The Cup Series is on week two of their annual western swing. Las Vegas is a traditional intermediate track, but that does not mean this race will be tame. There were four cautions in stage three of the 2022 fall Las Vegas race. There were only two cautions in stage three of the spring race, but that race experienced 12 cautions. The favorites should be safe but don’t rule out drivers with slightly longer odds.
As always, trust the spreadsheet but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas, which gets underway Sunday, March 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Last week’s Auto Club race had a little bit of everything. Legendary heel, Kyle Busch, turned face. RCR turned back the clock to their glory days. There were spins, major mistakes on pit road, a mechanical failure for a favorite, short runs, long runs, pit-cycle lead changes and a “Big One” wreck. The final box score was not shocking, but it hides the volatility of the race. It obfuscates the possible variance that was present. Auto Club was one caution from chaos. Las Vegas could provide that one caution in stage three that turns the race on its head.
Race Winner — Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
Daniel Suarez +5,000
This is shocking. Last week, Suarez was +5,000 but went on to finish fourth. Surely, he should be more of a favorite this week. Trackhouse Racing looked great last week. The sports book and the public are biased. They see Suarez as the driver that failed at JGR and SHR. Never mind the fact that he was the forgotten driver for each stable. The only time in his racing career when he was supported, he won the Xfinity Series championship. He has the full support of Trackhouse Racing, and he’s fast.
Last fall at Las Vegas, Suarez led 31 laps (fifth most) and recorded the third-most fast laps. His teammate, Ross Chastain (+800) led the most laps and finished in second (he also led the most laps in the spring race and finished third). Trackhouse was nailing their setups at the intermediate tracks to close out the 2022 season. They picked up where they left off last week with each of their drivers finishing third and fourth at Auto Club. Chastain is a favorite, but is a better DFS play being that he is more likely to pile up meaningless hog points (fast lap and lap led points) than to win. Suarez is even more unlikely to win, but he comes in with much longer — dare we say egregious — odds to win.
Kyle Busch +600
The spring 2022 Las Vegas race was his for the taking. Busch had the win in the bank until that pesky yellow flag flew. After leading 49 laps (second most), a caution was called on lap 267. During the subsequent pit stop, the Hendrick drivers took two tires and Alex Bowman stole a backdoor win in overtime from Kyle Busch. By the way, Busch totaled his car in the spring Las Vegas practice. He started the race in 37th with next to no laps of practice in the Gen 7 car, and JGR was coming off of failing their first test in the new racing package at the 2022 Fontana race. If everything was against him and he nearly won, then what happens when everything is going his way?
Late race cautions are Kryptonite for favorites. Last week, the race stayed green and Busch won. If it’s green in stage three at Las Vegas, then Busch should win his hometown race. If there are yellows, then all bets are off and anyone is game.
Race Winner — Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas
Chase Elliott +1,000
For those familiar with Chase Elliott’s career, he’s a streaky driver. It’s not just Elliott that gets hot. His team in the garage finds speed. He wins in bunches, but sandwiched around and in between those wins are runner-up finishes and podiums. Last week at Auto Club, Chase Elliott was not quite fast enough to run down Kyle Busch and earned a runner-up finish after starting the race in the back. The No. 9 Hendrick Chevy looked like the only car that could compete with No. 8 RCR Chevy. Las Vegas is take two. Balance is important at this intermediate track, but a driver can’t win without raw speed. At this early point in the season, Elliott is one of the few drivers with raw speed.
Martin Truex Jr. +1,200
The speed, setup and talent are all clear. Unfortunately, luck is clear, too. Truex either has bad luck or he and his team commit costly errors. Last week, Truex’s pit crew earned two penalties (one was a two-lap penalty). He finally got on the lead lap at the start of the final green-flag run. In those 45 laps, Truex climbed from 26th to 11th. There is speed in this car, but the No. 19 JGR Toyota team must limit — ideally eliminate — their mistakes.
With low sentiment after last week and a winless season in 2022, Truex should have longer odds. These odds aren’t that long and they’re a clue that the sportsbook is following along. The book knows Truex has speed. He just can’t catch a break. Last spring, when Kyle Busch nearly won at Las Vegas, his then JGR teammate, Martin Truex, was running him down. Last fall, Truex finished seventh but recorded the fifth-most fast laps despite not leading one lap. He started in the back in that race and had two terrible pit stops that surrendered all of his gains. On one of the subsequent restarts, Truex suffered damage while buried in the pack. The car is good but the luck is bad. Do you bet on speed or luck?
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