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Martin Truex Jr.
Best Bets

Beaver’s Best Bets for the O’Reilly 253

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: February 18, 2021, 1:35 pm ET

Many years ago NASCAR’s senior series started on the road course of Riverside International Raceway and then head to Daytona International Speedway for the famed Daytona 500.

In 2021, another California track was forced to cancel its event because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – and that race was transferred to Daytona’s road course for what will is scheduled as one of seven events on this track type.

Several drivers are thrilled to see another road course on the schedule.

Bettors should be fairly happy as well, since these courses are lot more predictable than the aero-restricted superspeedways. Streaks are incredibly difficult to build and maintain on tracks that require drafting to stay in the front. It is much easier to maintain momentum on the road tracks.  

Proposed Winner

This is certainly not an imaginative pick by any stretch, but there is a reason that Chase Elliott (+195) is a heavy favorite with oddsmakers for the O’Reilly 253. He swept the road courses last year with a win on both the Charlotte and Daytona Rovals. He won the last two races on this track type in 2019 at Watkins Glen International and Charlotte.

Based on his skill, Elliott deserves to be handicapped as the winner and the smart money expects him to finish first, but that does not necessarily make him a good bet for an outright win. Last week for the Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin was also prohibitively favored on the restricted course and while he was more than capable of winning, he wound up fifth after getting shuffled back through the pack at an inopportune time. The same thing could happen to Elliott.

As with Hamlin last week, if Elliott cannot win, there are no favorable odds to make him a good bet for a top-five or -10 finish. Given his ability on road courses, there is no real rationale to fade him. What that means for bettors is that he can be ignored outright. Alternately, one might place a modest bet on him for the outright win as they concentrate heavier wagers on a racer with a better return on investment.

Best Bets for a top five

Martin Truex Jr. (+425) is also easily handicapped in the second position. His odds separate him from the field by a wide margin as the next two below him at PointsBet Sportsbook land at +1000 (10/1). For the past two years, he has been one of the few who can rival Elliott. He finished second to him at the Glen in 2019 and third at the Daytona Roval last year. He is also the most recent driver other than Elliott to win; he scored the victory in the 2019 and 2018 races at Sonoma, and also in the 2017 race at the Glen.

If Hamlin (+1000) can manage a smart race, he should easily score a top-five this week. Since the beginning of 2016 he has either finished among the top five or 10th or worse. The good news is that seven of these races showcased him as a contender. He finished second to Elliott last year at Daytona. He won the 2016 race at the Glen and finished second earlier that season at Sonoma.

After those three drivers, it gets increasingly hard to find someone with a streak that makes them stand out. Three others have three consecutive top-10s, but only one of them has a top-five among his highlights. It is that top-five that makes us elevate Joey Logano (+2000) to this level. Logano has been great on road courses in the past with a 2015 victory at the Glen as part of a five-race streak of top-six finishes. He was second to Elliott last year on the Daytona Roval.

Ryan Blaney (+1000) would have a long streak of top-10s if not for an incident at Daytona last August that sent him home 31st. He was in the right place at the right time in the inaugural Charlotte Roval race and won after Truex and Jimmie Johnson collided on the last lap; that sparked a four-race streak of finishes eighth or better on road courses. He was one turn away from winning the Busch Clash this year, which was held on the Daytona road course for the first time. He will contend for the victory again.  

Best Bets for a top 10

While he is not a particularly strong pick for the outright win, William Byron (+2000) should be capable of earning a top-10. He has been that strong in his last three attempts on the Rovals. He has one more top-10 at the Glen in 2018. On another sportsbook, he is listed at +500 to score a top-five and -115 for a 10th or better. This is a good week to make a modest wager on the top five.

Dark Horse: PointsBet has AJ Allmendinger (+1300) listed among the favorites, but given his absence from the series for several years, he is not awarded strong odds. ‘Dinger will pilot the No. 16 for Matthew Kaulig and he deserves a modest bet for the outright win with the odds he has been given. His one and so far only win came in 2014 at the Glen, but he has been incredibly successful in the Xfinity series on this course type.

Kurt Busch was a pleasant surprise last year on the Charlotte Roval. He finished fourth there after running fifth in the inaugural race on that hybrid course. Busch looked solid in the Clash until he overcooked Turn 1 on a restart. If he learned from that mistake, expect him to finish inside the top 10.

Longshot Alert: Is it driver or car? Chase Briscoe (+4000) climbs into the No. 14 that Bowyer campaigned to a perfect streak of top-10s on Rovals. The new Fox broadcaster was able to score back-to-back top-fives in 2018/2019 at Charlotte. His last two attempts on the mixture of high-banked oval and infield road course netted a pair of top-10s. The car will certainly be up to the task. Briscoe won the 2018 Charlotte Roval race and was first last year on the Indianapolis road course. Then driver is worth the gamble as well.

Alex Bowman (+3000) should not be overlooked on road courses. In his first two attempts on the Charlotte Roval, he finished fourth in 2018 and second in 2019. His next two attempts on the hybrids netted a 12th and eighth. His last eight efforts on twisty tracks have all been in the top 15, so it is easy to imagine him challenging for a top-10.


Notable Others

Kyle Busch (+1100) once had nine finishes of seventh or better in a span of 10 road course races that ended with a second at Sonoma in 2019. He finished 11th that summer at the Glen, but he has been 30th or worse in his last three starts on twisty tracks; all of these were Rovals.

There will be many opportunities to place a bet on Kevin Harvick (+1500), but with an 11th and 17th last year at Charlotte and Daytona’s road courses, this might be a good week to evaluate him only.

Brad Keselowski (+2000) has some strong runs on road courses, but he has not turned them into very many good finishes. Since 2018 he has two top-10s in eight attempts; neither of those came last year.

Erik Jones (+8000) is an interesting pick this week. He finished third in last year’s Bank of America Roval 400k and he has another pair of top-fives on road courses during his Cup career.

Last week’s Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell (+9000) is one of the best road racers in the field, but his finishing results have not lived up to his potential. In his last 17 starts on this course type, he has only one top-10 and an average of 23.1. Place a bet if you think he has momentum, but don’t overcommit resources.

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Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.