It’s crazy to believe that the NASCAR Cup Series has managed 15 races so far this season and 11 since the coronavirus shutdown while most other American sports leagues figure out a way to start or restart their seasons.
Without the NASCAR races during the shutdown, including iRacing, I think I would have gone absolutely mad without being able to bet on sports I regularly follow in the spring and summer. But my good old buddy NASCAR had my back, and I think millions of my fellow Americans feel the same way and are thankful for making the weekly events happen.
Sunday’s event will be the 27th running of the Brickyard 400 at the world’s most famous track, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The fabled bricks are only shown at the start-finish line where the winning team kneels and kisses the bricks as NASCAR’s tradition on a track with 111 years of tradition.
“I think the biggest thing about the Brickyard is the prestige – the track’s history and quality of racing, all the historic finishes it’s had over the years, whether it’s been IndyCar or NASCAR,” Kyle Busch said. “To me, it’s a special place to go to because of its heritage of being Indianapolis. Every guy in NASCAR, and especially every guy in IndyCar, they want to win there. So hoping we can get our first win of the season there and bring our Skittles America Mix Camry to victory lane there again and be known as a three-time winner there.”
Busch has kissed the bricks twice in 2016 and 2017 but has yet to win in 2020 with more than a third of the season having raced already. The defending Cup Champion has seven top-fives so far, but there wasn’t a race where I said, ”wow, Kyle Busch should have won that race,” as I do with other drivers that appeared to have the best car but couldn’t put the win away.
NASCAR Cup Odds
Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Odds
Sunday, July 5, 2020
What is odd about Busch not winning yet is that his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin is having another career year and leads the series with four wins and nine top-fives. He’s won three of the 10 races using this week’s race package featuring engines with 550 horsepower. But both Busch and Hamlin each come in with 9/2 odds to win. Hamlin has never won at the Brickyard despite the flat layout being right up his alley. In 14 Cup starts, Hamlin has a 12th-place average finish and five top-fives.
Kevin Harvick comes in as the 4/1 favorite (Bet $100 to win $400) based on winning two times at the Brickyard, including last year, but more importantly, he has won three times this season using this week’s package.
The most important showing relative to who might do well Sunday is the two races at Pocono last weekend. Everyone who was good last week should be good Sunday and everyone who struggled has to work harder to try and find speed right off the hauler. Harvick and Hamlin traded 1-2 finishes between both races in an incredible display of dominance. Because Indy requires similar set-ups there’s no reason to believe that Harvick and Hamlin won’t still have a slight edge over everyone else.
Long Shot with the No. 10?
The driver I’m most excited about this week is Aric Almirola and it’s not just because he’s scored top-five finishes in his last four starts after having none in his first 11 this season. It’s because of what he did last weekend in the two Pocono races where he joined Hamlin and SHR teammate Harvick as the only drivers with top-fives in both races.
“Indy is a place that is very similar to the tunnel turn at Pocono,” Almirola said. “I felt like we were really good in that turn last weekend. As a driver, it always feels good to know you’re heading to a track that has a similar feel to the one you just earned a third- and fifth-place finish at. ‘Buga’ (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and all the guys back at the shop have been working their tails off to keep up with the new schedule and it’s really showing. We have showed up as a completely new team in the last four races. If we can continue to race as clean as we have been, with no hiccups or bad luck, we’re going to be serious contenders this year.”
We don’t have practices or qualifying this week but we have two complete races at the track most similar to Indy. His 61 laps led on Saturday before finishing third were the most on the day of any driver. How often do you bet something at 30/1 odds and can easily visualize it happening with no deep fantasies or other wishes having to happen to cash? That’s Almirola this week, get on board with a piece of the action.
Little Risk = Big Returns!
Along with the same reasoning, SHR teammate Clint Bowyer at 30/1 odds might be someone to drop a few bucks in the betting portfolio this week. He was seventh on Saturday at Pocono and eighth on Sunday showing he had some of the good stuff his teammates Harvick and Almirola had. Coming in this week, he has the utmost respect for the track and the car number he represents.
“There’s just a lot of pride that goes into all those things,” Bowyer said. “Driving that Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), and you know what Tony Stewart means at this track and to everyone at Indy. Carrying the No. 14 ratchets it up a whole other level. A.J. Foyt is a badass who is as cool outside the racecar as he was driving it. Two legendary drivers and a legendary car number. The fact we are doing this on the Fourth of July weekend makes it even better.”
Bowyer has been fifth each of the last two seasons at the Brickyard and he has traditionally been at his best on flat tracks.
Another driver with an affiliation to an elite team is Erik Jones from Joe Gibbs Racing who is offered at 25/1 odds to win. Jones finished third at Pocono on Sunday and was runner-up at Indy in 2018.
Last weekend at Pocono, drivers such as rookie Christopher Bell (JGR equipment) finished fourth on Saturday and is being offered at 80/1 this week. Another rookie, Tyler Reddick, is being offered at 100/1 and while it wasn’t a great Pocono weekend, I can’t get his awesome run at Homestead out of my with this week’s race package when he finished fourth. I also can’t believe that Richard Childress Racing has won a few times at Indy, the last being Paul Menard with his only career Cup win there is 2011.
I’m not a big fan of Chevy this week and while Chase Elliott has been great all season using this week’s race package -- fourth at Pocono on Sunday -- I still see SHR and JGR as the teams that have this set-up dialed in the most. Alex Bowman, once dropped to as low as 8/1 to win following his Fontana win and runner-up at Darlington, is now 30/1 after not having any top-fives in the last seven races using this week’s race package and is now 30/1 to win.
The Chevy that I could back with a small wager is William Byron who came away with his best finish of the season last week with seventh-place at Pocono. He hasn’t finished outside the top-15 in his last five races and is averaging a ninth-place finish which ranks third among all drivers.
“I’m really excited for the Brickyard 400 to be on July Fourth weekend, even though it’ll be hotter than when we are normally there, Byron said. “The Brickyard is a marquee race at a marquee racetrack. This is another race that I’ve been looking forward to this season, not only because of how special the race is, but seeing what our team can do. Last year we had a really strong race overall and finished fourth. We’ll see how we unload this weekend, but I think we will have a good chance to contend for the win. We want to win every weekend, but this would just be an awesome race to win in general.”
In addition to that fourth-place last season, Byron also won a 2017 Xfinity Series race at the Brickyard. He’s 30/1 to win Sunday.