The Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway lived up to its potential of being one of NASCAR’s least predictable races. Cole Custer in 10th earned his first top-10 of the season and was joined at the front of the pack by several drivers who are not exactly fixtures in the single digits. These dark horses included top-five finishers Michael McDowell and Matt DiBenedetto.
But that was Talladega where a flick of the wrist at the right time means the difference between successfully getting to the lead pack or ending the day on a hook.
The results at Kansas Speedway are much more traditional. Unfortunately, a big part of the reason this track is predictable is because only marquee teams tend to run at the front of the pack. That is true not only at Kansas, but also the entire list of similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks that require the total team package for success.
Still, in three 1.5-mile races so far this season, there have been at least five surprise top-10 finishers; each of them finished either sixth or seventh at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, or Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Christopher Bell (+2800 for the outright win) also scored a single top-10 at Vegas, but his affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing has him listed with minus odds. If you are feeling the power of JGR, Bell can be had at +235 for a top-five, however, so there is a wager to be made. Bell finished third at Texas Motor Speedway last fall.
Who will be this week’s surprise top-10 finisher? The right answer could supplement your investment.
Kurt Busch (+4000) has the potential to break out in any given race. Earlier this week when we sat down to talk to NBC analyst Steve Letarte, he pegged Busch as a surprise contender given the veteran’s skill on slick, worn pavement. The good news about his 40/1 odds for the outright win is that it drags the remainder of his numbers into the positive range with a +110 to finish in the top 10, +450 for a top-five, and +900 for a top three. Make increasingly aggressive wagers on him as high up the order as you think appropriate.
DiBenedetto (+6000) came within a lap of winning last week’s Geico 500. He led 15 of the last 16 circuits and was passed under the white flag by Brad Keselowski. He could experience a letdown in emotion or the near-miss could galvanize him. Since he also finished ninth at Richmond Raceway, we are going to lean toward this creating momentum.
DiBenedetto scored three top-fives and one other top-10 last year on the 1.5-mile tracks. He hasn’t cracked the top 10 on them yet in 2021, but he came close at Atlanta with an 11th. His top-10 odds this week are +150.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+12500) makes the dark horse list with some frequency. He deserves a mention again because he keeps coming close on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks with three consecutive top-15s on the course type. His long odds of 125/1 for the outright win drag his top-10 number to +300 and that is certainly worth a wager. In fact, if you have a little money left over after wagering on the favorites, he deserves a modest bet for the win.
Daniel Suarez (+25000) is prepared to break out. While we don’t exactly expect that to happen on a 1.5-mile track given the relative inexperience of this team, we certainly didn’t think he would challenge for the win on the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track either. Suarez finished 15th at Homestead and was 17th at Atlanta. He is listed at +550 for a top-10 this week. Those odds are worth taking.
If Kevin Harvick can challenge for a win this week – and he is currently the seventh-ranked driver for the outright win – he could drag Chase Briscoe (+20000) with him. Briscoe has some room to make up on the 1.5-milers, but he has been hovering around the middle of the pack with a best finish of 18th in Homestead.
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