NASCAR Championship odds update: Blaney building momentum as playoffs begin
We witnessed another wild finish at Daytona in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, and when the dust cleared, it was Ryan Blaney who visited victory lane for the second straight week.
He was one of several playoff drivers who saw their odds move overnight as the postseason field of 16 was decided. Let’s take a look at three drivers who saw their odds shift heading into next week’s Cook Out Southern 500, the first of 10 playoff races.
NASCAR Cup Series Championship 2021
Sat, November 6 2021, 5:00 PM
Truex Jr, Martin
Last week: +1600
Until Saturday night, Blaney had never won consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races. By law of averages, it could be difficult for him to secure that automatic bid to the Round of 12 that comes with winning one of the first three playoff races. However, he doesn’t have to win in order to move on to the next round.
A minimum of nine drivers will advance on points, and he’s currently tied for second with Martin Truex Jr., trailing only regular season champion Kyle Larson. There also appear to be plenty of vulnerable drivers in the field, starting with fluke Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, who’s recorded only two Top 5s all season. Fellow playoff drivers Aric Almirola and Tyler Reddick are in the same boat as McDowell.
With the cushion Blaney has, it’s not necessary to henpeck his form until the Round of 12, where he’ll race at two of his better tracks in Talladega and the Charlotte Roval. Blaney has never won at any of the Round of 8 tracks (Texas, Kansas, Martinsville), but has accumulated plenty of Top 10s there to make one think that he can advance to the Championship 4 race at Phoenix, where anything can happen. Blaney isn’t a bad bet at all at these odds.
Last week: +250
Larson still clings to championship favoritism, as he has for many weeks now, though his odds inexplicably increased by a fraction of a point after the Coke Zero Sugar 400. His 20th place finish at Daytona, the result of a wreck, was his worst since a 40th place result at Talladega due to engine trouble on April 25th.
Larson has a season-high five victories in 2021, but none came on short tracks. His best finish between Martinsville, Richmond and Bristol (albeit on dirt) was fifth at “The Paperclip” on April 10. He’ll encounter all three of these tracks again before the year ends.
If the No. 5 Chevy driver doesn’t do what he needs to at some of the other tracks, chalkplayers could be in for a sweat at Martinsville, the race before the championship finale at Phoenix.
Last week: +1600
Alex Bowman was a lock to make the playoff field from weeks ago, but his odds dropped two points after Saturday night anyway.
A three-time winner in 2021, Bowman has a little cushion and some tracks in the first six playoff races where he can point to success. It’s the Round of 8 that’s most likely to trip him up, as he’s never won at Texas (average finish 23.73), Kansas (18.08), or Martinsville (21.64).
In a field that includes each of the last four championship winners (Truex, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, and Chase Elliott) along with Larson and the cagey veteran Denny Hamlin, it’s difficult to envision Bowman sneaking into the Championship 4.