Monday, October 3, 2022

3-time Texas winner beats odds for round of 12 opener

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The Round of 16 of the Cup Series begins with the trip to Texas Motor Speedway. Several NASCAR drivers have won at the track in the past, but Denny Hamlin tops the list with the best odds.

According to BetMGM, the driver of the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD heads into the weekend with a 6-1 odds to win his fourth career race at Texas Motor Speedway. He sits just ahead of Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson (7-1) and Chase Elliott (8-1). Hamlin’s teammate Christopher Bell also has good odds at 8-1.

Hamlin has won multiple generations of the Texas Cup Series. He won the 2010 season in Tomorrow’s Car and added his third win in 2019 driving the Gen 6 Toyota. Hamlin also finished second overall at the 2022 All-Star race while driving the Gen 7 Toyota.

Larson has just one win at Texas Motor Speedway in the Cup Series for comparison. He won the 2021 playoff race that opened the round of 16. He automatically secured his place in Championship Four.

The No. 11 driver secured his place in the round of 16 with two second places and a ninth place in the first three races of the playoffs. However, en route to Texas Motor Speedway, he has no room for error.

Hamlin has 3,013 points for the round of 16. That puts him just four points above the cutline and Chase Briscoe. Hamlin is also in a tie with Team Penske’s Bell and Ryan Blaney (odds 10-1).

As the round of 16 showed, drivers with multiple bonus points needed them to survive the attrition battles. Elliott entered the playoffs as the regular-season champion but had to struggle to advance after a DNF at Darlington Raceway. Similarly, Blaney used up all of his bonus points while sitting behind the wall at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Texas Motor Speedway will be Hamlin’s best opportunity to secure his place in the Round of 16 given the inevitable wrecks at Talladega Superspeedway and Toyota’s struggles on street circuits. For comparison, he has three previous wins in Texas and all the Toyota drivers have shown speed on the intermediate stages.

While Hamlin and Larson top the list of top-rated drivers, they won’t be the only names worth watching. There are several playoff drivers with strong performances at Texas Motor Speedway, and there is also a history of non-playoff drivers pulling in some upsets.

According to NASCAR’s Statistical Progress, non-playoff drivers have won three times in the playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart won in 2006 while finishing 11th on points. Jimmie Johnson then won in 2014 after being eliminated in the round of 16. Johnson won again in Texas in 2015 after being eliminated in the round of 16.

In the 2022 playoffs, no championship-eligible driver made it to victory lane. Erik Jones stunned the field at Darlington Raceway before Bubba Wallace led a career-high 58 laps at Kansas Speedway. Chris Buescher then won his second career race at Bristol Motor Speedway, finishing in the round of 16.

There is a scenario where a non-playoff driver wins at Texas Motor Speedway, particularly with names like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon all having raced the track to Victory Lane before. Another driver could also put on a show and set a record by becoming the 20th driver in the Cup Series to win the first 30 races.

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