The NASCAR Cup Series remains in the Northeast this weekend as the drivers head to Pocono for the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. Christopher Bell was able to come away from New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a win, as well as an impressive third-place finish from Bubba Wallace to round out a good day for the Toyotas.
Pocono Raceway, also known as The Tricky Triangle, has an interesting design. Given away by the nickname, the track is in more of a triangle shape rather than the traditional oval of typical tracks. Opened in 1971, each of the three turns at Pocono is designed after particular tracks.
Turn one with 14-degree banking is modeled after Trenton Speedway. Turn two, also known as the “Tunnel Turn” with eight-degree banking is modeled after Indianapolis Motor Speedway while turn three with six-degree banking is modeled after the Milwaukee Mile. Drivers will race 400 miles over 160 laps.
Who Are the Favorites?
It figures to be quite the exciting day at the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 Sunday. Oddsmakers think so too, as four drivers are currently tied as the favorite going into the weekend at +750. These odds will likely change after qualifying, but it gives us a good idea of just how close oddsmakers think this one will be.
Kyle Busch enters as one of those tied as the favorite and is the defending champion at Pocono. Busch had a slew of varying results at Pocono between 2008-2016 but has seemed to figure it out in recent years. After finishing 31st in the 2016 June race, Busch has finished in the top 10 in 10 of his last 11 starts with four wins over that stretch.
Now you just have to decide how to play Busch. Given the recent success, he’s worth every bit of the +750 outright odds, but is there a better way to play him? You could pay the -225 juice for a safe top-10 finish, but the bread-and-butter might be taking him to finish in the top three at +200 (55% in last 11 races) or top five at even odds (64% in last 11 races).
If we’re talking about who has raced well at Pocono recently, the conversation has to include Denny Hamlin. He has the best average finish at Pocono since February of 2019 at 4.7, and even that’s with a 14th-place finish in the most recent race. Prior to that, Hamlin had finished no worse than sixth over that same stretch that included a pair of wins and a second-place finish.
Currently 19th in the standings, it’s safe to say the season hasn’t gone according to plan with Hamlin. Things appeared to be turning for him Sunday at New Hampshire when he finished sixth. While it wasn’t a win, it’s a step in the right direction heading to a track that Hamlin has borderline dominated the last few seasons. While he might be worth the +750 asking price, a bet on a top-five finish at even odds could be the safer move for a driver that’s had plenty of ups and downs this season.
Chase Elliott enters as one of the four drivers with +750 odds. Unlike Busch and Hamlin, Elliott’s odds are based more on overall pedigree in recent seasons than success on the given track. He hasn’t finished better than fourth in 12 races at Pocono and has finished in the top 10 just once in the last five races after a streak of finishing in the top 10 in six of the previous seven.
Of course, Elliott could win this race. He’s first in the standings for a reason and has already been a champion of the NASCAR Cup Series; however, with the same betting odds as drivers like Busch and Hamlin, who have proven success on the track, he doesn’t seem worth the price, even in the props market.
Kyle Larson is the last driver tied at +750 to win the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. Everything said about Elliott can almost apply to Larson here. Larson’s performances at Pocono have essentially been close, but no cigar. He has eight top-10 finishes, including a pair of second-place finishes, the latest coming last season to Kyle Busch.
Just like with Elliott, it wouldn’t surprise many if Larson ended up in Victory Lane. But at the price, there’s better value. Larson to finish in the top three at +200 could have some value if the outright odds didn’t seem appealing.
Best Of the Rest
Kevin Harvick has quietly been putting together a solid season. Since the All-Star Race, Harvick has had finishes of third, fourth, fifth, and two 10th-place finishes. Because of that, he’s gone from a trendy longshot at one point in the season, to now tied for the third-lowest odds on the board at +1000. While he may have just one career win at Pocono, he has quietly dominated since 2014. His lone win came in the first June race in the 2020 COVID-19 season, he went on to finish second the very next day. The schedule was built in a similar fashion last season. He finished eighth in the first race on Saturday and fourth the following day.
Since back-to-back second-place finishes in the August 2014 race and the June 2015 race, Harvick has top-10 finishes in 11 of 13 races (85%). He’s finished fifth or better in eight of the 13 (62 percent). He has odds of -190 to finish in the top 10 and +125 to finish in the top five. The -190 may seem like a lot of juice to pay, but the implied probability of 65.5% is still lower than Harvick’s top-10 finishes at Pocono recently.
Despite just eight races at Pocono under his belt, William Byron at +1200 is rather appealing. He’s only finished outside of the top 15 once in eight starts and has finished in the top 10 in five of his eight races. He runs well here in qualifying, entering the June 2019 race as the pole sitter before starting second in last season’s first Pocono race. He did finish 12th in the second Pocono race last season but did manage to work his way to the front for a Stage 2 win.
Where’s the Value?
Brad Keselowski enters with +5000 NASCAR cup betting odds. Longshots are fun to look at when betting on NASCAR race. Keselowski has found his name in this section before, but after last week’s performance at NHMS in which he finished seventh, there’s no way he wasn’t making the list this week.
Currently 29th in the standings, this season hasn’t been kind to Keselowski. He’s been incredibly inconsistent. Every time he’s finished a race in the top 10 this season, he’s followed it up with a brutal performance. This is where it can turn for Keselowski and he can start to rectify his season.
He has the third-best average finish among active drivers at 10.6. In 24 races, Keselowski has just one win but 15 top-10 finishes and 11 top-five finishes. He’s surely the longshot of the week, but the implied probability of a top-10 finish at +225 is equal to 31.25%, there might be an edge there, considering he’s done so in 63% of his career starts at Pocono.Follow us on Twitter