The NASCAR Cup Series will complete the “West Coast Swing” this week when they race at Phoenix Raceway. This is going to be a big race for the Cup Series. The next time the drivers visit this track, it will be to crown the 2023 champion. Drivers need to have a good run Sunday so they have some good notes to bring back in November if they are lucky enough to be in the championship. This race is also important because it is the first race with the new aero package. It will be fun to see how it all plays out Sunday.
I was asked by a few people to post my Best Bets earlier in the week so they can bet the drivers at higher odds than they will get after practice. I plan to post this article on Wednesdays this season, but this is a good week to wait until after practice to make your picks.
Denny Hamlin said on his Actions Detrimental podcast, “The race Sunday is going to be a sim race. The teams practiced the new aero package at Phoenix in January, but NASCAR decided to make so small changes to that package. So no one really has seen this aero package on the track, right? There is going to be one team who unloads of the truck Friday and totally dominates practice. You will see the largest gap in practice speeds as we have seen in a long time. I have no idea which team is going to hit the setup. I hope it is mine. Christopher Bell did have the fastest car in the test session, so that is a positive for us… but really it is anyone’s guess which team is going to nail the setup Friday.”
Making bets now does not seem like a good idea based on Hamlin’s theory. He has been right on a lot of his predictions (he said the Fords would have the speed at Daytona and the Chevy’s would dominate Las Vegas).
Here is how I am going to wager this week…. I will watch practice Friday (6:30 pm ET on FS2) with the DraftKings Sportsbook App open. If one team is dominating practice and fast on the long runs, I will hurry up and bet that driver if he has long odds before the DraftKings Sportsbook makes changes. The sportsbooks are going to do their best to adjust the odds once they see what happens in Friday’s practice. It looks like DraftKings Sportsbook released some low odds on the drivers to prevent from getting burned. If the drivers who are currently listed as the favorites dominate practice, I may sit out this week and save my money for the races when all of the top drivers are not listed at 10-1 odds and under.
Here are my early week bets if you really want to place some money on the drivers now…
DRAFTKINGS ODDS FOR PHOENIX
* The odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook. The odds could change between the time of this article and the time you place your bet.
** The first number is the amount of money based on the second number (the amount of the wager). So if you bet $1 on Joey Logano at 8-1 odds, you will win $8.
Here are my “Best Bets” for the United Rentals 500(k)…
DENNY HAMLIN (10-1): The fastest car at the test session in January was Christopher Bell’s car. I would bet him, but his stats at Phoenix stink. Instead, I would bet his teammate. Hamlin has finished three of the last five races at Phoenix in the top-four. He is a smart driver. Hamlin should be able to figure out the new aero package rather quickly.
KYLE BUSCH (8-1): There are many reasons to like Busch this week. He will be competing in the Xfinity Series race and he usually performs well on Sunday when he gets some track time on Saturday. The No. 8 car looked really fast at the short, flat track at the Clash at the Coliseum. Busch also, has really good stats at Phoenix. If his team can come close to hitting on the setup Friday, Busch should have a great chance to win Sunday.
KEVIN HARVICK (10-1): I really like Harvick this week because of his consistency at Phoenix. Harvick has finished 19 consecutive races in the top-10, with six trips to Victory Lane at this track. That is long samples size with a lot a good results. He also raced a many different aero packages in those races, so the change should not affect the No. 4 car much. If any driver is able to adapt quickly to the new aero package, it is Harvick.
WILLIAM BYRON (12-1): Back-to-back wins for Byron? It would not surprise me. Hamlin said, “This race will be a sim-race.” Who is the best driver in the simulator? It is Willy-B. He was also fast at Phoenix last year. Byron qualified 3rd, led 12 laps, won Stage 1, but had problems later in the race. He is a good pick, especially with all of the top drivers listed at 10-1 odds or better and Willy-B at 12-1 odds.
LONG SHOT SPECIAL: My “Long-Shot Special” this week is CHASE BRISCOE (20-1). I know 20-1 odds are not really a long-shot, but he does have 11 drivers listed ahead of him. Briscoe has stunk this year, but maybe a trip to Phoenix will get him on a hot streak. Briscoe won this race last year and he finished 4th in November. If his car has any speed this weekend, Briscoe should have a decent chance to get back to Victory Lane.
* I will post any prop bets I like, Head-to-Head Driver Matchups and Group Picks in this article after practice and qualifying Saturday.
Good luck this week!
Follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR