Phoenix Raceway 500 and Cup Series Championship Betting Preview
The final race of the season will take place on Sunday when the Cup Series' Championship is decided at Phoenix Raceway. Last week, Chase Elliott captured a stunning upset victory at Martinsville to earn a championship bid and perhaps most shockingly helped eliminate Kevin Harvick, who led the Cup Series with nine victories on the season. Now the Cup Series Championship will come down to a battle between Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin. While it is surely anyone's race to win, Joey Logano has the perceived advantage thanks to his win at Phoenix back in March in the Fan Shield 500.
For bettors, I'm not going to say we should ignore Logano's win back at Phoenix, but we must understand this Sunday's race will be completely different from every stretch of the imagination. Therefore any relative results from the beginning of the season have very minimal weight towards this weekend's expectations. In fact, if we compare the championship drivers, Logano's 92.0 average rating over the last five races at Phoenix is the worst among the championship contenders. In comparison, Denny Hamlin (106.0) and Chase Elliott (102.2) have maintained the best average ratings among the Championship 4. However, those stats do not come close to the comparison of what Kyle Busch has accomplished in the Valley of the Sun. Busch has compiled a lucrative 2.9 average finishing position over the last ten races at Phoenix, which includes two victories in the previous four starts. Due to Busch's subpar 2020 campaign, bettors may not back the #18 as confidently this week, but Rowdy should be targeted in all H2H and fantasy formats!
Obviously, anytime the Cup Series visits Phoenix Raceway, you have to bring up the name Kevin Harvick. Harvick has 9 Cup Series victories at Phoenix, which is the most all-time. Harvick posted one of the most dominant stretches we have ever seen at one particular venue from 2012-2016, winning 6 of 8 races at Phoenix. However, Harvick has just one victory (2018) since that streak ended, but he still deserves the ultimate respect for his success at this particular venue. With all those things in mind, I am still siding with Denny Hamlin this week among the ultimate favorites. Hamlin has been the best driver/team combination in the garage this season and is honestly overdue for a championship. Phoenix is the type of setup that favors Hamlin's driving style, and he is also the defending winner of this race, which boosts my expectations for the #11 again this week. Hamlin is listed at +500 to win the race outright, but I think the +250 championship odds are equally valuable.
The reason I believe the championship odds provide the most value for Hamlin is because I'm not ruling out any upset possibilities. I think Kyle Busch has an excellent chance to steal another win this week just as he did two weeks ago at Texas. Busch's +600 betting odds do not exactly provide huge potential, and that is why I like the #18 mostly in H2H and fantasy situations. Outside of Rowdy, I really like the dark horse potential for drivers like Martin Truex Jr (+1200), Ryan Blaney (+1200), and Aric Almirola (+2800). Truex has really improved as a driver at these shorter layouts with top 5 finishes in three of his last six starts at Phoenix. Meanwhile, Ryan Blaney has posted a pair of 3rd place finishes in his last three starts at Phoenix. I have firmly believed the No. 12 car has been among the fastest cars in the field this season, but they just have not got the volume of wins to show for it. Lastly, Aric Almirola is my biggest dark horse consideration this week. Almirola has been really solid at Phoenix over the last several years, and his stats are largely ignored by most bettors. As a result, look for the No. 10 for value in all formats.
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