2021 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Preview
Last week, we cashed an easy winning ticket with Martin Truex at Richmond Raceway in the 2nd race of NASCAR's Cup Series playoffs. The Cup Series returns to Bristol Motor Speedway for the prestigious Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race on Saturday. Currently, there are several popular drivers, with numerous wins this season, that are in jeopardy of elimination at Bristol. William Byron, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, and even Kyle Busch could be eliminated with poor performances at Thunder Valley. While the playoff scenarios will add to the unfolding drama Saturday night, let's turn our focus towards another prime betting opportunity that short track racing provides!
Oddly enough, this Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will be the first event of the season on Bristol's traditional layout. Bristol Motor Speedway unveiled their dirt surface back in the spring, which was used among all NASCAR's touring series. As a result, this is the first time in recent history that Bristol will hold just one event on the concrete surface. Obviously, it would help to have some observable data from the spring race this week, especially when you consider the Cup Series' will not have any practices or qualifying prior to the event. Fortunately, bettors can still find some solace in the fact that a handful of drivers seem to always emerge at the front of the field at Bristol.
From a historical standpoint, the Busch brothers have combined for 14 victories at Bristol. Younger brother Kyle has the 3rd-most victories (8) all-time at Bristol, including two wins in the last six races. Kevin Harvick (3), Brad Keselowski (3), Denny Hamlin (2), and Joey Logano (2) are among the other heavy hitters at Bristol that consistently run towards the front of the field. Harvick is the defending winner of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race and is still searching for his first victory in 2021. Personally, I believe Hamlin and Logano have performed the best with the 750hp rules package that will be utilized at Bristol this weekend among the top drivers. With that being said, Kyle Busch is a threat with every Bristol appearance.
While most bettors like to look at prior victories alone, I like to look at performance trends from all angles, and that is why I believe we may see a first-time winner at Bristol this weekend. Before anyone gets too excited, I'm not expecting any big underdog-style victories that could yield huge payout potential. However, I do believe Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have been among the best drivers at Bristol in recent races despite not having any wins to show for it. Elliott is currently listed at near 10-1 odds which may be the best value across all betting options. Elliott leads all drivers with the highest average driver rating over the last five races and has the best average running position among all drivers. At 10-1 odds, you are getting great value from one of the best Bristol talents in the field.
Kyle Larson is a less appealing betting option mainly because he is listed among the overall favorites at just 5-1 odds this week. Honestly, I could see why bettors would rather side with Kyle Busch at similar odds due to Rowdy's incredible resume at Thunder Valley. However, I would argue that Larson's talent level is very similar to Busch at Bristol. Larson has posted two runner-up finishes in his last four starts, which occurred with Chip Ganassi Racing. As everyone has seen this season, Larson has been incredible with better cars at Hendrick Motorsports, and I'm expecting that to be the difference this Saturday. It may not be the popular pick, but I think it will be a winning one!