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Last Updated Jul 17, 2022, 06:48 PM

NASCAR Ambetter 301 Picks, Predictions, Odds

The NextGen car makes its first visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend in Sunday’s Ambetter 301, but we’ve got lots of data from similar tracks that should help us find a winner. 

New Hampshire's flat 1-mile paperclip layout requires a similar set-up as the flat tracks at Phoenix, Richmond, Martinsville, and St. Louis so those that did well on those four should have an edge this weekend which begins with Saturday afternoon practice and qualifying. 

Past New Hampshire results help show what drivers like the layout, who excels, and who doesn’t, but this darn new car has thrown a monkey wrench into past successful handicapping strategies. But the results from the four similar tracks tell us who has what and the Saturday practice session would confirm it or also reveal a couple of drivers to also consider.

This race will be the 20th of 36 on the season with 13 different winners so far. Chase Elliott leads the series with three wins after winning at his home track in Atlanta last week and four others have two wins. To show how great the parity is and what the new car has done, consider that eight winners from last season are still looking for their first 2022 win.

New Hampshire’s Magic Mile made its NASCAR Cup debut in 1993 with Rusty Wallace winning and was given two dates a season in 1997 and then had one of its dates removed after the 2017 season. The last four seasons have been one race a season and all four have been won by a Ford driver.  

AMBETTER 301 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Caesars opened Kyle Busch +700 and he was the first driver bet substantially and now he’s the favorite, and for good reason. He has six Xfinity Series wins at NHMS, three Truck Series wins, and three Cup Series win while also leading all active drivers with 1,134 laps led.

“Loudon is a Martinsville-like short track, but it’s just over a mile,” Busch said. “It’s a little more spread out, but there’s some rooting and gouging going on because it’s a one-lane track and everybody fights for that particular groove. We struggled at Phoenix and Martinsville earlier in the year and those tracks are in the same family as Loudon. But another similar track is Gateway, and I felt like we were really good there and made a lot of gains, so hoping we can continue that this weekend at Loudon with our DEWALT Camry TRD. Hope we can run similar to Gateway and get us one spot better than we did there.” 

Gateway or St. Louis (nobody wants to call it by its real name) is the track I like to compare the most for this race because it’s the last race used funneling all the learned new car data from Phoenix, Richmond, and Martinsville. Busch led a race-high 66 laps at St. Louis and was runner-up. He also has top-10s on the four similar tracks this season. He’s the driver to beat. 

Ryan Blaney (6/1) finished seventh or better on the four similar tracks, twice leading the most laps, and three times finishing fourth. But he has no wins on the season. Sure he’s knocking on the door to a win but sometimes I think he’s too nice. He doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers and races clean, but to win, you have to make choices. He's leading too many laps not to win. The funniest thing is Caesars making him such a big favorite and tightening the odds as if Blaney is a risky bet each week and everyone is betting him. They’re not betting him because we all know he won’t do anything for a win.   

AMBETTER 301 BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Sunday, July 17, 2022
  • Venue: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  • Location: Loudon, New Hampshire
  • Distance: 310 miles
  • Laps: 301
  • Network-Time: USA - 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Defending Champion: Aric Almirola

Chase Elliott (7/1) has starts at NHMS, one top-five, and a 16th-place average finish. More importantly, this season his best on the four similar tracks was 10th at Martinsville where he also led 185 laps. Three wins on the season, but his team hasn’t got the flat tracks figured out yet.

Joey Logano (7/1) won his first career Cup race at NHMS and won again in 2014, but I like him here because of his St, Louis win and he also was runner-up at Martinsville. He’ll be racing for the win late in the race.

Denny Hamlin's (9/1) 9.6 average finish at NHMS is the best among active drivers. He has three wins and 11 top-fives, but that was the past. His Richmond win should carry some weight as a candidate to win but he led only five laps and won on pit strategy. Blaney led 128 laps in that race. At St. Louis, Martinsville, and Phoenix, Hamlin was terrible and he doesn’t sound too confident about his team fixing the issue.

“New Hampshire is a great track overall. I expect that we’ll be shifting quite a bit this weekend, so I’m not sure what that will entail for the race,” Hamlin said. “I have always felt like oval racing was momentum based and that’s how it should be. But we’ll play within the rules we’re dealt and make the most of this weekend. Our FedEx team has been working very hard to make gains on tracks like this, so it will be good to see where we’re at now that we’re halfway through the season.”

Martin Truex, Jr. (9/1) is still searching for his first win of the season. Memo to Ceasars: drivers that have not won a race after 19 races should not be offered at single-digit odds. He’s led 744 laps at NHMS and won a couple of lower level races there, but no Cup wins. I like how he ran at St. Louis finishing sixth after leading 42 laps and the trend should follow here.

“I feel like you can take something from Phoenix and also from St. Louis as far as learning this new car and figuring out what it takes to get around these flatter, shorter tracks,” Truex said. “It feels like we are getting closer. Loudon is obviously different, but generally if you have a good short-track package, you can kind of find the setup on all three of those tracks. We’re looking forward to big things in Loudon with our Interstate Batteries Camry.”

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AMBETTER 301 BETTING ANALYSIS

#20 Christopher Bell (15/1) - I like this guy this week and his best performance on the four similar tracks was finished sixth at Richmond after leading 63 laps and a ninth at St. Louis.

“With the Playoff picture being as tight as it is, every point matters,” Bell said. “Loudon is a great track for us and we need a good showing.  I’m ready to see what we can do this weekend.”

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The JGR cars collectively haven’t been good on the flat tracks, but Bell was runner-up at NHMS last season and also won the last three Xfinity Series races there, so I’m buying.

#8 Tyler Reddick (20/1) - He’s all set with the Jordan/Hamlin team in 2024 and he’s got a spot in the playoffs by winning at Road America so he can relax and win just for fun now. He’s got no pressure and he was third at Phoenix in March.

#45 Kurt Busch (25/1) - Yes, I like this price by Caesars. Busch has always been good at NHMS beginning with a 2000 Truck Series win. He has three Cup wins there, but I bet him entirely for the car that his team produced at similar tracks. He was fifth at Phoenix, sixth at Martinsville, and third at St. Louis. 

#10 Aric Almirola (25/1) - He won this race last season and we saw a nice fifth-place finish at St. Louis last month and that track is very relatable to this week as he explains.

“Turns three and four at Gateway are very similar to the turns at Loudon,” Almirola said. “There are some aspects unique to Loudon, but it’s still a short track. I think there are some things from a confidence level and comfortability because I enjoy that style of racetrack. It fits my driving style. I’ve always run well at Loudon. I remember the first time I got in Jimmie Johnson’s Cup car when I was there on baby watch. I got in his car on Saturday morning for practice and actually went faster than he did, and that was a big boost of confidence for me. That practice session really changed the course of my career. It opened the eyes to a lot of general managers and team owners. I think it changed everyone’s mind. It happened quickly after that. Dale Jr. called and asked if I would drive the No. 88 in the (NASCAR Xfinity Series) and that led to an opportunity at Richard Petty Motorsports.”

#99 Daniel Suarez (25/1) - He’s priced as if this is a road course. He was ninth at Phoenix and then had no top-15s in any of the other three similar tracks. I want to be an Amigo in his posse, but I need much better odds to bet him, like twice as much to bait me.

#14 Chase Briscoe (25/1) - He should get consideration just because of how well his car ran in winning his first Cup race at Phoenix. Those set-up notes should still work for this week.

“I feel like on the short tracks, this car’s been kind of harder to pass with,” Briscoe said. “And I think guys know that now, especially now that we’ve run a couple of them. So I think you’re definitely going to see more aggression. And I think New Hampshire is going to be a handful, just from how rough the racetrack is in this car, getting on the limiters and things like that.”

AMBETTER 301 CONTENDERS

Kyle Larson (10/1) has three runner-ups at NHMS but no wins and he hasn’t won anywhere since the second race of the season at Fontana. The new car has leveled his dominance. Ten wins last season? NASCAR says, ‘we’ll fix that, and we’ll also bring in a new Goodyear tire that may or may not blow after 25 laps.’ Larson was fifth at Richmond but didn’t lead a lap and hasn’t been a factor in the three other similar tracks. He’s singing the new car blues. 

I like betting Ross Chastain (10/1) to win because he would run his Momma over for a win, unlike someone like Blaney. But the problem with that attitude is the baggage is every other driving wanting to wreck him. Last week he wrecked Truex twice, Dillon, and Hamlin. It’s an ongoing thing that is going to blow up on him soon, maybe the playoffs, maybe not. Buyer beware of him, but he’s still fast every week. Hard to resist.

This is it. This is my biggest bet of the week. William Byron (15/1) hasn’t had a top-five since winning at Martinsville on April 9. That’s 11 races that have passed since he had a top-five.

 "This weekend will be tough I feel like,” Byron said. “I think New Hampshire is a fairly difficult track to get around but also to get around consistently lap after lap. When I first started racing, I did really well there and it was one of my best tracks, but for some reason I haven’t gotten the same results in Cup. This year, I wanted to really focus on getting better at the short tracks and New Hampshire was one specifically that I wanted to work on. Between running Slinger (Speedway) on Monday and Tuesday and then being in the Xfinity car on Friday and Saturday this week, I’ll have done quite a bit of preparation for Sunday’s short-track race. The extra laps in general, but especially in the Xfinity Series race, I think will really get me in a good rhythm for the Cup Series race." 

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Byron won a K&N Pro Series race at NHMS in 2015 and won a Truck Series race there in 2016. I like the extra work this week for him and most of all I like the desperation with the knowledge that his team set up a car to lead 212 laps and win at Martinsville and the week before at Richmond he led 122 laps and finished third. It's go-time for Byron this week.

Kevin Harvick (14/1) looked good at Phoenix (6th) and Richmond (2nd) and this type of track has been his best shot of winning, something he last did 63 races ago in 2020. He leads all active drivers with four NHMS wins.

“The flat-track stuff definitely has been good for us, and we’re going there knowing we’re going to have some options to move around the racetrack and be able to kind of hunt for a line that works for our GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang,” Harvick said.

For a driver that hasn’t won in the last 62 races, I should be offered better odds. Again Caesars, is it too much risk? Are people betting Harvick every week? I don't think so. I’ll be looking for better odds on him and might wait until after practice. 

AMBETTER 301 LONG SHOTS

#48 Alex Bowman (28/1) - I’m going to need higher odds to bet him at New Hampshire. He’s been slumping like his teammates Larson and Byron but doesn’t have any positive notes with the new car on the similar tracks. His best was eighth at Richmond. His last top-five anywhere was at Dover on May 2.

#2 Austin Cindric (50/1) - He was 11th at St. Louis and I think his road racing skills transfer over well to flat tracks as far as entering and exiting turns. The reason to bet him most of all is that Team Penske seems to have the balance set-up on these tracks figured out the best.

#43 Erik Jones (75/1) - Good driving skills on flat tracks and had a nice seventh-place finish at St. Louis last month.

#2 Brad Keselowski (75/1) - He’s on another planet as far as his racing experiences go this year compared to his entire career. He’s a two-time NHMS winner with nine top-fives in 21 Cup starts.

“It’s a good track for me,” Keselowski said. “I really like going to New Hampshire and it has some unique challenges as to how you drive the race track. I’ve had some really good cars there over the years and wish we had practice, for sure. It’s a big wild card and there are big questions on what to expect, but we’re looking forward to a good weekend up in New England.”

#3 Austin Dillon (100/1) - He has a 16th-place average finish in 12 Cup starts at NHMS, but it’s worth noting that he was third at Martinsville and 15th at St. Louis.

#17 Chris Buescher (100/1) - He was 15th at Martinsville and Richmond and 10th at Phoenix. He’s averaged a 24th-place finish in eight Cup starts at NHMS.

#23 Bubba Wallace (100/1) - It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Wallace and then his organization signs Reddick for 2024. But he’s safe because he’ll have sponsorship as long as he wants to race and that’s what organizations crave. But he needs to gain back the respect of his team and crew chief somehow. Winning helps and he’s had good cars but his only top-five of the season was in the Daytona 500 while Kurt Busch is killing it with the same equipment weekly. No, I won’t be betting him this week.

AMBETTER 301 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #24 William Byron (15/1)
  2. #22 Joey Logano (7/1)
  3. #45 Kurt Busch (25/1)
  4. #20 Christopher Bell (15/1)
  5. #18 Kyle Busch (5/1)

NASCAR CUP SERIES
WEEKLY PREDICTIONS

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