NASCAR Quaker State 400 Analysis
It’s back to Atlanta Motor Speedway’s high-banked 1.5-mile layout for the second time this season for Sunday’s Quaker State 400, the first track other than Pocono Raceway weekend two weeks ago to have a second visit on the season.
Quaker State 400 Betting Resources
A lot has changed with the complexion of the Cup Series since the Mar. 21 Atlanta date where Kyle Larson led a race-high 259 laps but couldn’t hold back a hard-charging Ryan Blaney who kept getting better after each pit stop.
Larson had the best car that day, but it’s my contention he wore his tires out too fast on the sandpaper-like asphalt after the last pit stop and Blaney took advantage. Up until that point, Hendrick had won both races on 1.5-mile tracks and led the most laps in all three.
Quaker State 400 Odds Analysis
Larson has never won at Atlanta but has led lots of laps (418) there while having the best average finish (12.1) among all active drivers. But no wins on the track he loves to rim-ride on the high-line inches from the wall.
He has been installed as a huge 2/1 betting favorite by William Hill sportsbooks on the basis of dominating not just Atlanta where he was runner-up in March, but also because he’s led the most laps in four of the five races run on 1.5-mile tracks. He’s won two of the five and talked about letting the March Atlanta race get away.
“I definitely learned a lot in the moment, but I can learn even more by rewatching the race,” Larson said. “You learn from everything – the good races and you definitely learn from the ones you feel got away. The track will certainly be different with the temperatures and the heat, so we’ll need to learn quickly and adapt quickly so we can hopefully battle for stage wins, the race win and the playoff bonus points that goes along with that.”
Quaker State 400 Contenders
But man, 2/1 odds to win? What the hell am I supposed to do with that?
Am I supposed to put my entire weekly bankroll on him and just hope he doesn’t have an error like at Atlanta or Kansas? Should I focus on match-ups more and bet other drivers to beat just one driver as long as it’s not against Larson?
Or do I bet five or six other drivers to win, and bet Larson in lower-priced match-up wagers and use it as an insurance policy to get most of my money wagered back should Larson win?
Yes, of course, I like that plan better. While sensible, I usually can be lured into a greedy plan to maximize making money by trying drivers with a legitimate chance to win that have higher odds.
The NASCAR Cup Series will head back to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second time this season on Sunday. (AP)
Handicapping NASCAR at Atlanta
Hendrick Motorsports has won 10 of the 20 races this season with Larson winning four, Alex Bowman winning three, Chase Elliott two, and William Byron one. They’ve all got similar cars with similar notes being used.
So why is it that Larson is such a large favorite, but Bowman is being offered at 15/1 odds despite finishing third in March at Atlanta? Byron is tied with Larson for the series lead with 14 top-10s and is being offered at 12/ by William Hill.
And Elliott, the defending Cup champ who is looking for his first win on his hometown track, is being offered at 9/1 odds.
I think I have a better shot at betting all three of those Hendrick drivers to win with their odds than I do of improving my bankroll by betting on Larson at 2/1 odds. The other three Hendrick drivers have combined to win six races.
“Going to Atlanta this weekend, it is going to be super hot and slick for 400 miles,” Bowman said. “It’ll be a good time. I think Atlanta is a great racetrack. We had a good run there earlier this year and ended up third. We need a good solid finish this weekend and the No. 48 Ally team has been working hard on our intermediate Chevrolet."
Sounds good to me; 15/1 sounds really good with Bowman.
Alternative Hendrick Wagers
But who says a Hendrick Chevrolet has to win?
A Ford has won the last five races at Atlanta.
Kevin Harvick (9/1) and Kurt Busch (33/1) are tied for the most Atlanta wins among active drivers and both are on the upswing.
Harvick won last season at Atlanta and two of the last three there but is still searching for his first 2021 win after leading the series with nine last season. They’re finding speed lately with the high downforce race package featuring engines producing 550 horsepower, but at no point in any race this season did I believe he would win and I don’t think I’ve said that about Harvick ever during a season after 20 races. He discusses what went wrong during his 10th-place finish from the March Atlanta race.
“Ryan Blaney won the race and we raced right with Blaney at the beginning of the race,” Harvick said. “The unfortunate part for us was two things – the untimely pit stop that we had to have because of the valve stem, and the 5 car (Larson) was extremely fast. So, every time we would pass cars, he would pass more cars and there just weren’t a lot of cautions and we never could get back to where we needed to be until the very end of the race. I really felt like we had a top-five car in that particular race. It wasn’t a car that was as fast as we’d like to be capable of winning the race and setting the pace, but it definitely put us behind and we never could make it up because of how fast the 5 car was.”
Harvick won his first career Cup race at Atlanta as a rookie in 2001 and leads all active drivers with nine top-fives and 1,348 laps led over his 31 Cup starts. But I need more than 9/1 odds to bet him.
Bowman at 15/1 and Harvick 9/1 to win? Robot oddsmakers putting too much past history into the number is my guess.
Atlanta Action Bets
My two aces in the hole in my betting strategy this week are Kyle Busch (15/2) and Brad Keselowski (16/1 at Circa), who are tied for the second most Atlanta wins with two each.
Keselowski notched both of his during the active Ford five-race win streak. Busch has two Xfinity wins at Atlanta and six other Trucks Series wins there. It’s a good track for both and both have been very competitive while using the 550 HP package.
“Our expectations are always focused on winning,” Busch said. “I feel like we’ve been very good with the 550 (horsepower) package this year. We ran really well at Atlanta earlier this year and may have had a shot to win the race if not for a pit-road speeding penalty. Atlanta was the first weekend of the year I felt like we had a lot of speed, and Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the team keep getting better each week.”
Both his wins this season have been with the 550 HP package, including the last race using it at Pocono. Before that, he led the most laps in the first Pocono race and was runner-up. More data shows him third at Charlotte, winning at Kansas, fifth at Atlanta, and third at Las Vegas. It doesn’t match Larson’s resume, but I get all that goodness at +750. I also think William Hill's +750 price on Busch to win the 2021 Championship is a good bet now.
Keselowski has been competitive with the 550 HP package as well, leading a race-high 31 laps at Pocono before finishing third. He led 72 laps at Kansas before finishing third and was runner-up at Las Vegas. These are my top-two drivers to beat Larson. But haha, I wouldn’t bet either of them against Larson in driver matchups unless Busch was getting +180 or higher.
No question Larson is the best with this package but he’s not bettable at 2-to-1, but he’s the driver to beat and I’m betting a couple of other drivers that I think can beat him.
This will also be the last time we see the current Atlanta layout and asphalt that all the drivers love. They are shortening the width from 55 feet to 40 feet and increasing the banking to 28 degrees and have a new high-tech pavement technology that is supposed to make the racing better. They did all of it with no driver involvement. No input needed from the drivers because the SMI suits know what fans want? What? I know what they want: more short tracks, please.
Good luck this week!
Quaker State 400