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Last Updated Mar 06, 2022, 21:30 PM

NASCAR Pennzoil 400 Picks, Predictions, Odds

I changed my usual betting patterns last week at Fontana because each bet I made, I felt like I was guessing. It’s the new NextGen car. It’s so awesome that I don’t know who is going to win. The usual edge I feel I have weekly for the last 30 years wasn’t there. The favorite, Kyle Larson, won last week, but he didn’t have the best car. 

Just a couple of notes on the parity were seeing the Cup Series with 19 different drivers having a top-10 finish between the first two races at Daytona and Fontana, the most since 1973 to start a season. And of those 19 drivers, drivers for elite teams such as Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr, and Alex Bowman don’t have any top-10s.

It’s a bizarro world where this new car has seemingly turned the Cup Series upside down and everyone is equal. It makes the races exciting – both Daytona and Fontana were very competitive races. The 1.5-mile and 2-mile ovals had forever been dominated by the teams with big money – do well on those and win a championship. But Sunday at Fontana we had Daniel Suarez racing for the win in the final laps. 

PENNZOIL 400 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Sunday’s race had nine different organizations finish in the top-10, and one of them wasn’t Joe Gibbs Racing. Stewart-Haas Racing had two. The top-four finishers were a diverse lineup of Chevrolets with Larson, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, and Suarez.

So as the series approaches Las Vegas for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, I’m coming to the bet window cautious but my eyes are wide-open and my ears are alert for any kind of pattern to follow. A pattern gets muddled when 19 different drivers have top-10s after two races. I’ll be betting at half the volume as I would for a superspeedway race for the last two decades.

When I bet now, it’s like playing a slot machine where I’m just hoping to get lucky and not much skill is involved. I think we have to approach betting driver matchups the same way, or just taking any plus money offerings. All the cars appear to be equal performers so it’s all on the driver and again, we hope to get lucky. Until I get a feel and a database compiled on the NextGen car, I have to play it cautious. I need an edge to play at full strength and I don’t have it yet.

PENNZOIL 400 BETTING ANALYSIS

The the high banks of Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile layout should offer some amazing intel we can use moving forward and I’ve already jumped on a few drivers on a hunch using what I saw at Fontana to apply to Las Vegas. One of those driver’s I like is Chase Briscoe who is offered at 50-to-1 odds by Caesars sportsbooks.

 “I think Auto Club is pretty unique,” Briscoe said. “But with the 1.5-mile tracks coming up, you probably use some of what we’ve learned. Every race is going to be a learning experience, the whole time, and I think anything you can take away from any track is going to be important as we figure out this car and how it changes. I definitely feel like we learned some stuff at Fontana that we’re going to be able to use down the road.” 

Briscoe finished 16th Sunday at Fontana, but I saw him running with the lead pack most of the day. He led twice for 20 laps. For this week, I have a an SHR team that stood out at Fontana and on Briscoe’s personal resume he has two 2020 Las Vegas Xfinity Series win.

Kevin Harvick may be a nice look on the same type of angle and he’s being offered by Caesars at 15-to-1 odds to win. Both his Las Vegas Cup wins came after he signed with SHR in 2015. He also celebrates his wedding anniversary every spring with wife Delana who he married in 2001 at Las Vegas immediately after taking over Dale Earnhardt’s ride. But Harvick doesn’t think Fontana is a prelude to Las Vegas 

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think there’s just such a wide range of where it could be that you don’t really know. Is it a team thing? There’s still a very big possibility it could be a manufacturer thing, like we could be the manufacturer that’s head-over-heels better than the other manufacturers. Or it could be the other way around, so there are just so many things that nobody knows about that will unfold because these racetracks are drastically different. You’re going to racetracks that really don’t have a lot in common other than you’re racing the same car.” 

I’ll just file that away into the equation, but the “just don’t know” theme is commonplace. Is it a Ford thing? Only three in the top-10 Sunday. Just one Toyota and it wasn’t a JGR Toyota. Kurt Busch battled hard for that eighth-place at Fontana. 

My biggest takeaway from the Fontana race was how fast the two Richard Childress Racing cars were and how fast the ECR engines also made the Richard Petty (Jones) and Trackhouse Racing (Suarez) Chevrolets.

PENNZOIL 400 BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Sunday, March 6, 2022
  • TV-Time: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Distance: 400 miles
  • Laps: 267

The best car at Fontana was easily Tyler Reddick’s who had a tire go flat late and finished 26th. He was lights-out dominant winning the first two stages and leading 90 laps overall. He doesn’t have any top-10s this season, but he has to be given some kind of trophy for the dazzling performance. Reddick was sixth at Las Vegas last fall, he won and Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas in 2019 and won a 2016 Truck Series race there as well. I like him this week. I love how he rim rides up top. RCR has the power. Looking for better than 15-to-1 odds to win offered by Caesars. 

The other RCR driver, Austin Dillon, was runner-up Sunday and Caesars is offering him at 35-to-1 odds. This is a good track for him, it always has been. He won a Truck Series race at LVMS in 2010 and also won a 2015 Xfinity race there.

“I think the playing field has definitely been leveled,” Dillon said regarding the parity. 

I also have to give Erik Jones some love. The Petty brand has been soured for so long, it’s hard to imagine a Petty car being considered for a wager on a 1.5-mile track. The odds are only 25-to-1 at Caesars, and it’s worth considering. The NASCAR Cup Series has been flipped upside down with the new car so in the bizarro world, Jones has to be considered.  

It’s worth taking a look at who is good traditionally in Las Vegas and it’s basically past champions mixed in with a few other drivers with elite teams. The favorites always win in Las Vegas, but the new car might change that this week.

PENNZOIL 400 CONTENDERS

DriverOdds
Kyle Larson+500
Joey Logano+800
Chase Elliott+800
Ryan Blaney+1000
William Byron+1200

Joey Logano is the active leader with an 8.5 average finish with his two wins coming within the last three spring races. Kyle Larson won in the spring last season, leading 103 laps, and Denny Hamlin led a race-high 137 laps to grab his first Vegas win. Martin Truex is a two-time winner along with Harvick, and Brad Keselowski is the active leader with three wins.

“I know we didn’t have the finishing position to show for it in Fontana (27th), but I felt good about where we unloaded in terms of speed,” Keselowski said. “We definitely have something to build from coming out of there, and Vegas for me is a place I feel confident at, and one I’ve had some great success at over the years. As I have said all along, this will be a slow grind to get to where we want to be, and this weekend is yet another opportunity to continue that. We’re proud to have Fastenal on board our No. 6, the first for their brand that’s been with RFK for a very long time.”

HANDICAPPING THE PENNZOIL 400

Keselowski is 25-to-1 to win at Caesars and he wasn’t slyly saying he’s had some success at Vegas, he is really good at Vegas. Seventh or better in 12 of his last 13 starts at Las Vegas. He knows how to get out front – 12 of his last 14 at Vegas he’s led a lap. 

It may sound as if I’m complaining about the new car, but I love it. I’m more upset with the helpless feeling the car gives me as an oddsmaker and bettor. So I’m playing it cautious again with hopes of catching a target as if I’m playing the game Battle Stations. 

But make no mistake, I am firing. Somebody has to win. Good luck this week, my friends.

PENNZOIL 400 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #8 - Tyler Reddick +1500
  2. #22 - Joey Logano +800
  3. #5 - Kyle Larson +350
  4. #88 - Alex Bowman +2000
  5. #3 - Austin Dillon +3500

NASCAR CUP SERIES
WEEKLY PREDICTIONS

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