Last Updated Mar 13, 2022, 3:59 PM

NASCAR Ruoff Mortgage 500 Picks, Predictions, Odds

The fourth race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series takes us to the 1-mile flat layout of Phoenix Raceway for Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500K which gives us another chapter to review with the NextGen car. 

I keep adapting week-to-week with the new car, but there’s no doubt I like it a bunch. Sure, more drivers have a legitimate shot to win and the elites are less likely to dominate a race as we saw with the last car from 2013 through 2021. I’m seeing drivers experiment more trying to find speed and gain some momentum on turns, while also still looking like they don’t fully trust the new cars yet.

We’ve seen the car perform on a 2.5-mile superspeedway, a wide 2-mile layout, and a 1.5-mile cookie-cutter, and each provided thrilling finishes with several cars dominating at differing stages of the race. 

RUOFF MORTGAGE 500 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

When we are talking about Tyler Reddick and a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet as a possible winner, we’ve moved into a fun era of NASCAR. When a team like Trackhouse Racing can start a team, buy Chip Ganassi Racing, and then get immediate results with the new car with both their drivers, we’ve entered a new NASCAR.  

For the first time I can ever remember, anyone can really win a NASCAR race, or at least up to 28 drivers. I’m finding that the car is so equal for all teams that I’m treating my pre-race betting activities like a superspeedway race which means betting only half my regular bankroll and not messing around with props. All my bets are odds to win so far, with up to seven drivers selected.

The practices haven’t given me anything yet that has helped me in the past and if anyone can win the race, why not bet some of those drivers 20-to-1 or higher. Last week I had a whole bunch of those guys and they all gave me thrills until the end when I begged for a caution to get my guys back in it, and sure enough, the late caution came out, and then I won with Alex Bowman at 20-to-1 odds.   

Ross Chastain led the most laps at Las Vegas, Reddick led the most laps at Fontana, and rookie Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500. The new blood in the sport isn’t as bleak as I thought.

Let’s go over some parity notes through the first three races starting with 24 different drivers to score a top-10 finish and one of those drivers isn’t veteran Denny Hamlin. Three races, three different winners, and also three different pole winners. There have been 25 different lap leaders and an average of 30 lead changes per race.

RUOFF MORTGAGE 500 BETTING ANALYSIS

So, yes, anyone can win a race this season and I’m betting accordingly until a team figures out some tricks or secrets to making the NextGen car go faster.

My starting point with Phoenix are with the drivers that have traditionally done well at Phoenix, but also those who have performed well on flat tracks over their career. I’ve grouped the following drivers into this category: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano.

Let’s start with Mr. Phoenix Kevin Harvick who has been racing in all NASCAR Series at Phoenix since 1994. He knows the track well and has a track record of nine wins in the Cup Series, one 2006 Xfinity Series win, and four Truck Series wins. 

Harvick also owns track records at Phoenix with 18 top-fives, 27 top-10s, and 1,663 laps led. Perhaps the most astonishing record he has is finishing ninth or better in his last 17 Phoenix starts. Five of his came after signing with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 but he doesn’t have any wins since the 2018 spring race and then the track was reconfigured and Harvick has no wins in his last seven there. Harvick disputes the correlation.

Kevin Harvick has seen 27 Top 10 results in Avondale. (AP)

 “When they moved the start-finish line, there was nothing really different, other than the restart,” Harvick said. “The restarts have become much more exciting because of the fact that you can use the apron and everything that happens going into what is now turn one. So, the restarts are the biggest difference since they moved the start-finish line. 

“This configuration of racetrack is much different than what we had in the late ’90s, early 2000s,” he continued. “That track used to be very low on grip, and this one’s become lower on grip and now, with the resin that they add on the racetrack, you have to kind of adapt just because of the fact that you never know what the grip level is going to be. The resin and the start-finish line have added a couple of different elements to it that we didn’t have in the past.”  

What I’ve seen out of the SHR cars already feels like an improvement over the 2021 cars with teammate Almirola being the only driver with three top-10s. It’s the new car mixed in with the skill of Harvick at his best track (8.8 average finish) that made me run to the bet window to grab 18-to-1 odds when I saw it. I didn’t even check around for better numbers as I normally do, I just grabbed as if it was going to move any second.

RUOFF MORTGAGE 500 BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Sunday, March 13, 2022
  • TV-Time: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Phoenix Raceway
  • Location: Avondale, Arizona
  • Distance: 312 miles
  • Laps: 312

Almirola is being offered at 25-to-1 odds and I took some of that as well. Since moving the SHR in 2018, seven of his eight Phoenix starts have finished 13th or better with two fourth-place finishes as his career-best over that span. What’s the driving force of being the only team with three top-10s to start the season?

“We fight,” Almirola said. “That’s the beauty of this race team. We’re still learning this car. There’s a lot to learn about it and we’re still trying to figure a lot of things out. Practice is great, but we’ve got to make adjustments throughout the race and I feel like every race we’re learning more and more and we’re building a notebook. We’re making adjustments throughout the race and trying to figure it out. This team has so much fight in it and so much grit that it’s a lot of fun to race with these guys. We’ll keep digging and try and keep this streak alive. It’s a lot of fun when you run up front.”

This is Almirola’s last season and he comes off a 2021 season as the only SHR driver to win a race. By the way, he won at New Hampshire’s 1-mile flat paperclip layout last season which is one of the tracks I lump together with Phoenix and Richmond – all three require similar balance set-ups.

RUOFF MORTGAGE 500 CONTENDERS

DriverOdds
Kyle Larson+350
Martin Truex, Jr.+700
Chase Elliott+700
Ryan Blaney+800
William Byron+800
Chase Elliott+800

Here’s a look at some quality candidates to win with double-digit prices being offered:

Ryan Blaney 10/1 - I think I’ve made him part of my betting strategy at Phoenix in every race since he came to Penske in 2018 and I’m doing it again this week. He’s won a few stages, led lots of laps but has been unable to win. The new car gives some extra hope.

Austin Cindric 40/1 - This is a play based on the unknown of the new car, him winning the Daytona 500, Team Penske, and his past history at Phoenix. He’s won two of the last three Xfinity Series races at Phoenix. This kid is just oozing with confidence right now. His road racing skills obviously give him an advantage entering and exiting the flat Phoenix turns.

William Byron 15/1 - He won the 2017 Xfinity Series race at Phoenix and has been extremely competitive in his eight Cup starts there. He was eighth in this race last season and has averaged a 13th-place finish.  

Christopher Bell 18/1 - He won a 2018 Xfinity Series race in 2018 and showed well in both races last season, his first driving for JGR, finishing ninth in each.

Alex Bowman 17/1 - He comes off a big win at Las Vegas and the Tucson, AZ native has raced on this track often but since getting a full-time Hendrick ride he hasn’t cracked the top-10 in eight starts. In 2016, he filled in at Phoenix for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and won the pole, led a race-high 194 laps, and finished sixth. It’s the race that likely sealed the deal in bringing him to Hendrick.   

Kurt Busch 40/1 - The veteran driver has 38 Phoenix Cup starts and has led 818 laps. His only win came in 2005 in the spring and missed the fall race that season because of DUI near the track. He was already leaving Roush Racing at the end of that season, but a still angry Jack Roush cut him loose early after the DUI.

Ross Chastain 50/1 - His best Phoenix finish was 14th last fall and he comes in this week with the momentum of finishing third at Las Vegas, leading a race-high 83 laps. With this new car, it’s not a bad idea to throw a few bucks on a few drivers as we do for superspeedway races. 

Of course, I also expect Larson to be badass again, Hamlin always gets a top-five at Phoenix, and Joey Logano is going to be racing for the win as well.

RUOFF MORTGAGE 500 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #4 Kevin Harvick (18/1)
  2. #12 Ryan Blaney (10/1)
  3. #2 Austin Cindric (40/1)
  4. #11 Denny Hamlin (13/2)
  5. #22 Joey Logano (8/1)

NASCAR CUP SERIES
WEEKLY PREDICTIONS

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