NASCAR is back. After taking Father’s Day weekend off, NASCAR returns with novelty. NBC takes over the broadcasts with the first ever Nashville night race. As always, trust the data but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville.
Nashville is a new track on the calendar but it’s not that unique. It’s a basic oval with a subtle difference compared to the other intermediate tracks: its surface is concrete. This race will favor the 2023 intermediate-track winners and drivers that excel on concrete.
Race Winner — Ally 400 at Nashville
Kyle Larson +500
This is a permanent recommendation. Larson isn’t as automatic as Max Verstappen in Formula 1, but he’s the most talented driver in the best car. At all of the regular oval tracks, Larson wins or is in position to win every time. Larson led 264 of 300 laps and won at Nashville in 2021. He finished fourth in 2022 after overcoming adversity. Larson got nailed with a pit penalty. He later pitted under green on lap 253 of 300. On lap 256, the caution flag came out. During this exchange, Larson cycled from the top 10 to 24th. Bad luck happens and 2022 was a very unlucky season for Larson. His 2021 championship season was the opposite (11 wins). This season has been neutral, and that’s plenty of luck when it’s the best driver in the best car.
Chase Elliott +850
This has been a trying season for Elliott. He missed several races due to an injury and he got suspended for the Gateway race. After a week off, Elliott could come out firing on all cylinders. He won the 2022 Nashville race but that was just a part of his 2022 concrete success. He won at Dover and finished second at Bristol — both are concrete tracks. The Hendrick cars are too fast and Elliott is too talented to remain winless much longer.
Race Winner — Ally 400 at Nashville
Denny Hamlin +850
Statistically, Hamlin has been the fastest driver this season. He only has one win to show for it, but that doesn’t mean much at this point in the season. Although half of the season is complete, the first half of the season featured a diverse collection of tracks. Multiple wins is not a great indicator of speed. To figure out speed, and more specifically speed in the intermediate-track package, the lap times are the best indicator. In those terms, Hamlin ranks No. 1 in 2023. Last season, Hamlin led 114 laps at Nashville. Hamlin was in third but chose to pit under caution on lap 293. He dropped to 13th before climbing to sixth on the final four-lap run.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +10,000
A top-10 finish or top-5 finish from Stenhouse is much safer. This is an absolute long shot. Stenhouse is a much better DFS pick than bet, but it’s worth discussing his prospects. First of all, Stenhouse has a knack for racing on concrete. He finished 16th at Nashville last season, but he finished sixth in the Music City in 2021. At Dover in 2022, Stenhouse was the runner-up. Early in his career in average equipment, Stenhouse scored six top-10 finishes across a span of nine races at Bristol. He also has some experience at Nashville. He was in several Xfinity races a decade ago before NASCAR and Nashville parted ways. He finished second in the 2011 Xfinity race behind Carl Edwards. Perhaps the most appealing statistic is Stenhouse’s current form. He’s earned a handful of top-15 finishes and several top 10s this season. He’s close but maybe not close enough. However, when Chris Buescher won at Bristol in 2022 and Erik Jones won at Darlington in 2022, they did not seem to be close enough.
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