Friday, November 3, 2023
The 36th and final race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season comes to a close at Phoenix Raceway’s 1-mile flat layout on Sunday with four of the drivers racing for the season Championship. Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, and Christopher Bell are the contenders with only Larson being a past Cup Champion (2021). This race also marks the final start of 2014 Champion Kevin Harvick who won a track record nine times at Phoenix.
Here’s what I’m thinking for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race with odds offered by Caesars Sportsbooks:
1 #19 Martin Truex Jr. (28/1) - Let’s close out the season with an explosion of good fortune and bet the JGR Toyota to win the race at 28-to-1 odds. Truex has three wins and nine top-fives on the season and his 2021 season at Phoenix was his best with a win and a runner-up. NASCAR doesn’t give the Championship 4 any extra horsepower from the other drivers anymore. Notice how it’s possible all these years that the eventual champion wins the race? It’s not a coincidence. They got about 10 extra horsepower. I don’t think the sportsbooks know this and have lowered the Championship 4 drivers to unbettable prices. I think we’ll see several drivers racing for the lead. Truex is my choice at this nice price, and it’s also because he won at New Hampshire in July. The combination of Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond is the group I put together on the schedule because the same drivers do well. Truex dominated at New Hampshire leading 254 laps and the tire Goodyear used in that race is being used this week at Phoenix.
2 #20 Christopher Bell (9/2) - In seven Cup starts at Phoenix he has four top-10s with a best of sixth in March. He went on to finish fourth at Richmond in April. Two wins and 10 top-fives on the season and I guess I’m saying he wins the Championship. He also won the 2018 Xfinity Series race at Phoenix.
3 #5 Kyle Larson (9/5) - He’s been ninth or better in eight of his last nine Phoenix starts which includes his 2021 win and NASCAR Championship. In the spring he dominated the race leading a race-high 201 laps and finished fourth. He’ll lead laps here, but I’d bet against him before I bet on him. Two-way price Caesars?
4 #22 Joey Logano (20/1) - He won from the pole last fall to win his second Cup Championship. He has three Phoenix wins, eight top-fives, and 908 laps led in his 29 starts. I placed him this high because he was runner-up at New Hampshire and fourth in the second Richmond race. Phoenix is next up on the similar track list.
5 #4 Kevin Harvick (13/1) - He’s been racing at Phoenix in all West Coast racing stops on his way to the NASCAR Cup Series and he’s perfected the track with a track-best 8.6 average finish among his 41 starts. Nine wins and 20 top-fives. He’s led 1,699 laps. He’s the best driver Phoenix has ever seen. He was fifth in the spring race and led 36 laps. He was also fifth at the first Richmond race and fourth at New Hampshire and then 10th in the second Richmond race. Those are the three tracks with similar traits. If a driver is good on one during a season they’ll likely do well on the others. A win would certainly be the best way to walk away from a career, win No. 10 too.
6 #11 Denny Hamlin (22/1) - It was sad to watch him come to the realization last week that he’s not going to be champion again. He’s got three Daytona 500s, but no titles. And every year it’s the same tired questions. He’s got good cars and a couple of years left so maybe we shouldn't say say never but time is running out. Phoenix is his type of flat track. He’s got two wins and 16 top-fives in 36 Cup stars there, The reason you might bet him this week is that he was runner-up at Richmond in July.
7 #9 Chase Elliott (40/1) - He missed the spring race because of being injured due to a snowboarding accident, a sign for a non-win 2023 that he never found a groove in. Maybe this is his wake-up call. He won the 2020 Championship with a win at Phoenix and has five top-fives in 14 starts.
8 #6 Brad Keselowski (50/1) - He’s got two Xfinity Series wins at Phoenix but none in 28 Cup starts there. He has a 13.9 average finish and eight top-fives with 284 laps led. I placed him in this position because of led a race-high 102 laps and finished sixth at Richmond in July. His teammate Chris Buescher ended up winning the race. Why can’t he win on a mile-flat track?
9 #14 Chase Briscoe (55/1) - Last spring he won his first NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix in the first year of the NextGen car and he followed that up with a fourth in the fall. He was seventh this spring and is working on quite the Phoenix resume, and knows it. He’ll be very competitive this weekend.
10 #17 Chris Buescher (65/1) - In 15 Cup starts at Phoenix he has a 22nd-place average finish with no top-fives and one top-10. But I listed him here because he won at Richmond in late July and Richmond is one of the two other tracks I associate with Phoenix along with New Hampshire.
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Thursday, November 2, 2023