It’s time for the weekly victory lap. The Best Bets article again picked the winner last week. The Kyle Larson +1000 pick wasn’t a life changer but it was a nice win. Victory lap over, on to next week. As always, trust the spreadsheet but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville, which gets underway Sunday, October 30 at 2 p.m. ET.
The penultimate race of the NASCAR season can be electric or a dud. The track always delivers. Martinsville is legendary and a southern monument. It’s an underappreciated gem of auto racing. The problem is the Cup Series stock cars that NASCAR brings to the track. The last two seasons have been amazing, but this season, the Next Gen car is not suited for old school short track racing.
The spring Martinsville race was universally panned. The drivers and fans hated it. It went so poorly that NASCAR scrambled and scheduled an emergency test session with all of the teams at Martinsville. After the session, the drivers didn’t seem to notice any difference. This is nothing new. In 2019, NASCAR implemented a high-downforce package and the Martinsville spring was one of the worst ever.
Why does this matter? This article is about bets not TV ratings. Those two are closer connected than most realize. Bad racing means few passes. This leads to races won by the favorites and, especially at Martinsville, drivers with track position. The long shots have been hot this season, but this racing package just does not jive at The Paperclip. In order for good racing to take place in Southside Virginia, the stock cars need horsepower and less downforce (e.g. Xfinity Series stock cars)
Race Winner — Xfinity 500
William Byron +800
Hendrick has always been good at Martinsville. This is a significant track for Rick Hendrick. He’s experienced the highest of highs at this short track and the lowest of lows. The organization knows what Martinsville means. Every employee pays extra attention to Martinsville.
Alex Bowman won the Martinsville fall race in 2021, and Chase Elliott won the 2020 fall race. But it might be William Byron that is the best HMS driver at The Paperclip. He won the spring race after nearly winning several times prior. He scored two top-5 finishes in 2021 and two top-10 finishes in 2020. In the 2019 fall race, he finally figured this place out and finished second.
Ryan Blaney +800
Team Penske hasn’t been quite as fast as Hendrick at Martinsville but they’re close. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have earned wins at Martinsville over the last several seasons. Blaney has not won, but an argument can be made that he has been just as good. Over the last 10 Martinsville races, his average finish is 7.4 with five top-5 finishes. He’s led 377 laps at Martinsville and has led more than 140 laps twice.
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Christopher Bell +1200
The flat, short tracks have been his jam. Bell isn’t known as a Martinsville expert but that’s only because the Xfinity Series didn’t race at Martinsville during his run. New Hampshire, Richmond and Phoenix have been very good to Bell in every series. The Cup Series matters the most, and Bell has been exceptional at these tracks this season. He won at New Hampshire and nearly won the fall race at Richmond but ran out of laps. In the spring Martinsville race, Bell had the eighth-best driver rating, but finished 20th because of a lethal green-flag penalty on lap 294.
Kevin Harvick +1500
He won the last short, flat track race (Richmond fall race). In the last four short, flat track races (Martinsville, New Hampshire and two at Richmond), Harvick has a 0.84 Dietrich Data Score (a statistic that comprehensively synthesizes each of a driver’s laps). That score is good enough to rank third, just .05 points behind leader, Joey Logano. Harvick is no longer in the playoffs. He’s racing to win and has nothing to lose. Happy can be as aggressive as he wants at a track that requires forceful bumps to make passes.
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