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Similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks were once the exclusive playground of Cup’s Rich and Famous, but dark horse now roam free.
More than half a dozen drivers with outright win odds great enough to drag their top-10 line to a plus margin have already earned 14 top-10s in five races – more than 25 percent of the available slots. Several of them have multiple such finishes and quite a few others have come close with top-15s. Among those 14 top-10s are only two top-fives, however, so don’t bet the outright or top-three lines unless you are a very bold gambler.
With a strong second-place to William Byron at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Tyler Reddick (+8000) is the only dark horse to score a podium finish. If he can do so again, that would be worth +1400. Reddick is not a flash in the pan. Last year he scored four top-10s and several mid-teens finishes on this track type. This year, he has three top-10s including the most recent races at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Reddick’s top-10 odds this week are +190.
Reddick’s teammate Austin Dillon (+6000) has been equally strong this year. He finished 12th in the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead and that is his worst result on a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks all year. His last three efforts have landed inside the top 10 and stretching back to the final two races on this track type in 2020, he has a seven-race streak of top-12 finishes. So long as he keeps hovering around the top-10, he will occasionally crack it and with a line of +155 for that mark, he is a good bet.
Chris Buescher (+12500) has also been a constant threat on the 1.5-mile tracks. He got off to a slow start in Miami with a 19th, but he has swept the top 15 since and his last three results landed in the top-10. There is still some uncertainty surrounding this team with the rumor that Brad Keselowski might join Roush Fenway Racing in 2022 and take one of the rides – unless they expand to three cars. Still, every weekend is an audition for both Buescher and Ryan Newman.
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The Keselowski rumor also changes the complexion of Team Penske and their satellite partner, the Wood Brothers. Matt DiBenedetto (+12500) is the other dark horse contender who has scored a top-five this season. He was fourth in the Buschy McBusch 400 at Kansas. DiBenedetto seems to be an all or nothing driver on the 1.5-milers. Last year he finished second in both Las Vegas Motor Speedway races and was third at Kentucky Speedway. This year, he slipped outside the top 15 at Vegas with a 16th.
Michael McDowell (+40000) is a very long shot and it would take a dramatic set of circumstances to elevate him to the win. A top-10 is not entirely out of the question, however, especially if strategy comes into play in the closing laps of this 400-mile affair. McDowell finished sixth at Homestead while he was still riding his early season momentum. Since then he has swept the top 10 and has one other top-15 at Kansas.
Daniel Suarez (+15000) is another interesting driver this week. He has not yet cracked the top 10 on a 1.5-mile track, but he came close at Kansas with an 11th-place result. Three of his remaining four efforts on this track type landed between 15th and 17th so a little change in fortune could have a big impact.
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