June 10, 2021
The last two winners of NASCAR’s annual All-Star Race have been listed as this week’s favorites: Kyle Larson won in 2019 and is the 5/2 favorite to win at William Hill sportsbooks and Chase Elliott won in 2020 and is 6/1 second choice to win.
But none of those wins matter this week because the non-points race is at a different track with an entirely new race package and a wild rules format that should shuffle things up often by inverting the field a few times in the six rounds as they’ll run a total of 100 laps (Rounds 1 through 4 will be 15 laps each, Round 5 will be 30 laps, and the final round will be a 10 lap dash).
Drivers who have won a race since 2020, won a past All-Star Race or Cup Championship are eligible to participate. That means 17 drivers automatically qualify and four more will come from the All-Star Open.
NASCAR All-Star Race Analysis
This year’s All-Star Race is at Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked 1.5-mile layout with $1 million in prize money given to the winner. A Hendrick Motorsports driver has won the last four points-paying races on the schedule. Larson has won the last two races and has been runner-up or better in his last five starts overall. Elliott has been third or better in his last four starts. They’re both dialed in whatever package is being used, but this week everyone will be using a race package with 510 horsepower which hasn’t been used anywhere yet.
NASCAR All-Star Race Betting Resources
Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team captured the NASCAR All-Star Race last July from Bristol Motor Speedway. (AP)
Handicapping NASCAR at Texas
The big question I have here is how much inverting the field at each stage will affect the outcome in the final 10 lap dash which is set by the finish position of Round 5. Crew chiefs and drivers are trying to get a grip on the rules and package as well.
“I think the biggest thing is that you’re going to have the low horsepower, even lower than the horsepower we have currently,” said William Byron who is 10/1 to win. “It’s going to put us closer together, more nose-to-tail, and probably will be drafting constantly. That’s going to make it tough. You’re going to have to have a good handling car to try (to) drive away from people, but I feel like it’s still going to be hard to really ever get away. We’re focusing on getting the handling right, and I think we’re in the ballpark. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
NASCAR All-Star Race Contenders
Byron is definitely someone to consider for a win just because he’s been ninth or better in all five races on 1.5-mile tracks using the 550 HP package which includes a win at Homestead.
But with the field being inverted so often, will the best car be able to emerge from the back and get to the front in time for the last 10 lap dash? That’s not a lot of time to move through the field. Strategy is going to be key and everyone will be in the same boat of not knowing what to expect. It’s the All-Star Race and requires the crew chief to examine more than a regular race.
“For me, numbers are a fun Rubik’s Cube,” said Greg Ives, crew chief of the Hendrick Chevrolet driven by Alex Bowman. “I like the more intricate that it gets. The invert following the rounds throws in a lot more details and unpredictability that you can’t really solve in a simple math calculation. Ultimately, our job is to go out there and perform at a high level. I am pretty sure at the end of each round they are going to figure out what the invert is and we are going to line up and go as fast as we can again. Hopefully, we have a chance to lead and won’t be in traffic. Hopefully, we can cross the finish line first at the end of the day. That is really all we can focus on. The uniqueness of the format for this event is what is creating all of the buzz and, ultimately, it is what it is and hopefully we can have some fun.”
Bowman is 12/1 to win and deserves consideration based on solid runs at Charlotte (5th) and Atlanta (3rd). Both his wins this season came with the 750 HP package.
Lucky Number Larson
But Larson is still the driver to beat despite all the inversions (see rules below) just because of what he’s done on 1.5-mile tracks this season leading the most laps in four of the five races and winning two of them with both came at Texas sister tracks in Las Vegas and Charlotte. Larson will be fast again this week even if he doesn’t know the rules yet.
“I haven’t studied the format yet, but the plan is to get the best possible finish in each segment to give us the best possible starting spot when it matters,” Larson said earlier this week. “It’s a short race, so you have to be aggressive, and you have to be really aggressive on each restart. Our mile-and-a-half program has been solid all year, so I’m really looking forward to this Sunday.”
Solid all year? Larson is being modest. How about the absolute best with no equal.
But the chance of someone else stealing this race is a strong possibility. Larson has battled dirty air this season while being stuck in traffic behind leaders, but not over and over again like the inversion could shuffle him to the back multiple rounds.
Joe Gibbs Contenders?
What if someone like Denny Hamlin gets out front in the final stage, a driver offered at 10-to-1 odds that has still not won a race this season but did win a $1 million All-Star Race check in 2015?
“We’ve had strong performances at Texas in the past, but we need to up our game a bit on mile-and-a-halfs,” Hamlin said. “With the wild rules, we might need luck to fall in our favor, too. However, I believe in our FedEx team and know we are always capable of getting the job done.”
Hamlin is a three-time winner at Texas and I could see him stealing this race as well and I already have a wager on him.
Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch has four Texas wins and has been the best JGR driver on 1.5s this season with a win (Kansas) and top-fives in his last four on them. He’s being offered at +850 by William Hill bet shops. He won the 2017 All-Star Race at Charlotte.
I keep coming back to Elliott and Busch as my top bets. Elliott was runner-up in the Coca-Cola 600 two weeks ago, his second straight top-five on 1.5-mile tracks this season. In 10 Texas Cup starts, he’s averaged a 12th-place finish with two top-fives. No wins there except for a 2014 Xfinity Series win. Elliott talked about his All-Star strategy earlier in the week.
“With this year’s format, there’s obviously a lot going on,” Elliott said. “I think it’ll be hard to play games to try and set yourself up for the next round; that may end up hurting you more than helping. It’s going to be one of those deals where you just have to race as hard as you can the whole time and let the inverts play out on their own.”
My wallet is going to treat this race with lots of caution, but I will still bet about 20% of what my normal weekly bankroll is.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. should be listed as one of the favorites with Tyler Reddick and Chris Buecher to win one of three stages (20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps) of the All-Star Open which will have four drivers advance including the fan voting for those not qualified. William Hill was not booking the event as of Thursday morning because there are technically three winners.
As soon as one driver wins a stage, they rest the car and let the others try to race their way in. The best way to offer odds is by posting the winner of the first stage after 20 laps. Stenhouse talked this week about the reduction in horsepower and who may now have the advantage.
“I think it’s the same for everybody as far as if it makes it more challenging or not,” Stenhouse said. “You know, I am interested to see what the racing is like. It seems like every time we slow the cars down we continue to push harder, so it just seems to be a product of being a little more comfortable. If the speeds are that far down, I feel like bumping in the corners becomes more continuous and I don’t know how that will affect people kind of locking up like the Fords did. When the speeds were slower, I felt like the Fords were kind of able to lock together and push a little bit more. So, it will be a little more interesting, but they have to try something because obviously we are flipping cars. And that’s something no one wants to do. But if you look at the history of racing and all race cars, that is a product of racing, and it happens. That is a tough ask, but it is cool that they are trying.”
The All-Star Race format is as follows:
NASCAR All-Star Race