The Sunday race at ISM Raceway looks like a foregone conclusion because it features Kevin Harvick on the outskirts of Phoenix. Unfortunately, it appears to be the same story in the Saturday Xfinity Series DC Solar 200 because Kyle Busch has thrown his hat in the ring for this race.
Busch won last week in Las Vegas and he’ll look to make it two in a row here as a very chalky favorite in the lead-in to the main event on Sunday.
But, there is no such thing as a lock in NASCAR because crashes happen and engines fail and any vast assortment of things can go wrong, so we’ll see if we can find some value on the board with Busch’s low price adding dollars and cents to the odds for the other drivers.
Odds are from 5Dimes Sportsbook and are on the right side of the screen for desktop viewers and below the comment box for mobile viewers.
“More Like One in a Million”
So you’re telling me there’s a chance! Kyle Busch has won this race six times in his career. For good measure, he’s won the fall Xfinity Series race four times. That’s 10 career wins at the Xfinity/Nationwide level at ISM Raceway for one of the sport’s all-time greats.
He’s in the field this week and he’s a -140 favorite. While this isn’t the biggest price we’ve seen on Busch for an Xfinity Series race, it is still pretty eye-opening. Busch’s win last week was his 93rd career Xfinity Series win in 346 races. In other words, he’s won more than a quarter of them and a lot of them in recent years.
That being said, Busch only won once in his seven starts last year. He didn’t waste any time this year, but last season, though he did lead the most laps in two races he didn’t win, he was only 1-for-7. He was 5-for-10 in 2017 and 10-for-17 in 2016. He also led the most laps in three races that he didn’t win.
Maybe he returns to his 2017 and 2016 levels of dominance. Maybe he doesn’t. The odds this week certainly suggest a return to past form.
The Other Hopefuls
Christopher Bell, who won the fall race last year, is +375. Justin Allgaier, who won this race back in 2017, and Cole Custer are +750. Tyler Reddick is +1150. Nobody else is lower than +2750. Bell really is the class of the Xfinity Series once again this year. Allgaier is the crafty vet and a perennial threat. Custer’s inconsistency makes it tough to fully buy stock in him this season.
Reddick’s prices are too influenced by winning the finale at Miami-Homestead last year. Aside from his two wins to begin and end the season, he only had five other top-five finishes. Maybe that’s good enough with this year’s crop of drivers, but he won’t get the nod from me in too many write-ups this season. He did win the second stage last week at Las Vegas, but also finished 15th.
This dogleg oval features different banking in the four turns and checks in at 1.022 miles in length. Some reconfigurations were done to the track over 2017 and 2018 and last year’s fall race was the first one on the inverted course. Most races tend to run pretty smoothly here, but the average speed in the 2017 race was just 91 mph, so that was a race with a lot of cautions and a lot of problems. Things got back to normal a bit for last year’s race, which Brad Keselowski won.
This is the second race in a row in drier conditions, so the teams should have a better idea of tire wear and all of those sorts of issues. Early in the season, we’ve seen a lot of problems with pit crews, pit penalties, and just an overall uncertainty from a lot of teams. As the season goes along, we should see some sandpaper taken to those rough edges, but it’s still the early part of the season, especially for Xfinity Series teams, who didn’t have the luxury of the Clash or the Duels to get ready.
I wondered aloud about how Busch would do last week going from the Camry to the Supra. It didn’t seem to bother him at all. Toyota is 2-for-2 so far in non-restricted races, with Bell’s win at Atlanta and Busch’s win at Las Vegas. Brandon Jones had two top-five finishes before finishing 28th last week.
Outside of that, Chevy has had a lot more Xfinity Series success than Cup Series success thus far. Custer, who is second in points, runs a Ford, but Michael Annett won the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 in a Chevy. Tyler Reddick, John Hunter Nemechek, and Allgaier all run a Chevy. Noah Gragson, who ran third last week at Las Vegas, is also driving a Camaro. Austin Dillon was fourth last week in a Camaro.
Toyota looks to have a leg up on the field overall, but Chevy is its closest competitor in the Xfinity Series, which is a major departure from what we see right now in the Cup Series.
Finding somebody other than Kyle Busch to win this thing is a chore, but it is not a long-term winning strategy to lay prices in stock car racing. Bell is the best of the bunch for points drivers and he would likely be +175 or so if Busch wasn’t in the race. There’s some value on him this week.
Justin Allgaier is the only other play I’d look to make. Allgaier has been fourth, first, and second in this race and has led the most laps each of the last two years. Hold a +375 and a +750 and hope one of those guys knock off Busch.