The Xfinity Series is back in Iowa for this week’s US Cellular 250, while the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is making its second appearance in Long Pond, PA at Pocono Raceway. The Xfinity Series will be on its own every other week over the next five weeks, but we haven’t seen much Cup Series participation at NASCAR’s “Triple-A” level this season anyway.
We’ve got a pretty straightforward handicap here in this one, which won’t be the case the next two weeks with road course racing. For now, it’s just 250 laps around the 0.875-mile track in Newton.
Odds are on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers as we sink our teeth into the US Cellular 250.
Iowa Part Deux
The Xfinity Series and the IndyCar Series run at Iowa Speedway every year. The Xfinity Series makes two stops. This is the second stop. The first was back on June 16 for the CircuitCity.com 250, which is the week when I found out that Circuit City was still a thing.
Iowa Speedway does have road track capabilities, but the Xfinity Series races are only run on the D-shaped oval that measures 0.875 miles. All four turns have 12 to 14-degree banking and there is a really flat backstretch and a 10-degree frontstretch.
NASCAR owns the facility and there has been talk of trying to get a Monster Energy Cup Series race there in the near future, but those talks have never really gone anywhere as of yet. The Gander Outdoors Truck Series does race there in the month of June.
There was some more jingling in Christopher Bell’s pockets after last week’s win at New Hampshire. It was his fifth of the season to tie for first place in the “most wins” department with Cole Custer. He also led the most laps and won Stage 2 to get some additional bonus points. Bell still trails Tyler Reddick by 56 points in the standings, but playoff bonus points are the goal now.
Cole Custer was second last week in his quest for back-to-back wins, something that only Kyle Busch has done in the Xfinity Series this season. Justin Allgaier was third and Reddick was fourth. Paul Menard was fifth. There was no real change in the standings last week.
Right now, the 12 playoff drivers would be Reddick, Bell, Custer, Allgaier, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe, Michael Annett, Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Sieg, and Brandon Jones. Jones won the first stage en route to finishing ninth and widened the gap over Gray Gaulding. Barring a fluky win, those should be your playoff participants.
There have been 18 races thus far. Reddick, Bell, and Custer have combined for 13 wins. Kyle Busch has three. Ross Chastain and Michael Annett have the others. The first Daytona race and Las Vegas are the only races this season in which Reddick, Bell, and Custer have finished outside the top five. On seven occasions, all three drivers have finished top five in a race.
The irony is that the Cup Series has actually seen a lot more variance in results this season than it did last season, but the Xfinity Series has not followed that path at all whatsoever. If not for some mechanical failures for Bell, things would look even heavier at the top in all likelihood, as he had stage wins in two races where he finished outside the top 25.
That makes it tough for bettors. You’re basically limited to betting one the three short prices. This week, the price is even shorter on Bell, who is -115. He won all three stages and led the most laps last month in this race.
Interestingly, Custer is second on the board at +285 and then there is a big jump to Reddick and Allgaier at +770. Everybody else is +3300 or higher. That’s Chase Briscoe. Everybody after him is +4000 or higher.
C&C Music Factory
Christopher or Cole. When it comes to small and intermediate ovals, those seem to be your choices. Reddick has wins on the big tracks at Talladega and Michigan and Bell would probably have Reddick’s win at Charlotte had he finished the race. There really aren’t many other options when Cup Series guys aren’t involved.
With Bell, who won running away in the first one, you’re laying a price. With Custer, you’re at least getting about 3/1 on your money. He was second in that Iowa race and had the pole position, so he certainly qualified well, as he has on the short and intermediate tracks. He has been the pole sitter at Bristol, Iowa, Dover, and New Hampshire this season.
You could try Allgaier, who won the first race here last year and was second in this race last season. He was also third earlier this year. He’s a better bet on one of the three upcoming road courses, though. He won at Mid-Ohio and Road America last season.
As a price play, I’ll take Custer this weekend at +285. Bell could very well win, but I have a real hard time laying any minus price in a NASCAR race. It was hard to even advocate it last year when it seemed like Busch was winning every race.
Briscoe stands out as the best of the long shots because he’s had some top-five finishes on the short ovals this season. Cindric and Jones are better on bigger tracks. There just aren’t many options here, so bet Custer and hope he takes it over Bell. It would be a stunner if somebody other than those two picked up the win. We’ll have a lot more to talk about with three road course races coming up.