NASCAR hopes short track racing looks a lot different in 2023 than it did a season ago.
The new Cup Series car produced nothing short of abysmal racing at short tracks and road courses in 2022. Drivers complained about dirty air at those tracks as they were unable to run close together for extended periods of time or make passes with any relative ease. The wake off the cars meant drivers could get stuck behind each other for laps and laps, even if the driver behind had a much faster car.
That racing led to some significant changes for those two types of tracks in 2023, and Sunday’s race at Phoenix (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox) is the first chance for us to see how the cars race with those changes. The spoiler on the back of the cars has been cut in half to two inches and other changes have been made to the aerodynamic properties on the car. According to NASCAR, the cars will have “about” 30% less downforce than they did a season ago.
That lack of downforce should hopefully lead to much better racing as drivers have to slow down more in the corners. And it may also mean that whatever happened at Phoenix in 2022 can be thrown out when trying to figure out who will be good at Phoenix in 2023.
Here’s a look at some of the betting odds for Sunday’s race. Odds are from BetMGM.
Joey Logano (+800)
Ryan Blaney (+800)
Kyle Larson (+900)
Ross Chastain (+1000)
Kyle Busch (+1000)
Denny Hamlin (+1000)
Christopher Bell (+1000)
Martin Truex Jr. (+1000)
Kevin Harvick (+1000)
Yeah, this is a really long list of favorites, thanks to the six drivers who are tied at +1000. And one of the drivers at those odds is the best ever at Phoenix. Harvick has an average finish of 8.7 and nine wins in 40 races. Logano won the final race of 2022 at the track on his way to the title. That was his third win in 28 starts.
Blaney is winless in 14 starts but has nine top-10 finishes. Larson has one win and six top fives. Chastain has two top fives in two races in good equipment while Kyle Busch has finished in the top 10 in over 70% of his Phoenix starts. Denny Hamlin’s average finish of 10.5 is second best while teammate Christopher Bell has three top 10s in six starts. Martin Truex Jr. has six top 10s in his last 10 Phoenix starts but also has two finishes outside the top 30.
Good mid-tier value
Alex Bowman (+2000)
Tyler Reddick (+2500)
Bowman has just one top-10 finish in 15 Phoenix starts. And that came in his first start at Hendrick Motorsports when he was subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. But he’s been decent at the track and Hendrick looks like the team to beat early this season. Reddick has shown speed so far in 2023 but doesn’t have the results to show for it. He was third in this race a season ago.
Don’t bet this driver
Ryan Preece (+4000)
All three of Preece’s starts in 2023 have ended with wrecked race cars. We’re not saying he’s going to crash on Sunday — he’s been caught in the wrong place each time — but simply getting through a race unscathed is the top priority. And yes, we're fully aware we said that William Byron was a driver to avoid ahead of Las Vegas. Sometimes you whiff.
Looking for a long shot?
Austin Cindric (+5000)
Cindric was 11th in the second Phoenix race in 2022 and isn’t a bad bet to score a top 10.