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The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Phoenix Raceway only three races removed from last year's Championship race, and the field is extremely even on the sportsbooks. Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, and Ty Gibbs are tied for best odds at (+480), but each one has different strengths and trends that put them in this top position.
Last week we predicted four of the top-five finishers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway shying away from the consistency of Allgaier for the chance of a higher pay day with Riley Herbst. This week Allgaier will not be faded but there’s still an argument for Herbst (+3300) who swept fourth-place in 2022. Last year’s championship winner, Daniel Hemric (+900), will also be in the hunt for a win as he comes off his best finish of the year with third at Las Vegas.
Battles and rivalries are getting an early start this season as Gibbs found himself the bane of many drivers' day last Saturday, most notably Ryan Sieg (+8000) who was attempting to start a top-10 streak before sustaining damage from Gibbs as he rushed to the front in Stage 1. A series of cautions, rain, snow, a red flag, and a discussion after the race with Sieg, who still hadn’t moved on from the on-track contact, provided plenty of drama.
In a move adjacent to cutting off his nose to spite his face, Sieg removed himself and several other cars out of contention while Gibbs continued to march towards his first victory of the year. Gibbs continues to show aggression on the racetrack, which will lead to competitors to race him the same way. This could end badly for them of for Gibbs, if these rivalries remain heated. It is Phoenix after all: the Valley of the Sun.
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Justin Allgaier (+480) has not finished outside the top 10 in his last 15 races dating back to last year at Michigan for an average finish of 5.5. His consistency makes him a safe bet for a top-five, but he hasn’t found himself in Victory Lane since early 2021. That is a 27-race drought. He last won at Phoenix in fall 2019. Allgaier has the best record on this track and across all short, flat tracks on the circuit. His current momentum should carry him to a solid finish this Saturday, potentially evicting the monkey from his back and getting him back into the win column.
Best Bets for a top five
With the best average finish of 2.3 so far in the 2022 campaign, Gragson (+480) has yet to finish off the podium and he’s looking for redemption for a poor 2021 outing at Phoenix. Gragson is the current points leader by 17, but without a win, he is seeded third overall. Last spring, he crashed near the start of the race to finish 39th, which ended a three-race top-10 streak on this track. His 12th-place finish in the season ender was the start of the return to form that is expected out of the year-five driver. Last year’s Phoenix finishes would’ve drastically hurt Gragson short, flat track value if not for wins at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway in the fall and a second-place finish in Martinsville spring race that lifts his value.
Gibb’s (+480) win last week came with hard feelings from him competitors. What Gibbs lacked in patience he made up for in brute force and talent. In 21 races with the Gibbs' organization, Ty now has five wins. This takes some of the teeth out of the tired argument he has his ride because of his lineage. Last year, he finished second in the spring Phoenix race in his first start on the track and followed that with a fourth at Martinsville. Gibbs started four races on the short, flat tracks last year and finished in the top 10 in three of them.
Phoenix Raceway holds a special place in Hemric’s (+900) heart after helping him secure his championship last year with the season finale win. Historically, Phoenix is not Hemric’s best track. He fell outside the top 20 in his first three starts prior to his championship win. But last year after finishing 23rd in the spring, Hemric bounced back for five consecutive top-10s on this track type, with a worst finish of sixth at Richmond. Hemric’s odds are nearly double what they were when he won last year, but that is likely because the lines are always heavily skewed toward Championship drivers in the final race.
Riley Herbst (+3300) wasn’t as strong as we thought he would be last week ending his top-10 streak at four races, but his underlying numbers – as well as a large potential payday of 33/1, continues to be enticing as a great dark horse contender to finish in the top five. Herbst finished fourth in both Phoenix races last year, which gives him the best average track finish outside of Austin Cindric, who will not compete in Xfinity after making the jump to Cup. He also went five of six for top 10 on the short, flat tracks in 2021.
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