How about that Bubba Wallace +2000 pick at Kansas? There’s no time for victory laps, and if there were, a lap is 15 seconds at Bristol. Time to move on to the The Last Great Colosseum. If the 2022 season wasn’t chaotic enough, now the Next Gen car will face its biggest test yet at The World’s Fastest Half-Mile. As always, trust the spreadsheet but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol, which gets underway Saturday, September 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
This is going to be a wild Saturday night. There’s no other way around it. The favorites should be the play at Bristol. A driver either has got it or he doesn’t. The bullring in Bristol is no walk in the park. Track history at this steeply banked half-mile track matters, but 2022 matters just as much. This is the Oprah season. Everyone gets a win in the Next Gen car. The equipment across the teams is relatively equal. The first season for NASCAR’s not-ready-for-primetime generation seven stock car has created parity and chaos. The cars have equal speed and equal gremlins. It’s comical that a new flaw in the Next Gen car is exposed every week and various contenders see their day’s in up in smoke, or in Kevin Harvick’s case, in flames. If this continues, it will no longer be comical but tragic.
The problems within the sport might not concern the sports bettors, but they do matter. Gamblers don't need to worry about the health of the sport, but knowing and understanding its poor health, will allow for an edge. What is that edge? The same edge as last week. This is not a normal season. The normal picks won’t work. This is the year of the longshot. Bristol is crazy. This season is crazy. Dig deeper and explore some longer odds on Saturday night.
Race Winner — Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol
Erik Jones (+5000)
This feels like chasing. What are the odds that Jones wins a second race in three weeks? The odds are +5000, they’re listed above. Why can’t Jones win again? The Petty-GMS cars are fast. GMS brought solid resources to the No. 43 car, and they made an amazing hire by stealing Dave Elenz away from Jr Motorsports.
Did Jones get a little lucky at Darlington? Yes, but what winner this season is not getting a little lucky? It’s 2022. It’s the Next Gen car. Luck should be a column on your spreadsheets. Aside from luck, Jones has speed this season. Not everyone can win a Cup Series race. The car has to be fast enough and the driver has to be good enough. Jones had the car and Darlington is one of his best tracks. He put himself in a position to get lucky. It’s the same formula this week. Bristol is one of Jones’ best tracks. He was great at this short track with JGR, and last season in an RPM car, he scored the 11th-best driver rating and finished eighth.
Alex Bowman (+3000)
Last week, the Best Bets article highlighted two longshots at Kansas: Bubba Wallace and Alex Bowman. Bubba won and Bowman nearly won. During his dry spell, Bowman did not forget how to drive. Hendrick didn’t give him slugs. The summer schedule is all over the place. Missed setups and struggles can happen. Kansas had always been a good track for Bowman, so it wasn’t a surprise that he snapped out of his summer snooze. Now that he’s awake, another favorable track is on the schedule Saturday.
Bowman nearly won the 2018 Bristol spring race. That was his first Bristol race with Hendrick. He earned another top-10 finish in the fall race that season. He struggled in the high-downforce races at Bristol (the racing was not the same), but last season low-downforce racing returned, and Bowman finished fifth. He also won at Dover — a steeply banked concrete track — last season and has five top-5 finishes in the last six Dover races.
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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+10000)
Let’s get this out of the way: 40th, 34th, 33rd, 33rd and 24th. Those are Stenhouse’s last five races at Bristol. It does not get much uglier. His odds definitely factor in his current track history at Bristol. They factor in Stenhouse’s history, period.
Before this rough run at Bristol, this used to be his best track. For whatever reason, the two most volatile tracks — Bristol and Talladega — are the best tracks for the most volatile racer. Either way, Stenhouse knows his way around this track. If he avoids the wrecks and does not suffer a mechanical failure, he has the ability to steal a win at the end.
Brad Keselowski (+10000)
It is hard to get behind Keselowski. His equipment leaves much to be desired. However, his teammate, Chris Buescher, does not seem to be severely impeded by his RFK car. It’s possible that Keselowski could have a competitive car on Saturday night. Keselowski still has the skill to win at Bristol, and the winless driver definitely has the motivation. Points mean nothing for Keselowski. There’s no reason to layup and take a top-10 finish. The playoff drivers are facing a playoff-cut race. They have to be smart and safe. Keselowski can be crazy and aggressive. Checkers or wreckers is always an intriguing bet to win
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