Early last week, we pointed out how difficult it is to win four Cup races in a row before the green flag waved over the Pocono Organics CBD 325 and said to avoid Kyle Larson. As it turned out, we were wrong and right.
Larson dominated the first race of the Pocono Raceway doubleheader, but in the closing laps it was a nail biter as to whether he would be able to get around teammate Alex Bowman. He managed to do so with a handful of laps remaining and was yarding the field until he apparently ran over something on the track and cut a tire. Even after slamming the wall hard, twice on the final lap, he earned a top-10.
Meanwhile Hendrick Motorsports kept its streak of victories alive when Bowman re-inherited the lead. He started the streak at Dover International Speedway. It was continued at the Circuit of the Americas by Chase Elliott, and then Larson took control for three weeks before Bowman’s Pocono 1 victory. No one is going to be surprised to see the streak continue, but the rest of the field has a night to catch up.
Even before the Pocono Organics CBD 325 began, we suggested Kyle Busch (+700) would be a driver to watch Sunday. He is at his best when the series gets to practice – and in essence he got 325 laps of practice in the books on Saturday. Better still, he was fast and even without Larson’s last-lap problems, he was going to finish in the top three.
For Pocono 1, Busch had +850 odds and even though the PointsBet Sportsbook traders shaved some margin off his line, he still has an acceptable Return on Investment at 7/1. With NASCAR inverting the field, Busch will start in the middle of the pack, but so will all of Saturday’s best drivers.
The good thing about Pocono is that with such a wide variety of strategies, Busch got the opportunity to see how his car worked in traffic on Saturday and he will build that adjustability into his car for Sunday.
Best Bets for a top five
Larson (+225) is going to have to drop to the rear of the field in a backup car after the last lap crash destroyed his primary. PointsBet certainly doesn’t think that is going to affect him because he is still a prohibitive favorite with slightly longer than 2/1 odds compared to 7/1 and greater for the field. It is not so much that he can’t come from the back, but in losing the primary car, he has to start over with a new set of notes and that could be the slight difference that keeps him from Victory Lane.
If Elliott (+1000) was ticked off before, he’s furious at NASCAR now. If they had not stripped him of his finishing position at Nashville for a non-performance enhancing penalty, he would not have been deep in the pack and subject to contact from one of the back markers. The team overcame the crash damage and had a competitive race, but Elliott spent the entire event making up for the ground lost through multiple pit stops. Equally important, he wants to take his own swipe at the dominance of Larson to reestablish himself as Rick Hendrick’s favorite.
William Byron (+900) opened Saturday’s with the same line as he features for Sunday, but not enough money came in and the oddsmakers sweetened the pot to +1100 on the morning of the race. He showed why he should have been a favorite, however, with the third-best Average Running Position in the race and a third-place finish. We had him favored for a top-five for Saturday’s race and he did nothing to make us rethink our opinion.
Denny Hamlin (+700) didn’t win, but he learned a lot on Saturday. Pocono is prone to streaks. Last year, Hamlin was first and second in the two races on this course and he is on target to sweep the top five after finishing fourth in the Pocono Organics CBD 325. The extra 25 miles on Sunday is going to give this team an opportunity to employ a slightly different strategy and no one should be surprised if it is successful.
Best Bets for a top 10
Bowman (+1400) joked about being mistaken for Byron by the infield fans on his morning jog. He made it work for him as he channeled that into the strong run. Last year the Saturday winner (Kevin Harvick) finished second on Sunday and three drivers swept the top five in the Pocono doubleheader. Two others swept the top 10 and we’re thinking that might be what is more likely in store for Bowman. Then again, he beat our expectations on Saturday so he probably deserves a unit or two for Pocono 2.
Last year five racers swept the top 10. That left five positions in Race 2 for drivers outside that mark on Saturday to make up ground. Who it will be this year is a critical question. To hedge our bets, we are looking just outside the top 10 and notice that Tyler Reddick (+5000) came on strong in the closing laps to finish 11th. From the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track through the Coke 600 he was nearly faultless in top-12 finishes. He had two bad outings at Nashville and Sonoma, but we think he will be back inside the top 10 on Sunday.
Several times this year we’ve mentioned how frustrating handicapping Kurt Busch (+3300) can be. Frankly, with 12 consecutive results outside the top 10 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway through Charlotte Motor Speedway, he slipped off our radar. But he now has three straight top-10s on three dissimilar tracks. Earlier this year, we said that if you committed to betting him every week, you would eventually break even or have a modest return. At 33/1, he covers a year’s loss (if you don’t bet the plate tracks) and this could be the race in which he finally breaks back into Victory Lane.
Cole Custer (+25000) was one of our dark horses, but we did not get a chance to see how he would perform when Brad Keselowski punted him into the wall. The traders took notice of his potential, however and raised his odds from +35000 to +25000. At 250/1, there is still has a lot of upside if he can pull off the upset.
For the final slot, we are not going to make a pick as much as point in a direction. The drivers who finished 13th through 15th learned a lot about their cars and apply those notes to going faster on Sunday, so Daniel Suarez (+15000), Bubba Wallace (+30000), and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (+10000) should all be on your radar for a top-10.
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