championship.
Like all 1.5-mile venues, the Cup Series will utilize the 550 horsepower (low downforce) rules package again this week which will also be used next week at Kansas. I always mention the rules package usage because there are some drivers/teams whose performance has differed significantly between the two packages this season. With that said, collectively, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch have been the top two drivers this season with the 550hp package. Larson has been fast everywhere this season, and his dominant win at Charlotte is noteworthy based on the similarities in layout/design compared to Texas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch has finished in the top 5 in every race at a 1.5-mile venue since Las Vegas in early March. The #18 team seems to have a significant edge on the intermediate layouts, and I believe that projects nicely for "Rowdy" this week.
From a betting standpoint, Larson, Busch, and Denny Hamlin are going to be your obvious choices this week to find victory lane. As much as Larson has impressed this season, I think there is too much parity with the low-downforce rules package to confidently back Larson at 3.5 to 1 odds. I would much rather take Hamlin or Busch at twice the value who are basically performing at the same level statistically on the 1.5-mile surfaces. Hamlin is probably the driver that is performing better than the analytics might predict. The #11 has come alive during the playoffs, with wins in each opening round event. Hamlin won the only race in the playoffs thus far at a 1.5-mile venue at Las Vegas just two weeks ago and seems to be peaking at the perfect time. I believe bettors can likely fit both Busch and Hamlin in their lineups this week and still maintain sufficient ROI. However, if I had to take a pick between the two drivers, I would still give Busch the slight edge.
In recent weeks, we have seen some surprise victories with AJ Allmendinger at Indianapolis and again with Bubba Wallace at Talladega. Admittedly, the 1.5-mile venues rarely produce surprise winners, but we have gotten close several times this year. One driver that I have listed as a dark horse this week includes the #8 of Tyler Reddick. Personally, I believe Reddick has better value in H2H match-ups based on the probability factors. However, Reddick cannot be ignored at 30-1 odds. The 2nd year driver nearly pulled off an upset at the ROVAL last week but settled for a runner-up finish. Reddick has also been fast in several recent races with the 550hp package and was the highest non-playoff driver at Las Vegas (6th). At 30-1 odds, Reddick has serious dark horse potential and should be considered in all formats.
Be sure to follow me at NASCARWagers.com for all official selections for this weekend's races at Texas Motor Speedway