NASCAR’s All-Star Race (8 p.m. ET, FS1) has a very unique format, which includes four stages and a mandatory pit stop, with $1 million on the line for the winner.
The race is much shorter than typical NASCAR Cup Series events, meaning track position will be even more important than it already is for Sunday night’s All-Star Race.
I didn’t bet anything early because I wanted to see starting positions for the All-Star Race, but with the starting grid now set, two bets quickly popped as offering value for tonight’s race.
NASCAR Picks for the All-Star Race
*Odds as of Sunday morning
Kyle Busch (+600 at FanDuel) to Win
I know, way to go out on a limb by betting the co-favorite, right?
But even at just 6-1, there are too many reasons to like Kyle Busch’s chances tonight to ignore.
First, on similar tracks this season (Las Vegas and Kansas), Busch has shown plenty of speed, posting the second-best average finish while running the second-most fast laps en route to the second-best driver rating.
And by winning the pole in Saturday’s qualifying sessions, the scales are tipped even more in Busch’s favor.
The All-Star Race consists of four stages, the first three of which are just 25 laps.
The winner of each of these stages will start the final 50-lap stage first, second and third, assuming the driver finishes in the top 15 in Stage 3.
For example, the winner of Stage 1 will start first in Stage 4, the winner of Stage 2 will start second, and the winner of Stage 3 will start third.
Securing one of these top-three spots will be huge at a track like Texas which shows little tire wear, meaning track position is key.
So, by starting tonight’s All-Star Race on pole, Busch is in a great position to stay up front and lock in a win in either of the first three stages.
Additionally, at the end of Stage 2, there will be a mandatory four-tire pit stop, and the team with the fastest stop will automatically start fourth in the final stage (assuming they finish 15th or better in Stage 3).
So even if Busch can’t find a way to earn a win in the first three stages, the No. 18 pit crew has been the best as of late, so they’ll have another chance to earn a top-four starting spot in the final stage by banging out a quick stop at end of Stage 2.
Put it all together and we have a driver who has been fast on this track type all season, starting from the pole in a very short race where track position will not only be important to stay up front but also serve as a reward for stage winners.
Ross Chastain (+125 at DraftKings) for a Top-5 Finish
I know that I like Ross Chastain for Sunday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race, but to be honest, I’m really not sure how to play him.
I have no problem with someone betting him to win or even finish top three, but I’m opting for a top-five finish.
Like Busch, Chastain has been incredibly fast on this track type this season, ranking second in laps led while posting the best driver rating at Las Vegas and Kansas, combined.
Chastain was also fast in practice yesterday, evidenced by the fourth-best five-lap average, so, just as we all expected, that car will likely have speed tonight.
The Trackhouse Racing No. 1 team also did a great job in qualifying, putting their car sixth on the starting grid tonight.
Chastain has not been a great qualifier this season, so starting so close to the front will be a huge benefit, especially for all the reasons I laid out above for Busch.
Now, Chastain has been fast on longer runs this season compared to short ones, so I really don’t expect him to win one of the first three stages. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, either.
His car should have enough speed to stay near the front and earn a top-10 starting spot for the final stage, which is where Chastain could shine considering that’s not only the longest stage of the All-Star Race, but also because only green-flag laps count over the final 50 laps.