NASCAR Cup Series Championship preview and best bets

Joey Logano drives the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Mustang
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Matt Selz


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NASCAR handicapper for Pickswise, looking to give you winners throughout the season! For Matt Selz media enquiries, please email
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Weve made it! The NASCAR Cup Series Championship is here in a battle of arguable the four most consistent drivers all season. Now all they have to do is have one more perfect race and theyll be lifting, or trying to lift, the massive championship trophy on Sunday night. Two of the drivers of the four are going for their first championships while two of them are going for their second.

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Phoenix track layout and betting strategy

This is the second time that the Cup cars will be on track at Phoenix this year after the first running at the track all the way back in March. While we might think that already having notes on how the cars and tires handled the track earlier in the year is a good thing. The teams and drivers have found so much more speed in the cars since then that we could be in for a much different looking race than we had in March. In general, Phoenix is a 1-mile flat track with a unique track characteristic in the dogleg a very wide turn following the start-finish line. This turn allows the drivers to go about 7-8 cars wide on restarts and they can gain several spots by doing that. Aside that though, it is generally tough to pass at Phoenix, or has been the last few years. With this being the championship race, expect one of the championship four to win it, as its taken a win to win the title each of the seasons in this system. For prop betting though, we can expect the rest of the drivers to handle this as a normal race as theyre still fighting for points to finish as high in the standings as they can.

Phoenix outright winners

Odds available DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing. All 4 Championship drivers listed.

Chase Elliott (+250)

Its been an odd year for Elliott. He won the regular season title and has led the most laps this year of anyone, though still a historically low number. Yet, if we look at playoff performance, hes done just enough to survive and advance as they say. However, at Phoenix on Friday he ran in the top-10 for much of the lap averages and hes been looking like a top-eight car at most of the more recent shorter, flatter tracks. While hes not been as strong at these tracks, he does have a title won here already and is still a threat to win a second one in three years.

Ross Chastain (+350)

What a move that was at Martinsville! Coming to the final corner needing two spots he decides the best action is to gas it, into the wall, and use the wall to keep up his speed. Genius! Hes now capitalizing on his shot at the title by having run the fastest lap in practice on Friday evening. The average lap times for longer runs were competitive but not off the chart. Momentum can be a huge factor in how a driver performers the next week, especially in the championship, and thats what were working with here.

Christopher Bell (+350)

Bell has been lightning quick on the shorter flatter tracks of late. Theyve run eight shorter, flatter tracks this year and in the last four such races Bell has a P1, P2, P4, and P1, with the last P1 coming last week at Martinsville. Oh yeah, he needed that win to make the championship as well. Hes the only driver in the field with two wins at these tracks as well as having the best average finish of any one in the field at them. While the practice times werent great on Friday, they werent great at Martinsville either, when passing was tough, and he won it anyway.

Joey Logano (+400)

The Fords have been fast at this kind of tracks this year. That includes Logano. The reason that Logano has the longest odds of any of the Championship Four drivers is likely due to him having the lowest average finish at this style of track. However, there are some interesting things buried in that average finish when we start to parse it. Not only does he have a win at Gateway the most similar track to Phoenix he also has the second-most top-10s, in the eight shorter races, with five. While the title he won was at Homestead, he came into that one as the underdog and the least talked about driver of the week, just like this week.

Ryan Blaney (+1200)

I feel a need for speed. Thats what were getting with Blaney. He was the fastest car on track for much of practice and led the field in 5-, 10-, 15-, and 20-lap averages. Baseline speed is always important if were picking a driver to win. You know what else is important? Good history at the track and track type. Blaney has that too. He was the pole sitter here in March and led over 100 laps before finishing P4. Blaneys 10.0 average finish at the eight similar tracks this year is good enough for fifth in the field while the four top-fives in that span are tied with Christopher Bell for the most. Speedcheck. Good historycheck. A need to win? Check, since he hasnt all year.

Chase Briscoe (+4000)

Why not throw out there the guy that won here in the Spring? He was the dominant car that day. He also looked good at Gateway and Martinsville last week as well. While the elitespeed didn’t show up at practice on Friday, we’ve seen that not matter much come Sundays. Stewart-Haas Racing doesnt have anything to race for at this point other than pride and another win and will let it all hang out on Sunday. Theres also this narrative: in a year in which more non-playoff drivers have won in the playoffs than playoff drivers, why not take a shot at a non-championship driver winning in the finale?

Best prop bets for Phoenix

Kevin Harvick Top-10 Finish (-180)

Why is this the only prop that Im giving before qualifying? Because where he starts hasnt factored into his finishes in a decade here. You read that right a decade. Hes not finished outside the top-10 since prior to 2013. Thats three generations of car ago for gosh sakes. Even this Spring when we all thought the SHR cars were slow to start the year we got a top-10 from Harvick.

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