Martin Truex Jr. needs a good night at Bristol on Saturday to advance to the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
The regular-season champion is seven points outside of the top 12 ahead of the final race of the first round after an 18th-place finish at Darlington and a last-place finish at Kansas on Sunday. Truex’s race at Kansas lasted less than four laps before his right-rear tire had a puncture and he slid into the wall.
Will Truex’s bad luck continue at Bristol? There’s a good reason to be wary about his chances. Truex enters the race at +1500 to win because Bristol is one of his worst tracks. Truex has just two top fives and four top-10 finishes in 32 starts on the concrete half-mile track.
A top-five finish would assuredly get Truex into the next round of the playoffs. But he hasn’t finished in the top five at Bristol in over 10 seasons. Truex’s two top fives came in the summer race in 2011 (second) and the spring race in 2012 (third). Since then, he’s finished outside the top 20 nine times in 18 starts.
If Truex doesn’t advance to the second round of the playoffs he’ll be the first regular-season champ to get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs since NASCAR implemented stage racing in 2017. Each of the other six regular-season champions have advanced to at least the third round, five of the six have made the final round and three — including Truex in 2017 — have gone on to win the title.
Here’s what you need to know to bet Saturday night’s race. All odds are from BetMGM.
Kyle Larson (+550)
Brad Keselowski (+800)
Denny Hamlin (+825)
William Byron (+900)
Christopher Bell (+900)
Chase Elliott (+900)
Larson has nine top-10 finishes in 14 Bristol starts. His lone win came in this race two seasons ago. Keselowski has three wins in 24 starts while Hamlin has two victories and 16 top 10s in 32 starts. Byron has three top 10s in eight starts while Bell has a top five and two top 10s in four starts. Elliott isn’t a part of the postseason but has six top 10s in 12 starts and his average finish of 12.3 is the best of any active driver.
Good mid-tier value
Martin Truex Jr. (+1500)
Joey Logano (+1700)
We feel obligated to put Truex here even though he’s not good at Bristol. He could finish 30th or third and we wouldn’t be surprised either way. Logano has two victories and 10 top-10 finishes at Bristol. His odds should be slightly better than this.
Don’t bet this driver
Bubba Wallace (+3500)
We fear Wallace’s playoff run will be over on Saturday night. He has just one top-10 finish in eight starts on the Bristol concrete.
Looking for a long shot?
Daniel Suarez (+8000)
It’s been a miserable year for Suarez and he’s finished 22nd and 19th in his two Bristol concrete starts with Trackhouse Racing. But he has two top-10 finishes in eight starts and an average finish of 16th. That’s worth a flier at 80-1.