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While the Cup series dukes it out at Texas Motor Speedway with a million dollar payday on the line, Xfinity drivers return from an off week to points race. The drivers will be greeted with unseasonably high temperatures and a track that, just like Sam Houston once said about its home and namesake, has “yet to learn submission to any oppression”.
AJ Allmendinger (+850), Noah Gragson (+420), and Ty Gibbs (+540) have each separated themselves at the top of the field. Gragson and Gibbs got there through multiple wins while Allmendinger claims the top spot with one win and unmatched consistency. Almendinger is 11 for 11 in top-10 finishes and looks to tie Elliott Sadler this week for second most top-10s to start a season.
JR Motorsports (JRM) is in mid-season form with the four full-time drivers finding ways to be competitive every race weekend. They've claimed four victories in 11 races and 21 top-five finishes out of a possible 55 for the core four. This weekend, if qualifying goes as planned, they’re add a ringer to the team with Hendrick Motorsports driver and four-time cup race winner William Byron (+300) joining them in the No. 88 car. Last week, Chase Elliott was supposed to be in this ride, but failed to make the show with time trials rained out.
While the JRM drivers are doing great, their success is spread across the organization, which may have hurt them individually in points compared to Gibbs and Allmendinger – the top two points' claimers. This week it doesn’t look likely that Gragson or teammates will close the gap as the Joe Gibbs Racing and Kaulig Racing drivers are proven on this track type.
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Gibbs (+540) has not had back-to-back races outside of the top ten since an 11th- and 13th-place finish at Daytona International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway to start the season. Last week, he suffered at Darlington Raceway and finished 16th, his second-worst finish of the season.
There is no better place to bounce back than at a "cookie-cutter" track for Gibbs. In his short career he’s already accrued four wins on this track type, including a current consecutive run of three wins. This includes a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this year – and that track is performing more like a super-speedway than a cookie cutter since the addition of the restrictor plates – but we are still trying to figure out exactly where it fits.
In four starts on unrestricted "cookie-cutters," he has an average of 3.5 and victories in three of those four contests. The closest driver in the field has an average of 11th in the same time span, while this isn’t directly comparable data, since Allmendinger raced seven times in this period to Gibbs' four, it still seems as though Gibbs is a head above the field on the track.
Through the first 11 races of 2022, Gibbs holds an average finish of 10th, sitting behind only Allmendinger and Gragson, but he’s proven he can win across the board, this will be Gibb’s first Xfinity start at Texas and he tends to say 'hello' loudly at new tracks.
Best Bets for a top five
Gragson (+420) is currently on a three-week streak of top-fives, dating back to his second victory of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. Gragson has only finished outside of the top five in three contests this season; unfortunately, these three finishes were all worse than 20th. He has six top-five finishes in the last 10 starts on unrestricted cookie-cutter tracks. He also rides into this weekend with a three-race top-10 streak at Texas including a third-place finish in the fall playoff race and a second in fall 2020.
Almendinger (+850) is ranked lower in his betting line than average this week, which makes him a great value. Allmendinger has an average finish this year of 4.82 with six top-five finishes and 11 consecutive top-10s to start the season. Only two guys have ever done it better: Elliott Sadler in 2018 and Sam Ard in 1984. In two recent starts at Texas, he finished sixth each time and is primed to sneak into the top five. But this isn’t about top-10s or top-fives, is it? This is about wins, Allmendinger’s last win on a "cookie-cutter" came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last spring and he has an average of 9.1 on this track type since the start of 2021.
While Justin Allgaier's (+450) win at Darlington might’ve inflated his odds a little higher than usual, there’s the reasoning that this win could be what it takes to turn the season around. After four top-10s to open the season, Allgaier slid with an average finish of 26.4 during the next five races. Three weeks ago at Dover Motor Speedway, he nearly grabbed the win, losing out to his teammate Josh Berry. A second-place finish and back-to-back wins is a textbook slump buster. Allgaier was a top-four driver last year it’s only reasonable to expect he returns to form.
It didn't take long to realize that maybe the guy tied for the most wins in Cup might have a good day behind the JR Motorsports No. 88 machine. Byron (+300) has the best odds of the weekend. Byron has three top-fives in the last five unrestricted "cookie-cutter" races. In Byron’s only full time Xfinity series start, he raced Texas to a respectable finish of seventh. What matters more to Byron’s performance this weekend is the heater he’s been on all season, two wins and four top-fives in 13 starts. Byron is also still riding high after a recent three-year contract extension giving him security at the top-tier of the league.
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