The Cup Series playoffs are in full swing after a thrilling race in Darlington. Kyle Larson took just his third win of 2023 and first since April to jump up to second in the NASCAR playoff standings and make it a 1-2 at the top for Hendrick Motorsports. This week, the Round of 16 continues with the season’s second race at Kansas Speedway for the NASCAR Hollywood Casino 400. Here’s how the odds look for the penultimate race of the Round of 16.
Hendrick Motorsports Joe Gibbs Racing drivers lead the way
For the regular season’s second half, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin were 1-2 at the top of the standings. Truex Jr. took the regular season title in Daytona, and Hamlin secured second behind him. But playoff points and the first event of the Round of 16 have William Byron and Larson at the top of the standings. All four lead the odds for victory in Kansas City this week, led by Larson (+450).
Larson’s bad luck in 2023 may finally be turning. The 2021 Cup Series champion had a tumultuous regular season, but a win in Darlington, his first at that track, turned things around quickly. He’s now just one point behind Byron. He’s rightfully leading the NASCAR betting odds. He led the most laps en route to second place at the first Kansas race this year. He took second and fifth in Las Vegas and Michigan relatively similar tracks to Kansas. His lone career win at Kansas was a playoff race during his 2021 title season. Another win here could be the foundation of another title-winning postseason.
Hamlin’s next at +500. Hamlin dominated Darlington in leading 177 laps of the race but pitted late in the race, thinking he had a loose wheel. His wheel was fine, and he ended up a lap down before a wreck took him out. This is incredibly deflating considering how strong his pace was throughout the weekend.
Kansas is far from the worst stop for Hamlin, though. He has more wins at the track than any other active Cup Series driver (four), including earlier this season. The Cup Series has raced at Kansas twice a year since 2011. Only once has a driver swept both events: Truex Jr. in 2017. Hamlin’s finished fifth or better in six of the last eight races at Kansas. Unlike last week, the Cup Seris event will be his sole race on the NASCAR schedule for this weekend. He should be near the sharp end of the grid again.
Truex Jr.’s right behind him at +550. The regular season champion is one of the better drivers in Kansas on the Cup Series grid. Only Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott have a better average finish than Truex Jr. He had a rough race to start the playoffs in Darlington, qualifying 31st and ending up 18th.
Since his Kansas sweep in 2017, Truex Jr. has been solid but unspectacular at the track. The last 11 races there have seen him finish in the top 10 all but once. But he’s made the top three just once as well (2020). Look for him to be competitive again, but a win will be tough.
Byron (+700) has never won at Kansas. In 11 races, he’s cracked the top five just twice. He took pole position in NASCAR qualifying for the first race there this season, though, so he’s shown better pace in 2023. He also won in Las Vegas—Byron’s on the up this season compared to prior years, so a win is a definite possibility.
Playoff contenders are close behind
Tyler Reddick (+800) finds himself third in the standings after a strong result in Darlington. Second behind Larson by 0.447 seconds made for an excellent start to the Round of 16. He hasn’t historically raced well in Kansas; eight races have yielded three top-10 results. He’s typically qualified well but can’t seem to translate that to good race results.
He took pole position in this race last year but crashed on lap 67. His ninth-place finish in the first Kansas race this year and his performance last week is powering these odds. He’ll likely be near the top 10, but we like his chances for a win later in the playoffs.
Christopher Bell (+900) has one pole position at Kansas on his track record from last season but no wins. He had two top-five results in the two NASCAR races last year. Earlier this year, he crashed on lap 157 and ended up 36th, his worst season result. He took pole last week in Darlington but will need a big improvement to take the win here.
Longer odds for victory in the NASCAR Hollywood Casino 400
Bubba Wallace (+1200) won this race last season and finished fourth in the first Kansas race this year. He also raced well in Las Vegas earlier this season with a fourth-place finish there as well. Wallace ran well in Darlington last week to finish seventh, his best result in three months. He’s yet to win a race in 2023, but this could be the right place to ensure he makes it past the Round of 16.
Ross Chastain (+1500) got his playoff campaign off to a great start with a fifth-place finish in Darlington. He took fifth in the first Kansas race this season, his first top-five finish at the track in nine career races. He finished relatively well in Las Vegas (12th) and Michigan (seventh). With a bit more momentum from last week, he could be in for a good result.
Few drivers can compare to Harvick’s track record at Kansas. In 35 career races there, he’s won three times and made the top 10 another 16 times overall. He has a career-best five pole positions there, more than any other active Cup Series driver. At +2000 and winless so far in 2023, he’s a long shot for a win. But there are few drivers to feel more confident about around Kansas than Harvick.
NASCAR Hollywood Casino 400 picks
Darlington provided a thrilling start to what should be a close battle to the finish in the NASCAR playoffs. Multiple drivers made strong starts while another handful had bad luck in jumbling up the standings.
Of the favorites, look to Byron to earn his first career Kansas win. A sixth win of 2023 would put him comfortably ahead of Larson at the top of the standings and give him a bit of breathing room. Of the longer odds, look for Reddick or Harvick to break through. The latter’s in his final season and a win would be a bright spot in his last Cup Series playoffs.
For NASCAR betting news, odds analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.
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