NASCAR Cook Out 400 2023 Drivers, Predictions and Best Bets: Truex has tricks up his sleeve

Martin Truex Jr #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota sits on pit road
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Following a controversial Pocono race it’s time to head to Richmond and Richmond Raceway for the Cook Out 400. The Action Track as it’s known, is one of the most popular short tracks on the schedule, especially with as much drama as there is coming into Sunday’s 400-mile race. We’re in the home stretch of the regular season in the NASCAR Cup Series with 5 races left before the playoffs start and there are 5 open spots. Sunday’s race will not only be critical for nabbing points but also a win to clinch a spot.

Who’s coming in strong? Who’s coming in as the favorites? What teams and strategies usually do well at Richmond? How are we betting the Cook Out 400? All of that is answered below.

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Richmond track history and layout

The three-quarter-mile Richmond Raceway has been a staple on the NASCAR schedule for a long time and has gone through some different iterations in that span. In it’s current form, it’s been one of the more interesting short tracks on the schedule. Designed in a Tri-oval layout, unlike Bristol or Martinsville, it resembles the shape of an intermediate track just on a smaller scale. That can make racing here a mix of short track bump and runs and trying to setup passes like it’s a 1.33 mile or bigger track. If we’re looking for similar tracks to Richmond, we’re looking at the shorter, flatter tracks on the schedule like Phoenix, New Hampshire, Martinsville, Gateway, and Nashville. The other thing to keep in mind is to not look past 2022 races at those tracks when combining them with Richmond since that was the first year of the Gen 7 car and this short track package.

Cook Out 400 betting strategies

If there is one knock on Richmond Raceway it’s that it can be tough to pass at — like most short tracks. That does mean we have to pay attention to qualifying a tad more than intermediate tracks that we can compare to Richmond. That doesn’t mean that pit strategy won’t play a role, but qualifying is certainly a big advantage. The last pole-sitter to win here was 12 races ago in 2016, but since then we have seen 7 winners who started P9 or closer and another 3 to start P11-P13. At practice we’re looking for drivers with good long-run speed since there are relatively few cautions here and that leads to long green flag runs over the 400-lap race. If you like to bet based on manufacturer, Toyotas have won 9 of the last 15 races here and Chevy has won 2 of the last 5.

Winner predictions for the Richmond Cup race

All odds listed are from DraftKings Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.

Martin Truex Jr. +450

Truex has won 3 races here in the last 8 trips to the Virginia short track. This year he has 4 straight top-5 finishes at similar tracks, including a win in New Hampshire a couple races ago. Being in a Toyota at Richmond is a big boost, as well. So it’s not a shock to see MTJ going off as the favorite this week at a track he’s finished P7 or better at 7 of the last 8 times and enters in good form.

Kyle Larson +650 (BetRivers)

Revenge. That’s the sole reason to play Larson this week. Oh, yeah, and the fact that he’s been good here in the 5-car with 3 top-sixes in 4 races — including a win here this Spring. Do we need anything else from him as the third-shortest odds on the board as of Friday? Don’t think so.

Christopher Bell +900

This line feels too long — like another one of his below — for this track history here. In 5 straight races he has finished P6 or better. Bell also had 3 Xfinity Series wins at Richmond before coming to Cup. That’s too much good history to ignore a 9-1 line not to mention how well he drives at New Hampshire, a similar track.

Ross Chastain +1600

With a P3 at Richmond earlier in the year and a win at Nashville, we’re back on the Chastain Watermelon Sugar High as Harry Styles put it. It’s been an up and down year for Chastain — and Trackhouse — but he has been able to lead laps and contended in the shorter track package. That’s what we’re hoping we see again this weekend in Virginia. Would I like to see slightly longer odds on Chastain than 16-1? Sure, but there’s still enough juice in the line on the watermelon farmer to make it worth the squeeze, or smash as he does when winning.

Ryan Blaney +2200 (BetRivers)

He’s the longshot this week. While 22-1 isn’t that big of a long shot, this isn’t a track that sees a lot of surprise winners and so we go with Blaney. The last couple of trips here haven’t been great for him, however, he is running well enough at similar tracks over the last 2 years that he could well be a factor on Sunday. Running well at Gateway, Phoenix, and Martinsville gives us hope that he can shake off the bad mojo at Richmond and be a threat come the final stages of Sunday’s race, as he has been in the top 10 too often to not have a win.

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Best prop bets for the Cook Out 400

Christopher Bell Top-5 Finish +110

Why are we getting plus money odds on Bell here? Seriously. He’s finished P6 or better in 5 consecutive trips to Richmond, with 4 being top-five. In that P6 he led a chunk of laps as well before dropping back late. This is arguably his second-best track on the schedule and is in a car that usually runs very well at a track with a giant Toyota inflatable down the back stretch. Take the plus return and run.

Brad Keselowski Top-10 Finish -110 (Caesars)

It’s been since 2015 that Keselowski has finished outside the top 15 at Richmond. While that’s not top 10, it does show he’s consistently in the front third of the field and it only takes a pass or two from there to lock down a top 10. He does have back-to-back P11 or better finishes at Richmond, including a P5 here earlier this year. Add to that his three top-11 finishes in the last 5 similar races this year and we have value for a consistently quick 6-car.

Ryan Blaney Top-10 Finish +100 (Caesars)

Blaney has the most amount of top-10 finishes at similar tracks the last 2 years without a win — 11. Seven of 15 races have been top-fives with 11 of 15 being top 10. So getting even money odds here is a nice return on a driver like Blaney. If we look specifically at Richmond, he’s nabbed a top-11 finish in 3 of the last 5 trips to the three-quarter mile track.

Kyle Larson Top-5 Finish -110 (BetRivers)

As I said above, I expect Larson to come out pissed this weekend following Pocono. That, plus it being one of his better tracks of late, and the value on the bet, make this hard to turn down. Value? What value? Even though it’s a negative line, there’s still a fair bit of difference between the implied odds and percent he’s finished top 5. Larson has finished P6 or better in 3-of-the-last-4 Richmond races and P5 or better in 9 of 15 similar tracks the last 2 years. There’s the value in the bet.

Joey Logano Top-5 Finish +185 (BetRivers)

When tight racing and beating and banging are expected, we can count on Logano to be a factor. In 3 of the last 4 similar races this year he has posted a P2, P3, P2 finish with a P19 stuck in the middle. He has landed in the top 5 in 4 of the last 8 races are Richmond, not including the P7 (after starting P18) earlier in 2023. The implied odds of this line is 35.1%, whereas he has pulled it off 50% of the time at Richmond and that same rate this year, too.

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