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Last Updated Aug 03, 2022, 9:00 PM

NASCAR Verizon 200 at the Brickyard Picks, Predictions, Odds

The good news is we get NASCAR racing on the storied grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The bad news is that suits that make the decisions decided they would just use the front stretch part of the famed 2.5-mile rectangular layout and use the 14-turn 2.43-mile Grand Prix road course incorporating the infield. Sunday's race is called the Verizon 200.

Drivers are always fun watching them trying to make right and left turns and I get the suits wanting to attract a new audience, but man, I thought the annual Brickyard 400 was something special. A staple. A crown jewel. NASCAR used the main track from 1994 to 2020. Last season they used the Indy road course for the first time and something was definitely missing. 

This will be the fourth of six road course races on the season. Five road course races through the first 26 races but only one in the playoffs. Last season there were seven road course races.  

The best part of the Indy road course race is that we can bet and have different odds and shop around at different sportsbooks across the USA, and the candidates to win are less than they would be at a traditional NASCAR oval. We know exactly who is good. The new car has given some teams an edge this season on road courses while taking the edge elite teams had for the last few years with the old car. 

Seven road races last season, five of them won by Hendrick Motorsports. The new car has produced three different winners in the first three 2022 road races and none of them are from Hendrick and two of them are from Trackhouse Racing.

So that’s the intrigue this week. Will the new car react the same as it has in the first three road races?  I listed the top drivers to win using odds from BetMGM sportsbooks and offered commentary on each   

VERIZON 200 AT THE BRICKYARD PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Chase Elliott (9/2) is the best road racer in NASCAR but he hasn’t won in the last six road races following a stretch of winning seven of 11 road races. He’s led laps this season on the roads, but no wins appear to be a direct result of the NextGen car. He says the Indy course isn’t his best.

"I feel like that’s probably been one of my worst road courses, personally,” Elliott said. “Never really felt like I got a hold of the track last year. I ended up kind of by happenstance running the Xfinity Series race last year as a sub in. It was unfortunate circumstances there, but I was grateful to have run that race because I was really bad on the Cup side until I got some extra reps, so I think that was helpful. So going back, I need to do some homework this week on how to be better up there because I do not feel very good about that track and just never got in a good groove there last year at all and was never really on offense. I felt like I was on defense more than I was making moves and moving forward. That’s not a place you want to be, especially at those tracks or anywhere for that matter. It’s certainly something I want to improve at and I want to put some effort into this week to try to do that."

He’s not very optimistic, but I still bet him with enthusiasm as my top bet driver of the week. I usually use Elliott as an insurance policy where I break even if he wins, but he’s the feature this week for me. 

Kyle Larson (7/1) won his first three road course events last season with the Hendrick good stuff but the new car has derailed his 2022. Just one win on the season and it was the second race of the season. He won 10 races last season. The reason you might bet him this week is that he was third at Road America on July 3.

 "From what I remember of Indy (Road Course) from last year, the restarts were really intense because turn one is a really wide and deep braking zone, so you can get four or five-wide before it narrows down in the corner,” Larson said. “You have to find the confidence to brake deep so you don’t get bombed and that is difficult. It’s nice that it doesn’t have any elevation. It’s a fast-paced, 'flowy' type road course."

Ross Chastain (7/1) is the guy. He’s the big man on campus on road courses this season with a win at COTA, seventh at Sonoma, and fourth at Road America. He finally got punted last week, a gentle, subtle punt, but it still ended his chances to win, and lesson learned. He has two wins on the season and a series-leading 10 top-fives. He’s a real championship contender and obviously a real contender to win this week

Daniel Suarez (10/1) is the other Trackhouse driver, Chastain’s teammate, and they have similar equipment most weekends. Similar equipment that is fast everywhere and a hidden secret for success on road courses. He won his first career Cup race at Sonoma after leading a race-high 47 laps and he was fifth at Road America. He’ll be in the mix late with a chance to win.

Tyler Reddick (10/1) won at Road America for his first career Cup win and he was also fifth at COTA. He’ll be good here as well. I heard his boss Richard Childress wasn’t too happy about Reddick joining the Jordon/Hamlin team in 2024 and there may be some kind of overreaction coming from him, such as putting someone else in the No. 8 car even though Reddick is under contract through next year. Maybe not this year, maybe not ever, but the boss is upset.

VERIZON 200 AT THE BRICKYARD BETTING RESOURCES

Date: Sunday, July 31, 2022
Venue: Indy Motor Speedway
Location: Speedway, Indiana
Distance: 402.5 miles
Laps: 160
Network-Time: NBC - 2:30 p.m. ET
Defending Champion: Kevin Harvick

Austin Cindric's (14/1) time to win is now. His road racing skills brought him to NASCAR and they also helped him get to Cup racing as he won five of his 13 Xfinity Series races on road courses, including last season at Indy. 

“I think from a NASCAR driver’s perspective, from what I experienced last year and even re-watching the race, the circuit itself isn’t the most challenging,” Cindric said. “There are no blind corners really. I feel like it’s a fairly flat surface and fairly even grip throughout the surface, but I think the restarts are pretty wild. Being able to calculate those out correctly. You can lose a lot of spots. You saw guys who were pretty much dominating the race last year not be able to capitalize on some late-race restarts and that cost them the win. I think from that perspective, the restarts at the IMS road course in NASCAR are probably the most challenging thing for a driver.”

(Getty)

Chase Briscoe (16/1) started second last season at Indy and led 12 laps early and then was a contender late and punted leader Hamlin with a few laps to go. He also had success in the 2021 Xfinity Series Indy race. He priced this low for a reason and even though he has a win already, he’s feeling the playoff pinch with five races to go.

“First, we’ve got to make sure we make the playoffs,” Briscoe said. “With how the winner situation is, we need to try to points race the next couple of weeks. If we can win the race, we need to do that, but with the road courses coming up and Daytona, there’s a lot of opportunities to go for stage points versus track position. It’s tough because of the situation we’re in. But we’re going to focus on getting points and trying to leapfrog some guys in the standings so we aren’t the lowest one-win driver if it comes down to more than 16 winners when we get to Daytona. I want to start getting focused for the playoffs, but we have to make sure we’re in before we get too far ahead on planning for the future.”

Kyle Busch (16/1) is tied for second among actives with four road course wins over his career and the new car has been tough on him on roads this season. I’d have to say NASCAR did not discuss with him, or any driver, about where to race at Indy.

“It’s definitely not what the oval is, certainly not the Indy 500 or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that was always known for being the 2.5-mile oval, and all the history that came along with that from the 500 to the Brickyard 400 over the years, as well,” Busch said. “It’s another racetrack where it’s a different racetrack at the same venue. We had a good run going there last year and obviously the rumble strips coming up really hurt our finish. No matter what course it is, you go out there and race it the best you can and hope for a good run. We’ll go out there with our M&M’S Peanut Butter Camry and try to learn a bit more in practice and hopefully be in a position at the end for a good finish.”

A.J. Allmendinger (18/1) has two career Cup wins and they both came on road courses, including last season's Indy win. He capitalized on the rough driving ahead on him and also raced to win by all means on the last lap.

“Being a part of Kaulig Racing’s first Cup Series win will always be so special to me,” Allmendinger said. “Heading back to Indy for the first time since then will be a surreal feeling. This is a place we have had circled on our calendar, and hopefully, all the hard work will pay off."

Martin Truex Jr. (18/1) is a four-time winner on road courses, but the new car hasn’t been great for him or any of his JGR teammates on road courses. His best this season was seventh at COTA.

“Indianapolis is a challenging and very unique racetrack,” Truex said. “Hopefully we can go there and be better than we were at Road America. I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit better at each road course so far this year. We definitely feel like we’re gaining on it, and we need to make another couple steps in the right direction to have a shot this weekend.”

Ryan Blaney (18/1) is my second-most bet driver of the week. No wins on the year. He’s soft, and gets bullied often, but this is a track he might be able to capitalize on the way he won his only road race at the Roval in Charlotte when two drivers ahead of him wrecked each other and he scooped the checkered flag. He’s a very good road racer and finished sixth at COTA and Sonoma and was runner-up at Indy last season. 

VERIZON 200 AT THE BRICKYARD CONTENDERS

Denny Hamlin (20/1) has led 27 laps at Indy last season and was leading with two laps to go until getting punted. He’s turned into a good road course driver, a flip that started in 2016. But the new car has been a problem on roads this season for him and his JGR teammates.

“I really liked the track last year, although I do personally prefer the oval at Indy a lot more just because of the tradition and prestige and what it meant as a crown jewel race on our schedule,” Hamlin said. “They have done a great job with the road course though. It’s a fun layout to race on. I would have obviously liked it a lot more last year if the race ended up a little differently, but I’m looking forward to going back this weekend. As a manufacturer, we still have a fair amount of work to do on our road course program. We felt like we made some small gains at the last one, but we still have a long way to go to get where we need to be and where we’re capable of running.”

Alex Bowman (22/1) will be driving an Xfinity Series car Saturday at Indy and it should help him prepare for Sunday’s race. He did something similar at COTA in March and was runner-up there.

"We have been lucky to get the opportunity to make extra laps this weekend which just helps come time for the Cup race on Sunday,” Bowman said. “COTA was a great example of how it can help us – running the Spire (Motorsports) truck and taking notes on the track helped in our efforts on Sunday so I am eager to get out there and get some practice in. Our team is doing everything we can to get better and this is another opportunity for us to maximize our weekend."

(Getty)

Christopher Bell's (22/1) first career Cup win came on the Daytona road course last season and his third place at COTA in March is the best run a JGR car has had on a road course this season. 

“Last year we had a really strong run going and were poised to finish inside the top 10 before the fiasco happened at the end of the race, so that was disappointing,” Bell said. “This year in general road course racing has not been strong for the Toyota group, we took a step forward from Sonoma to Road America, hopefully we can take another step forward for Indianapolis. It’s going to be completely different going back with this car, the shift pattern is going to be really interesting to see where we are at gear-wise, it’s going to be different than last year so hopefully that’s a benefit to us.”

William Byron (22/1) has no top-fives in 18 road course starts but he’s finished well in all three road races this season with a best of ninth-place at Sonoma.

"I feel like to start this season with the Next Gen car we really struggled at road courses, especially compared to the year before,” Byron said. “We were able to test at Watkins Glen, though, and I think that really helped us start to turn the page on our road course program. We’ve been able to build that notebook with each road course so far this year. I think we have really made strides to make that package better and put all the pieces together like we need to. The first focus for the weekend is qualifying and making sure we set ourselves up with a good run to get good track position and just work from there. Our focus for not only this weekend, but races moving forward, is to really execute every aspect of a race weekend from start to finish in preparation for the playoffs."

VERIZON 200 AT THE BRICKYARD BETTING ANALYSIS

Look out for Chris Buescher (25/1) and make a small wager on him while you're at it. He was sixth at Road America and runner-up at Sonoma. His team knows they’re strong on road courses so we got confidence too.

“We’ve had this weekend circled on our calendars for a while now,” Buescher said. “It’s no secret our road course program has really seen a huge improvement, and we’ve shown that in the last couple outings. We know we’re more than capable, it just takes a complete weekend to get the job done, and that is our focus heading into Indy to get a W in the Violet Defense machine.”

Michael McDowell (25/1), like Buescher, his route to NASCAR was through his road skills and give him a competitive car as the new car has done and he’s shown off his skills. He was eighth at Road America, third at Sonoma, and 13th at COTA. You’ll spend $5 more poorly on at least 10 different things this weekend than making a bet on McDowell. 

Joey Logano (28/1) used to always be good on road courses, winning at Watkins Glen in 2015, but no top-fives in any of his last seven road courses. The new car hasn’t been good to him on road courses.

I have a bet on Kevin Harvick (28/1) to win because I like the way he’s attacked the road courses in the new tougher NextGen cars and I like that he’s desperate to make the playoffs. He would definitely wreck you for a win, no question. He needs a win and maybe it’s the roads where he’s won twice in his career with a best of fourth-place at Sonoma this season.

“Road-course racing in general has become rougher over the last decade just because of the stage racing and the double-file restarts and everything that comes with that,’ Harvick said. “I wish we could implement our choose rule in some of these situations at places like that because I think it would make it even more entertaining. But road-course racing has just progressively gotten rougher, and now with the new car and not having to worry about caving in a fender or something, you can pretty much just lay it in there and see what happens.”

VERIZON 200 AT THE BRICKYARD LONG SHOTS

The reason you might want to bet Brad Keselowski (66/1) is that his RFK Racing Mustang has been the most consistent on road courses just as teammate Buescher. He has three top-10s on the season and one of them came at Sonoma. He also is desperate to make something happen and make the playoffs so he may try some different pit strategies to be off sequence of what others are doing.

“We’ve got another great challenge on our hands this weekend with a configuration that is still very new to all of us,” Keselowski said. “Despite our finish there last year, the road course program at RFK has seen significant improvements, which we’re very excited about, and are looking forward to unloading with a good weekend in the Castrol Ford.”

VERIZON 200 AT THE BRICKYARD TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #9 Chase Elliott (9/2)
  2. #12 Ryan Blaney (18/1)
  3. #1 Ross Chastain (7/1)
  4. #99 Daniel Suarez (10/1)
  5. #2 Austin Cindric (14/1)

NASCAR CUP SERIES
WEEKLY PREDICTIONS

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