Kyle Busch’s finishing positions in the three races that comprised the first round of the Cup Series Playoffs were less than impressive and not what we are used to seeing from the two-time champion. Oddsmakers, though, are looking beyond those results when pricing the No. 18 for Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Las Vegas represents the Series’ return to the 550-horsepower engine, a package with which Busch has thrived. In the nine races on ovals using the high-downforce package this year, he has two wins (Kansas, Pocono-2), two second-place finishes (Pocono, Atlanta-2) two thirds (Vegas, Charlotte), a fifth (Atlanta), a seventh (Michigan) and a tenth (Homestead-Miami).
“He runs well at these kinds of tracks,” Ed Salmons, who posts NASCAR odds at SuperBook USA in Vegas, told NASCAR.com. “He won the first race at Kansas – Kansas and Vegas are real similar. … He’s been running great at these mile-and-a-half tracks, better than his (Joe Gibbs Racing) teammates.”
More recently, though, Busch crashed out of Darlington, finished ninth at Richmond despite having perhaps the best car and was a distant 21st at Bristol after cutting a tire in the final stage.
Salmons explained away some of that inconsistency.
“He had the race won at Richmond. I mean, that thing was over, and he sped on the very last stop (and was penalized for it), which was asinine,” Salmons said. “And you can throw out last week. He was just trying to get in (to the Round of 12). Those guys just race so differently (in certain playoff situations).”
Listed between +600 and +650 on various oddsboards, Busch is priced behind only Kyle Larson to win at his hometown track this weekend. Here’s a look at Sunday’s top 12 betting favorites (as of Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. ET), who, not coincidentally, are the same 12 drivers still in the hunt for the 2021 Cup Championship. Odds are from the SuperBook, plus NASCAR’s three sports betting sponsors – BetMGM, Barstool and WynnBET.
|Martin Truex Jr.||+700||+750||+900||+800|
WHIPPING AROUND THE FIELD
Running down some other contenders …
Kyle Larson: Doesn’t seem to matter to the No. 5 which track they’re running on. Short-track, intermediate track, road course – Larson has won on all of them this season, including Vegas in March. Larson was offered at 10-1 odds to win that race; he’s 3-1 or shorter this week.
Team Penske: The three Penske drivers all rate near the top of the field in recent Vegas history, and their long odds present nice potential paydays for bettors who believe they can regain form this weekend. Brad Keselowski – whose lame-duck status with the team we discussed earlier this week – has a Cup-leading 4.86 average finish over the seven most recent races at this track, including a second-place finish in the Spring.
Ryan Blaney owns a 8.57 average finish and 101.3 rating (both sixth best) over that span, and Joey Logano’s 113.3 average rating ranks second to Kevin Harvick (114.2).
Said Salmons, “Logano is the king of winning with bad cars, but he’s been awful on these 550- horsepower tracks (16.89 average finish this year), even though his history is so good here.”
Kevin Harvick: Happy has maintained his top spot in average driver rating at Vegas despite some forgettable recent performances at a track he used to own. He finished 20th here in March, and reading from his notes on Harvick’s 10th-place finish last Fall, Salmons said, “‘car was decent but not close to the best. He doesn’t win races without dominating cars,’ which is true.”
Harvick, who had the speed to win at Bristol last week and finished second, still seeks his first victory of the season.
FROM THE SOUTH POINT
As title sponsor of Sunday’s race, the South Point Hotel & Casino is hosting nearly 50 race teams this weekend. We spoke last month with former NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan, whose father Michael owns the property, about the atmosphere during race week, and earlier this week, we caught up with Chris Andrews, who runs the South Point sportsbook.
Andrews said the book offers an expanded wagering menu when the NASCAR circuit stops in town, and handle for Vegas races rivals that for the Daytona 500.
Gaughan told us that while race week can be hectic at the South Point, it’s “so worth it. We love seeing the race fans at the hotel, love seeing the race teams. We have 47 teams total between Truck, Xfinity and Cup that stay with us. We take care of the race teams. Man, we love it.”
Added Andrews, “They’re great to have around, a lot of good ole’ boys. They’re a lot of fun, they come here and have a good time.”
If you happen to be in Vegas this weekend, be sure to stop by and maybe make a wager or three at the South Point sportsbook – it’s one of the best in town.
Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.