Pick your favorite adage: “Checkers or wreckers” or “bring back the trophy or the steering wheel”, there is only one thing that matters in the All-Star Race – and that is winning.
This is not simply another contest on another 1.5-mile track. The aggression that goes into the sprint race sets it apart from any of the 400- or 500-mile affairs. The drivers are not thinking about protecting their equipment. They’re not thinking about points. And with the race as a standalone affair this year at the Texas Motor Speedway instead of a two-week show that includes the Coke 600, they’re not particularly worried about the condition of their car.
NASCAR has considered moving the All-Star race around for several years – and with a huge reorganization in 2021 they finally got a chance to contest it on a track other than Charlotte Motor Speedway for only the third time in history. The first edition of this race in 1985 was won by Awesome Bill Elliott on his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway. Last year Chase Elliott won at Bristol Motor Speedway, which makes them the only two drivers to win an All-Star race that was not held at Charlotte.
While the All-Star race is not a standard affair, looking too far into the past is not useful. And with the “checkers or wreckers” mindset, handicapping this event is a bit like trying to predict an aero-restricted superspeedway race. A lot can happen in the final handful of laps that creates a bad day for any given driver.
This is an event that has been kind to Kyle Larson (+340 at PointsBet Sportsbook), however. He won the most recent All-Star race on a 1.5-mile track when he charged up from 18th in 2019. In 2017, he was second to Kyle Busch.
This year, he continues to prove that Rick Hendrick made the right choice by giving him a second chance. Two of his three points’ paying wins came on "cookie-cutter" courses at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. He does not yet have a win at Texas, but since this is a course that will host one of the playoff races, he wants to add to his mystique and keep the competition eying him as the driver to beat.
Best Bets for a top five
Chase Elliott (+725) got off to a slow start on this track type in 2021. He finished 14th at Homestead-Miami Speedway and was 13th in Vegas. A 38th in Atlanta was the product of an engine failure, so he had to wait until Kansas Speedway and the Buschy McBusch 400 to reverse his fortune. Two weeks ago he finished second to Larson in the Coke 600. This is a good week to see if he can keep his momentum alive on the "cookie-cutters".
Kyle Busch (+850) has enough success at Texas in various forms of racing that he is probably not overly concerned about any lack of practice. He won the 2017 All-Star race at Charlotte. His one victory so far in 2021 came at Kansas and that was part of a current four-race, top-five streak on 1.5-milers. Last week he kept his momentum alive with a solid run at Sonoma Raceway, so you should expect to see him in the mix for at least a top-three.
Longshot: Kevin Harvick (+1300) needs a boost. While he has been erratic on the 1.5-milers this year with two top-fives, two more finishes of 10th, and a 20th, that won’t make any difference in this exhibition race that doesn’t pay points. Harvick can be aggressive when he wants to be. His 2018 All-Star win shows that he can put his elbows up and drive to the front. With 13/1 odds, he’s worth a unit or two.
Longshot: William Byron (+1500) and Alex Bowman (+1300) are regularly poised to win, but their inconsistency has opened up long odds. Depending on your strategy, that could play into your favor if you are betting five or six deep. Byron’s Homestead win earlier this season came as a surprise. He did not crack the top-five on "cookie-cutter" track again until Charlotte, but he has swept the top 10. Bowman does not yet have a win on this track type in 2021, but five of his last eight races on them ended in top-fives.
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