It is usually tough to pick a non-playoff driver to win a race in the Round of Eight because the cream usually rises to the top at this time of year. The race at Texas has a habit of being a bit unpredictable because pit strategy often comes into play because the race is so long (500 miles). That is what happened in July when Austin Dillon went to Victory Lane. Betting the playoff drivers is the safest bets, but I will be throwing some darts at some long shots and hope to hit the bullseye.
Las Vegas Odds for Texas
Kevin Harvick (5-2) / Denny Hamlin (5-1): Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are the favorites for a reason. Harvick has won the last three October races at Texas and he starts on the pole Sunday. The No. 4 car is going to be tough to beat. Hamlin won at Texas last year and he had one of the fastest cars in the July race. I am sure the No. 11 car will be battling the No. 4 for the lead a lot in this race.
Ryan Blaney (11-1): I have a rule… Whenever the Cup Series competes at a 1.5-mile track, be sure to put a few dollars on Ryan Blaney to win. He has not won a lot of the races on the intermediate tracks but he had dominated most of them. Blaney led a series-high 150 laps at Texas in July. He got into the wall while racing for the lead. If he can avoid problems, the No. 12 car will have the speed to win this race.
Kurt Busch (20-1): Kurt Busch ran most of the race at Kansas in the top five until his engine expired. Now Busch is in a must win situation and he sounded confident in most of his interviews this week that he can get the job done. The No. 1 team will likely give up some Stage points to ensure he starts up front in the final run for the checkered flag. Busch won at a similar track (Las Vegas) last month. I will bet him at 20-1 this week.
Alex Bowman (33-1): Alex Bowman has been on fire in the playoffs. He finished 5th at Las Vegas and 3rd last week at Texas. Bowman crashed out of the race at Texas in July but his team had a lot of speed. The No. 88 car finished in the top five in this race last year, so they are no strangers to running up front in the Lone Star State. Bowman is almost in a “must win situation” so I expect the No. 88 team to gamble in the pits to give Bowman a good chance to win the race Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson (40-1): Jimmie Johnson will be my long shot pit this week. The NASCAR Gods love to give us a happy ending (like Jeff Gordon’s win at Martinsville and Tony Stewart’s win at Sonoma). Can Johnson get to Victor Lane one more time before he retires? His 7 wins at Texas are 4 more than any other driver in the field. Johnson won at Texas in 2017 so it is not that long ago since he was holding the six shooters. Johnson finished 5th at Texas last year. I will throw $5 on him and hope the NASCAR Gods do their thing once again.
Good luck this week!
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