2021 South Point 400 Race Preview & Picks
Last week, we cashed another free winning pick with Kyle Larson in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. In last week's preview, I advised bettors that Larson would not be the "sexy" pick, but I believed he would be the winning pick to earn his 1st victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. With the win, we have now cashed back-to-back winning tickets with our free picks in recent weeks and will go for the hat trick on Sunday with the running of the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I have been pretty good with my selections at the 1.5-mile venues this season, and I am confident that we have another advantageous betting opportunity on the horizon.
For the first time in several weeks, Cup Series' teams will utilize the 550hp (high-downforce) rules package that has been utilized at all of the bigger tracks this season. The rules package narrative is an important factor to consider this weekend because the entire Round of 16 utilized the 750hp rules package. Therefore some of the trends and performance narratives that have been present through the opening races of the playoffs are not guaranteed to continue this week at Las Vegas. By rule of thumb, we will discuss the drivers that have performed best with the 550hp rules package and use that information to exploit any exaggerated expectations that have stemmed from results over the last few races.
The biggest example that I can point to this week with disparaging expectations vs. reality is the odds surrounding Martin Truex. Truex posted outstanding results in the opening round in the playoffs on the short-tracks where he has excelled all season, including a victory at Richmond in the 2nd race of the playoffs. For Sunday's South Point 400, Truex is listed among the top 3 favorites, which I find completely biased to recent performance. On the 1.5 mile venues over the last five races, Truex has posted a rather mediocre 92.9 average driver rating which is 9th among playoff drivers. If you look at further historical trends, Truex has just one victory at 1.5-mile venues in the last 27 races at those tracks. Needless to say, the odds compared to reality are not aligning.
For potential betting targets for this Sunday's return to Vegas, I think we should point out the fact that Kyle Larson won the Pennzoil 400 at Vegas back in March. Larson's victory was the first of the season and the first of his career with Hendrick Motorsports. While we cannot hang our hats on the March performances at Las Vegas, Larson has continued to be the best among Cup Series' drivers with the 550hp package, especially on the 1.5-mile surfaces. In fact, I would say that Hendrick Motorsports as an entire organization has been the best among the intermediate tracks, which should boost the stocks of Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Alex Bowman to some degree.
Obviously, the problem with backing Larson this week is that he is the overall betting favorite which lends minimal value. While bettors should expect Larson to be tough, he is far from unbeatable, which we have seen in recent weeks. With that thought in mind, I really believe Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin are the sharp picks going into this weekend's event at Vegas. Busch is the hometown guy that has posted remarkable results with the 550hp package this season. Busch has posted finishes of 3rd or better in four of the last seven races on intermediate tracks, which includes a victory at Kansas back in May. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 team appear to have found a lot of momentum during the 2nd half of the season. Hamlin has been among the fastest cars on a weekly basis and has the performance stats with the 550hp rules package that we desire. With the current betting odds both Busch and Hamlin are receiving, I believe they provide enough upside to warrant a selection on Sunday!
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