Resurgent Larson leads Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race odds

The 2021 champion jumped to the top of the standings ahead of return to Bristol

It’s taken the Cup Series playoffs little time to create drama. After just two playoff events, regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. is at risk of missing the Round of 12. While he’s fallen down the order, Kyle Larson’s risen to the top of the Cup Series standings. He leads the odds for victory Sunday in Bristol’s Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race this week.

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Larson heavily favored for second playoff win

Larson started strong with a win in Darlington in the opening round of the playoffs. It marked his first win since the All-Star Race and the first win for points since Martinsville in mid-April. Last week, he followed that win with fourth place in Kansas, including a stage 1 win and the most laps led.

He’s +550 for victory again this week. He has a strong track record in Bristol: 14 races have yielded nine top-10 results, including a win in 2021. Only teammate Chase Elliott has a better average finish at Bristol among active drivers. He took pole in Bristol in the dirt race earlier this season. He’s been one of the best NASCAR drivers in the playoffs and will be fighting for a win again.

Four drivers are next in odds for victory at +800: Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell, William Byron, and Denny Hamlin.

Keselowski’s still winless in 2023, but he’s been solid to start the playoffs. Sixth in Darlington and ninth in Kansas has him fifth in the playoff standings. He has three career wins in Bristol, the most recent in 2020. But besides that one win, he’s struggled at that track. In his last 12 races there, he has just three top-10 results, including that win. This is a bet on recent form coming good.

Bell’s earned pole position for both playoff races so far, but that hasn’t translated to great success. Twenty-third in Darlington and eighth in Kansas has him 10th. That’s enough as it stands to make the Round of 12 but only 13 points ahead of Truex Jr. in 13th. He won in Bristol earlier this year, but that was with a dirt track surface. He has one top-five result in four races on the regular Bristol track surface. A win would be somewhat surprising.

Byron’s fourth in the standings after a 15th-place finish in Kansas last week. He’s tied with Truex Jr. for the most playoff points ahead of this weekend. Like Bell, he’s been solid but unspectacular in Bristol. Eight races have led to top-five results in 2021 and 2022. He came from a lower starting position in both races to get there. With a higher starting position, he could see himself in victory lane.

Hamlin kept pace with Truex Jr. throughout the NASCAR regular season in second. He’s dropped slightly in the playoffs after an unfortunate finish in Darlington saw him come in 25th. He bounced back in Kansas to take second behind Tyler Reddick and keep pace with Larson at the top. Hamlin’s won twice in Bristol, most recently in 2019 from pole position. He’s notched more poles at Bristol (four) than any other active driver. He could go one better than last week and get a victory on Sunday.

Longer odds for victory in the Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race

Elliott (+1000) is the NASCAR betting favorite among non-playoff drivers for victory. With 12 career races in Bristol, he has the best average finish among active drivers (12th). He’s finished in the top five four times but has yet to get a victory. He took second last year in this event. He may not be the favorite, but he’ll likely be in the top 10 again.

Reddick (+1200) has been the best driver in the playoffs so far. Second in Darlington and a win in Kansas has him second in the standings. Larson was the last NASCAR driver to win consecutive playoff races when he won three races in a row in 2021.

But why not Reddick? He’s the best driver in the playoffs so far and took second in the Bristol dirt race this year. He has a solid chance.

Kevin Harvick (+1500) has to win a race before the end of the season. The 2014 champion had too long and productive of a career to go out winless in his final year. He’s currently 12th in the standings and just seven points ahead of Truex Jr. A win keeps him in the playoffs for another round, and he’s no slouch in Bristol. In 42 career races there, he’s notched three wins and another 11 top-five results. A win here would secure a spot in the Round of 12 and extend his long playoff career at least slightly longer.

Erik Jones (+5000) is a very long shot. But he’s been an excellent driver in Bristol over his eight-year career. Ten NASCAR races have included one pole position and four top-five results. Only Elliott, Larson, and Harvick have a better career average finish in Bristol. Jones finished third last week and 10th in Darlington, making him the best non-playoff driver so far in the postseason.

Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race picks

Bristol is a one-off with its steep banking, two pit roads, and different turn radii. It’s a unique and unpredictable challenge for drivers across the Cup Series grid, rightfully making it a fan favorite.

Of the favorites for victory here, look for Larson to break through again. He’s racing well so far and looks primed to continue his strong start. For a bigger payout, look to Elliott or Jones to take the chequered flag.

For NASCAR betting news, odds analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.

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