Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:05 PM
Best Bets - Las Vegas
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week for the Pennzoil 400, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
Penske Racing's Ryan Blaney (20/1) is on the pole for Sunday's race, as he looks to get his team on the board after victories by Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon (100/1) at Daytona and by Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (5/1) in Atlanta. While Dillon is considered a long shot at LVMS, Happy is considered the favorite. According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Harvick ranks sixth among all drivers over the past five years in Vegas with a driver rating of 101.0. He has turned in 166 laps led, including 139 fastest laps, while running 78.5 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. While it isn't quite as dominant as his recent run in Atlanta, it's impressive nonetheless. Harvick will go off second on Sunday.
Getting back to Blaney, he has rather moderate odds, but could fetch a nice payday. He has made three Cup starts at Vegas, posting a driver rating of 89.0 to check in 10th among all drivers during the span. While he has never led a MENCS lap at the track, that should change as he leads the pack out when the green flag drops. He has posted an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 10.7 across his three starts, recording finishes of sixth, 10th and 19th. Blaney's teammates Brad Keselowski (6/1) and Joey Logano (12/1) are high on the board, too. In fact, Keselowski leads all drivers with 121.1 driver rating over the past five seasons, running 94.4 percent of his Vegas laps inside the Top 15. In nine career Cup starts at LVMS, he has a pair of checkered flags, four Top 5 finishes and an AFP of 15.4. Logano is even better, posting a 10.0 AFP in nine career starts. While he has never won at Vegas, he has three Top 5s, five Top 10s and he has finished outside of the Top 20 just once, leading a total of 171 laps. Kes starts eight, while Logano will go off 10th, and each has a solid opportunity to pick up positive Place Differential points.
It has been a challenging start to the 2018 season for Hendrick Motorsports, particularly for seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (12/1). He wrecked three cars during Speed Weeks in Daytona, posting a disastrous 35th-place run in the 500, while returning last weekend to wind up a marginal 22nd in Atlanta. He could quickly change his fortunes in the desert, however. The No. 48 checks in second among all drivers over the past five Vegas stops with a 113.7 driver rating, leading all drivers with 240 laps led during the span. He has run 83.0 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, posting an AFP of 13.4. Overall he has four victories in 16 career Cup starts at the track, running inside the Top 5 on six occasions, with nine Top 10s and 595 laps led, most among all active drivers. His 10.9 AFP in 16 career starts is also best among all racers with at least 10 starts at the track.
Joe Gibbs Racing shouldn't be counted out at LVMS, either. Denny Hamlin (16/1) ranks outside the Top 10 over the past five years at Vegas in terms of Driver Rating, but he still checks in fourth with a 12.2 AFP in 12 career starts, including 11 finishes inside the Top 20. Despite his immense success and steady production, he has led just 14 total laps in his career at the track, so there might be better fantasy options to be had. One of them could be teammate and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch (13/2). He got an early lay of the land, scouting out the track en route to his 50th career Camping World Truck Series victory on Friday night. He has just one Cup win in his hometown, but a solid 14.1 AFP with five Top 5s and nine Top 20s while leading the pack for 230 laps. Loop Data shows Rowdy with a 106.8 Driver Rating over the past five years, running 88.0 percent of his laps inside the Top 15.
Kyle's older brother, SHR's Kurt Busch (25/1) has some moderate odds to win, but he could be one to watch. The Vegas native finds himself outside of the Top 10 in terms of Driver Rating over the past five seasons. Half of his starts have resulted in Top 20 finishes, but he has a rather marginal 21.8 AFP. Still, the No. 41 Ford was among the fastest in practice and qualifying sessions, and he will go off third on Sunday after recording a top speed of 190.067 mph. He is running hot so far, too, finishing a respectable 11th at Daytona while checking in seventh last weekend at the Atlanta race, leading 52 laps at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (6/1) is third among all drivers with a 110.8 Driver Rating over the past five Vegas stops, running an amazing 95.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has led 153 laps during the span, while posting a 7.2 AFP. Overall the defending champ has managed a win, four Top 10s and 11 Top 20s in 12 career Cup starts, ending up with a solid 13.2 AFP. MTJ will go off from the outside of Row 2 as he searches for his first Top 20 finish of the season. He rolled to a mediocre 24th at DIS, and 35th at Atlanta, leading just five total laps so far.
If you're looking for a low-cost sleeper with big payback potential, check out Leavine Family Racing's Kasey Kahne (150/1) in the No. 95 Chevy. While he is racing in much more inferior equipment than his days in a Hendrick machine, he is still an interesting option. In 14 career starts he has never won at Vegas, but he has three Top 5s with half of his starts resulting in a Top 10. He also checks in seventh among all active drivers with a 13.4 AFP, leading 172 laps. Loop Data shows Kahne seventh with a 99.4 Driver Rating across his past five Cup starts at LVMS. While he doesn't quite have as long of odds as Kahne, Erik Jones (33/1) is an intriging play. He is making his second-career Cup start at Vegas, looking to improve on his 15th-place start from last season. Jones will go off from the ninth position on Sunday.
RCR's Ryan Newman (80/1) is also considered a longshot, but he could be a nice low-end fantasy option this weekend given his past history. In 17 career Cup starts at Vegas he has finished inside the Top 20 on 12 different occasions, posting a 16.2 AFP. While he has never won, he has led the pack for 112 laps and come in as high as third. There is a little risk, as he is tied for most DNFs among active drivers (2). Wood Brothers Racing's Paul Menard (66/1) is also worth keeping an eye on, as he ranks 16th among active drivers with a 16.7 AFP. In 11 career starts, he has three Top 10s and just three finishes outside of the Top 20. While he isn't a great bet to take checkers, he's a solid low-end fantasy sleeper.