It. Is. Time. Let’s get ready to rumble for the NASCAR Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum. The NASCAR betting season opens with what appears to be a tremendous challenge with the inception of NASCAR’s Generation 7 era this weekend.
An actual opener from Michael Buffer is much needed for this one. That would be appropriate since he’s been commencing the kickoffs at Los Angeles Rams games (so weird, but kinda cool at the same time).
The Clash begins the ultimate season of unknowns in NASCAR. Nobody truly knows what we’ll see out of these new racecars, as it has been increasingly under the microscope as the days count down to the start of the season.
NASCAR implemented an aero package that boasts 670 horsepower and low-downforce characteristics for the majority of the races this season, which is vastly different than the 550 horsepower, high-downforce package that was primarily used (and heavily criticized) over the last three seasons. Road courses and tracks scaling one mile or less in length featured 750 horsepower in 2021. These racecars will feature 670 horsepower at the .25-mile track inside the Coliseum this weekend.
The betting landscape of this event can be tricky, as this race will only feature 23 drivers in the main event. 40 drivers will qualify and 22 will advance from a series of heat races and a last-chance race. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, to-win bets and matchup bets are active if a driver starts one of the heat races. Therefore, you could lose a bet on a driver before the race even starts.
A single provisional is also included for the highest finishing driver in the 2021 standings who is unable to race his way in, thus setting the field at 23. I would be surprised if any of the big dogs miss the show, but regarding matchups that dig deeper into the field, it could certainly be a concern.
Regardless of the makeup of the racecars, the size of the track, or the implications of a smaller field, I still believe the big dogs are gonna eat. As unpredictable as this race seems, I believe we should expect the expected when it comes to picking the winner of this race.
Shoutout to DraftKings for offering so much variety for this event. The growth of NASCAR betting will be through the roof this year. There are many lines on the board that I like this weekend.
Let’s get right into it.
Been checking the books nonstop to see how they’re further diversifying #NASCAR betting in their platforms.
I firmly believe that these future bets featuring Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Busch and others are free money.
— dale tanhardt (@daletanhardt) January 28, 2022
*All odds are via DraftKings Sportsbook
Picks to Win the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum
Chase Elliott: +650 to win, +150 for a Top 3
I think Chase is primed for a big season in 2022. Not that he had a bad year in ’21, but the regression from five wins in a championship season in 2020 to two wins in 2021 is worth noting.
Elliott was very consistent in 2021 as he still survived and advanced to his second consecutive Championship 4 appearance. Elliott has been strong at Phoenix and Martinsville over the past few years, and these are two tracks I believe that can *somewhat* transfer in a statistical manner this weekend simply because of the flat surface and heavy braking characteristics- especially Martinsville.
In his last four starts at Martinsville, Elliott has 1 win, 2 Top 2 finishes, 3 Top 5’s, and accumulated 525 laps led. At Phoenix he boasts 1 win, 3 Top 5’s, and 4 Top 10’s in his last four.
It would be ironic that Elliott, who didn’t win on an oval in all of 2021, wins the first race of the season; on an oval. I think there’s a great shot that it happens.
Denny Hamlin: +600 to win, +150 for a Top 3
Denny Hamlin has elevated himself into a solid pop-culture icon for the sport. He’s friends and business partners with Michael Jordan, he starred in a Post Malone music video, and.. he won the first-ever NASCAR Cup race in Los Angeles?
There’s certainly enough on-track foundation to support that prediction. On short-tracks in 2021, Hamlin led 848 laps and scored 3 Top 3 finishes. He would’ve had another at Martinsville along with a potential win had Alex “Hack” Bowman not interfered.
Throw Phoenix in there and add in 3 consecutive Top 5 finishes. I know the wins haven’t been easy to come by in this span, but the dominance is just remarkable to the point that he must be considered any time NASCAR heads to a short track. At the very least, I’d take Hamlin for a Top 3 finish (+145) to compensate for your worries regarding his potential to fade.
I think Hamlin will be there at the end and contend for the win.
Joey Logano: +750 to win, +170 for a Top 3
I think you’re gonna have to get dirty in order to win this race. One guy who has no problem doing so is Joe ‘Gano.
Logano also sits at the top of the series as one of the most efficient short-track racers in the field. 8 Top 10’s and 4 Top 5’s in his last ten short track races, along with a win at the Bristol dirt race (another crazy NASCAR inaugural event) should bode some confidence in the #22 team.
With Brad Keselowski leaving Team Penske and Ryan Blaney emerging, I think Joey’s got plenty left to prove as he only scored one victory in 2021. Expect Logano to run upfront and have the elbows out at all times.
Christopher Bell: +2000 to win, +475 for a Top 3
Some might say I’m insane. You might be right.
I really believe Chris Bell can win this race. Bell is poised for a breakout season in 2022. What also sticks out to me about Bell is his performance on the flatter, shorter tracks in 2021.
So let’s do a sample of Martinsville, Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond: in seven starts at those four tracks, Bell has 6 Top 10’s and 3 Top 5’s.
It’s deemed a longshot for a reason, but ultimately I really like what Bell and Adam Stevens did in 2021, and I really like what Stevens did with Kyle Busch in their time together- especially at the short tracks.
From 2016 to 2020, Busch and Stevens scored 14 Top 3’s and 7 wins in 30 starts. Sure, Kyle Busch had much to do with that, but you cannot forget about the crew chief. Stevens contributed a major role in their dominance and success. I believe he can bring the same results to a generational talent in Christopher Bell.
Bell is my favorite underdog play to win on Sunday.
Matchup Plays for the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum
Featured Matchup – Positional Spread: Kevin Harvick +1.5 vs Brad Keselowski (-115)
This is a new one from DraftKings that will be a major push to some casual sports bettors in 2022. To explain: it’s exactly like a point spread in a football, basketball, baseball, or hockey contest. You’re simply picking if a driver will cover the number of positions in the line.
In this example, I’m taking Harvick to finish no worse than 1.5 positions behind Brad K. So if Brad finishes 8th and Harvick finishes 9th, I win. If Brad finishes 8th and Harvick finishes 10th, I lose.
On the DraftKings Sportsbook, they actually have a head-to-head featuring these two against each other and the odds are exactly the same as they are for this positional spread (-115). AKA: you can either take Harvick to beat Brad straight up at -115 or take him +1.5 spots at -115. Doesn’t quite make sense. We’re actually taking advantage of some extra value here with this one.
But for validation, Brad’s racing for a team that struggled mightily over the past few seasons with Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. We know Harvick isn’t a beast at the short tracks, but it’s a no-brainer for me to take a driver with a team that has performed well vs a driver with a team that has performed terribly. There’s gonna be growing pains expected with Brad K. and Roush throughout 2022.
Book Harvick to be able to cover the spread here.
Driver Prop – Group C Winner: Christopher Bell to beat Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman, and Kevin Harvick (+260)
The books have this group pretty evenly matched, as everybody is +260 to win except for Harvick who chimes in a +280. Simply, I think Bell will run up front and contend for a Top 5 all night. I don’t see any of these other drivers accomplishing that.
Alex Bowman is the interesting one here. He won at Richmond and Martinsville last year which can characteristically translate, and he has been a popular pick to win this race. I think if you take a safer route and pick Bell and Bowman to win this group, you’ll cash.
I think the inconsistencies with Bowman lead me to lean in Bell’s direction. He tied for second in wins last season with Martin Truex Jr. (4) but finished 14th in points.
Chris Bell for the win.
For more NASCAR betting content, analysis, and a full betting card with specific unit allocations, follow me on Twitter @daletanhardt and join the Garage Guys Fantasy Sports discord here.