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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:59 PM

Best Bets - Bristol

Be sure to follow VegasInsider.com on Twitter @TwitVI for the latest NASCAR updates and trends. Daniel E. Dobish, two-time FSWA Racing Writer of the Year, can be followed on Twitter at danieledobish.

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 moves to Bristol Motor Speedway for the the Food City 500 from Thunder Valley on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET. There will be a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms with temperatures in the mid-70's, so we might have our first rain delay of the season.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott (14/1) will lead everyone from the pole on Sunday, and as such he had the favorable No. 1 pit stall assignment, with no one in front of him heading out of the pits for Turn 1. Pit stall assignment is ultra important at Bristol, as things can get awfully bunched up in the pits, and that clear space in front of the car means less traffic to negotiate. His teammate, William Byron (100/1) has rather long odds, but might be a steal going off from the outside of Row 1 next to his teammate. Byron also has the luxury of no one in front of his, selecting the No. 23 pit stall, which is at the front of the back stretch Pit Road heading out onto the track by Turn 3.

Elliott finished third in the fall run at Bristol, his finest performance in a Cup car at the short track Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip likened to racing in a blender. Elliott also has six career MENCS starts at Thunder Valley, and two have resulted in top-5 showings, with three ending up in the top-10. Byron has long odds at BMS because he was a rather shaky 18th in the spring Bristol race and 23rd in the fall run last season, his first two starts in a Cup car at the difficult short track. Still, he looked like he had a good grasp of the place in practice and qualifying, so he might be quite the sleeper.

Jimmie Johnson (16/1) showed improvement last week, but he was still unable to break through into the win column in Texas. According to NASCAR's Loop Data, he ranks fifth over the past five starts in Driver Rating at 100.7, and he has run 85.3 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Johnson has been 11th or better in each of his past five starts at the track, including a third-place showing in the spring race and a ninth-place fun in the night race. He has been 11th or better in eight of his past nine starts at Bristol, too, so expect another good showing. J.J. will battle from the 10th spot in the starting grid.

Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (7/1) tops the charts in terms of Driver Rating over the past five Bristol starts, posting a Driver Rating of 113.2, with 489 laps led and an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 8.6. He has run 91.4 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, too, and that also leads all drivers over the past five starts at BMS. Larson has made 10 Cup starts at Bristol overall, posting six runs inside the Top 10 with 14.8 AFP. His teammate, Kurt Busch (16/1) is a wily veteran who knows this place well, and he certainly knows his way to Victory Lane. He has been there six times at Thunder Valley, while his brother Kyle Busch (9/4) has been there on seven different occasions. The elder Busch won the NRA Night Race last summer, so he will be one to remember at the betting window and in DFS. Kurt Busch goeso ff from the 27th position as he looks for his second straight checkered flag at Thunder Valley. His teammate Larson goes off 16th.

Speaking of Rowdy, he has made it a Busch affair in three straight Bristol races, winning the night race in 2017 and the spring race last season before his brother won the second race last summer. Kyle has the seven wins, but he also has 12 finishes outside of the Top 10 with four DNFs. Still, he is considered one of the favorites due to his 14.3 AFP and 2,232 laps led, by far the most of any active driver. In fact, the next closest is his brother at 1,086 laps led. He'll go off 17th in Sunday's race, so he should garner plenty of Place Differential points as he matriculates up through the field.

JGR cars had a good qualifying session like usual, as Erik Jones (16/1) and Denny Hamlin (14/1) will go off fourth and fifth in Sunday's race. Jones will be in stall No. 20, too, which has an open area behind the stall to give him a little extra room. Hamlin chose stall No. 12, which has the entrance to the garage ahead of his stall, so not car immediately in front of him for a little added comfort. Hamlin was a very ordinary 14th in each of the two Bristol races last season, but he has always been a tremendous short-track driver. Jones has posted two top-5 finishes in his past three Bristol races with an AFP of 12.5 in his four Cup starts at the short track while also leading 260 laps.

Stewart-Haas Racing's Daniel Suarez (66/1) will start Sunday's race from the 20th position. He has never finished lower than 18th, but he also hasn't been higher than 11th, in his four Cup starts at Bristol. His teammates qualified pretty well, however, as Aric Almirola (20/1) and Clint Bowyer (16/1) will start sixth and eighth respectively. Almirola has had some issues at this track recently, finish 22nd or worse in three of his past four starts, but he was also sixth just one year ago in the spring race. Bowyer did well for SHR last season, posting a pair of top-10 finishes at the track.

Do not sleep on the Penske Racing group, either. They'll be in the mix for a win as usual. Ryan Blaney (12/1), Brad Keselowski (7/1) and Joey Logano (8/1) are among the favorites for good reason. Kes has two wins and 566 laps in his 18 Cup starts, posting an 18.1 AFP. Logano has been even better, grabbing checkers twice with nine of his 20 starts resulting in a top-10 showing. Blaney hasn't been as fortunate, posting a 21.9 AFP in seven Cup starts, but he has 221 laps led, and he had his best-ever Bristol finish with a seventh-place run in the night race last season.

Last but not least, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (25/1) just seems to love this place. He leads all active drivers with an 11.3 AFP in 12 career starts. While he has never won, he has come close, posting four top-5 finishes and six top-10 showings. And all but two of his starts have resulted in finishes 20th or better. While he was 24th last summer in the night race, he was also a solid fourth in the spring run. 

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