NASCAR championship odds and 2022 season preview
The 64th Daytona 500 – and the start of the 2022 NASCAR season – is less than one month away. Anticipation is building for the new campaign, which features many driver changes, as well as an overhaul of the stock car in use for the Cup Series.
Let’s take a look at what bettors can expect for the upcoming NASCAR season.
Keselowski headlines driver changes
Former Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski jumping ship from the No. 2 car and Team Penske to the No. 6 car and Roush-Fenway Racing – now known as RFK Racing to reflect Keselowski’s new ownership stake in the team – is one of many noteworthy changes to the NASCAR driver roster.
✌🏼 out for the weekend @keselowski | @CastrolUSA pic.twitter.com/5XsSWm8516— RFK Racing (@RFKracing) January 14, 2022
Chip Ganassi Racing – which fielded the No. 1 and No. 42 in 2021 – folded, and the former car was bought by Trackhouse Racing, which also owns Daniel Suarez’s No. 99 ride. The latter was purchased by Petty GMS Motorsports. Ross Chastain and Ty Dillon are the respective new drivers.
Austin Cindric was called up from the Xfinity Series to pilot the No. 2 car. Harrison Burton will have his first full-time NASCAR ride in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. He replaces Matt DiBenedetto, who along with Ryan Newman, is shockingly a “free agent” to start 2022.
The last major update concerns the 23XI Racing team – co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan – which bought another charter with the No. 45 car. Kurt Busch will be behind the wheel, with his teammate being Bubba Wallace in the No. 23 Toyota.
What to expect from the Next Gen car
NASCAR’s “Next Gen” car takes the Cup Series several leaps into the future.
The cars will be less expensive to make, offering hope that new manufacturers will jump into the series aside from Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota. There is now only one lug nut for each tire, as opposed to five, and the need for giant gas cans in pit row has been eliminated with the car’s new refueling system.
Changes have been made in the aesthetic department as well, with the numbers on the door being pushed up toward the front wheel well, to allow more room for sponsors.
The package for all racetracks aside from Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta will offer drivers less horsepower, and the cars will require some more finesse to handle, meaning more races will be won on the track, as opposed to the garage area.
“I think we had fallen into a spot where the Cup cars were driving too well.” Keselowski told reporters during testing. “I think [the Next Gen car] for sure [puts] more emphasis on the driver who makes fewer mistakes and the whole risk-versus-reward proposition.”
NASCAR Cup Series Championship 2022
Sun, November 6 2022, 8:00 PM
Truex Jr, Martin
Can Larson defend his Cup Series title?
Kyle Larson was the tearaway leader in both wins (10) and laps led (2,581) in 2021, so his championship-clinching victory in the Cup Series finale at Phoenix last November felt deserved. But no driver has repeated as champion since 2010 (Jimmie Johnson), and with all the new variables to consider at the start of this season, taking +300 on Larson to win the title from now seems like a very risky proposition.
Kyle Larson now has “champion” on his uniform. What he thinks when he sees it. pic.twitter.com/DUcolN4cCU— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) January 26, 2022
Bettors looking for a dark horse to hitch their wagon to from now may want to consider Tyler Reddick at +5000. A smaller team like Richard Childress Racing (owners of the No. 3 driven by Austin Dillion and the No. 8 driven by Reddick) could potentially have a better chance against the juggernauts at Joe Gibbs, Penske, Stewart-Haas, and Hendrick if the Next Gen cars are indeed more reliant on driver skill than engineer know-how.
Reddick did not win a race in the Cup Series last year, but he often overachieved. The No. 8 Chevrolet pilot posted 16 Top 10s, and even a runner-up result at the Charlotte Roval despite having been eliminated from the playoffs at that point.