Just two races remain on the season, and Sunday’s Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway’s flat half-mile paperclip layout will be the final race of the Round of 8 in the playoffs. Four drivers will get chopped from the playoffs after the race and four drivers will comprise of the Championship 4 and race for the season championship next week at Phoenix Raceway.
Here’s a look at what I’m thinking this week using the odds order from BetMGM sportsbooks.
XFINITY 500 BETTING RESOURCES
Date: Sunday, October 30, 2022 Venue: Martinsville Speedway Location: Ridgeway, Virginia Distance: 263 miles Laps: 500 Network-Time: NBC - 2:00 p.m. Defending Champion: Alex Bowman
XFINITY 500 PICKS & PREDICTIONS
Chase Elliott (6/1) - He deserves to be the favorite because Hendrick Motorsports has this track figured out, he kicked it strong in the April race with the NextGen car leading 185 laps but finishing 10th. He’s got a championship at stake and he sits third in points. He has to race smart and points race here, I think. Sure he’ll have a car that can win, but the bigger picture is at play here. In 14 Cup starts at Martinsville he has a win, five top-fives, and 903 laps led.
Denny Hamlin (7/1) - He’s the active leader with five Martinsville wins and 1,987 laps led. He has 16 top-fives in 33 career Cup starts. No one is better than him at Martinsville because he’s a Virginian and has been racing at the track forever. But he still needs the car and the NextGen car has not been able to meet his requirement standards. He started 25th in the spring race and finished 28th. He’s fifth in points and needs help to make the Championship 4, or he could just win. He’s got a plan.
“It’s going to be a fight. It’s definitely not going to be easy,’ Hamlin said. “I expect that passing is going to be very difficult, so track position is going to be super important. We’ve got to go in there Saturday and qualify up front and have good short run speed in addition to the long run speed. That has hurt us pretty bad the last couple of weeks but knowing how difficult it’s going to be to pass, I think we’ll put a little more emphasis on that and hopefully be able to get some stage points to give ourselves a chance to advance.”
Ryan Blaney (8/1) - There were 19 different drivers with wins this season and Blaney wasn’t one of them. But he’s still alive in the playoffs. He can still be the 2022 champ with a great run here where he’s been great since coming to Team Penske. All six of his top-fives in Martinsville have come in the nine races since 2018 when he signed with Penske. He should have at least one win there by now, like last spring when he won the first two stages, led 157 laps, and then finished 11th. He was fourth in the spring race this season. I’m on board for a win this week. Punt somebody Ryan, be tough, go big! Search for better odds.
William Byron (8/1) - He sits fourth in points and with a nice day he can stay above the cutline. But Hamlin is only 5-points behind him. I think he can win again. He won in the spring and led a race-high 212 laps, but he was strong there before the NextGen car as well. His last win was at Martinsville. Let’s see if they can dust off all those notes from April and see if they can get themselves into the Championship 4 at Phoenix.
Joey Logano (9/1) - He’s leading the playoffs. He’s going for his second title. It’s right there and Phoenix is a great track for him. But so is Martinsville with a win and nine top-fives in 27 starts. He’s led 1,098 laps. The problem I have this week is that he may not go for the win, or make a move to irritate someone who can retaliate at Phoenix, and at Martinsville, you have to ruffle some feathers to win. It’s hard to pass. Play it safe, go for the win next week.
Martin Truex Jr. (9/1) - From 2017 to 2021, no one was better at Martinsville than Truex. Three wins, seven top-fives, and lots of laps led. NextGen car enters 2022 and goodbye to a strong edge. It’s been like that for Toyota drivers collectively at curtain tracks. No one that follows NASCAR is running to bet this at BetMGM because of the new car and also because he hasn’t won a race in 2022. He missed the playoffs. This price is definitely malpractice by the robots making the odds. He was 22nd in the spring race.
“Hopefully it’s a better race for us than the first time there,” Truex said. “We were off a little compared to how we’ve been there the past handful of years with the old car. I felt like we got it going pretty good in the race, so if we can just unload a little closer and be able to qualify better, that would help a lot. I feel like we’ve learned a lot as a company since that first race and our teammates tested there a while back, so I think we’ll certainly be better, but it’s going to be really tough to pass like we saw in the spring. Qualifying and pit road are both going to be very important; not that they aren’t always, but this week more so than normal.”
Kyle Larson (12/1) - He needs room to do his thing, lots of room. Martinsville and superspeedways aren’t his thing because everyone is so close and bunched together. In 15 Cup starts at Martinsville, he has two top-fives and 112 laps led for a 20th-place average finish. He’s a definite pass for me here.
Christopher Bell (14/1) - He doesn’t have anything special in five Cup starts at Martinsville, but I do see some similarities in this half-mile flat paperclip as the 1-mile flat paperclip at New Hampshire that he won at in July. He’s seventh in the playoffs with his only way in by winning. So you got that going for you with a bet on him.
“The spring race at Martinsville was very unique, because it was very hard to pass,” Bell said. “We qualified well and ran inside the top-10 until we had a pit road penalty bury us and we weren’t able to recover. We showed potential there and I think JGR as a whole has improved on their short track program. I’ve got all the faith in the world that we are going to bring another Camry capable of winning, and I have to go out there and see what we can do.”