Long live the long shots. A favorite earned the win last weekend at the most improbable place — Talladega. That’s 2022 in a nutshell. The Roval, in some aspects, is the Talladega of road courses. A long shot did not come through last week, but the well is far from dry. As always, trust the spreadsheet but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte, which gets underway Sunday, October 9 at 2 p.m. ET.
Turn one at The Roval can be a meat grinder. The entire infield portion of the track is a disaster. It was not designed for stock car racing. NASCAR had to eliminate part of the infield race track because it was too much of a problem. And if the track isn’t big enough of a problem, the weather is always an issue. October is hurricane season in North Carolina and two storms are brewing in the Caribbean. All signs point to long shots again.
Race Winner — Bank of America Roval 400
Michael McDowell +3000
Once upon a time, Marcos Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger won Cup Series road course races in equipment that wasn’t the best. Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez were surprise road course winners this season. Who thought Tyler Reddick would win back-to-back road course races? Does Michael McDowell seem like that much of a stretch? In terms of Dietrich Data (an analytical statistic that comprehensively synthesizes each lap of a race), McDowell has the third-best score at the road course races this season. He’s a top-5 driver, he just needs a little help. He could get that help due to the playoffs. His strongest competition could be racing for points. There is a scenario where McDowell starts Stage 3 with the lead and the best cars start outside of the top 10. Can he hold on? At +3000, isn’t it worth betting McDowell with a head start to begin the final stage?
Kyle Larson +800
There are two conversations. Skill and equipment is one. That’s the easy discussion. Larson has them both. He won at The Roval last season and he won the most recent road course race (Watkins Glen). The difficult discussion is about circumstances. Larson could use some more points in the standings. Entering the race, he’s in a comfortable position. However, if he goes for the win and concedes stage points by pit cycling early, then that safety blanket is gone. It’s very likely that Larson stays out and takes the points. This severely hurts his chances going into Stage 3. However, many of the top cars might stay out as well.
There are a lot of scenarios at a road course. There are even more when that track is a fake road course or “roval.” Bad wrecks happen to good cars at The Roval. How ugly will this race be in 2022? Wrecks and failures could happen to anyone and everyone. Every team might play it safe and take points when they can. Also, it’s a playoff cut race and these races tend to get weird. Analyzing the scenarios and predicting team actions is complex. Even if a bettor had a read on what a team was going to do, the team could change their game plan on the fly based on race events. The best bet is to bet on the best driver. Back to conversation No. 1. Larson is the best driver and he has the best car.
For NASCAR insight and quick betting tips, follow Pearce Dietrich (@race4theprize) on Twitter.
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Head 2 Head
Joey Logano (-110) vs. Daniel Suarez (-110)
Daniel Suarez -110
This is pretty simple. Suarez has been good at the road courses this season and Logano has not. Suarez has a 0.83 Dietrich Data score at the road courses (fourth), while Logano has a 0.63 (14th). Justin Marks is one of the owners of TrackHouse Racing. Marks is a road course racer and former Xfinity Series road course winner. It should not be a surprise that their road course racing program is a priority. With the amount of road course events on the schedule, it should be a priority for every team. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. There are trade-offs. More time spent preparing road cars means less time on a short-track program. It’s clear that TrackHouse has put many of their eggs in the road course basket, and it has paid off. This weekend, the small team that no one believed in at the beginning of 2022, could place two cars in the Round of 8.
Kevin Harvick (-115) vs. Alex Bowman (-105)
Alex Bowman (-105)
Neither driver will be racing for points. Bowman is still in the playoffs, but he needs a win (if he races at all). The scenarios and circumstances are not a big part of this pick. This is simply choosing a Hendrick car over a Stewart-Haas Racing car. That’s not a tough choice. Besides, Harvick has been terrible at the road courses this season. His only decent result was at Sonoma, and that result was completely due to pit cycling before the end of stages. Give Harvick credit, he didn’t lose any spots on the track. However, he didn’t gain any spots on the track either. Bowman is not the greatest road racer, but he gets the job done at The Roval. He’s finished 10th, eighth, second and fourth in the four road course events at Charlotte.
Chase Elliott (-170) vs Kyle Larson (+140)
Chase Elliott (-170)
Picking Elliott to beat Larson and not as an outright winner, might seem confusing or contradictory. It’s not that complicated. Elliott is the safer play, but safety means shorter odds. Playing the favorites has not been the best approach for picking NASCAR Cup Series winners in 2022. In the Head 2 Hard matchups, it is a different story. As far as talent and equipment are concerned, Elliott and Larson are as equal as two drivers can be, However, there is one huge difference this weekend. Sunday does not matter to Elliott. He has already qualified for the next round of the playoffs. Larson has not. This means Larson needs points and cannot pit cycle before the end of Stage 1 and Stage 2. Elliott is racing for the win. In order to win a road course race during the stage racing era, drivers must forgo stage points and pit cycle before a stage break in order to gain track position at the beginning of a stage — most importantly at the beginning of Stage 3. Elliott will restart Stage 3 inside the top 3 and Larson will restart on the edge of the top 20. That’s too big of opportunity to pass up on.
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