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Champ Line Movement After New Hampshire: Kyle Larson still favored

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: July 22, 2021, 10:37 am ET

There is still a lot of racing to be completed in the 2021 season, but the first round of the playoffs is becoming clearer. Thirteen of 16 slots have been filled; one more will go to Denny Hamlin if he can protect his 13-point advantage over Kyle Larson in the regular-season championship race. The driver third in the standings, William Byron sits back 138 points and it’s unlikely that he will catch Hamlin.

Hamlin needs to lead the points into the playoffs for a couple of reasons. There is still a mathematical scenario that could see him eliminated if he falls to second in the standings. More importantly, he will need the 15 bonus points that go to the regular season champion. Currently, he has five for stage wins.

But with all of his struggles, it is only recently that oddsmakers have started to lose confidence in Hamlin. While he has not been favored for quite some time, his average ranking in regard to Championship Odds has been the second-best 2.82. By comparison, the current favorite Larson (+270) has ranked 3.82 on average.

Fifth-ranked Hamlin’s current odds of +900 are about 200 greater than his average for the season (+697). And Hamlin has recently begun receiving longer odds. He started the season at +550, moved to +700 within a race or two and more or less held those odds until last week. His modest performance on the short, flat track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway – which he should have dominated – added 200 points to his total.


Of course, Larson remains the favorite and probably will be for quite some time. He currently has 32 bonus points for four race wins and 12 stage wins. It is unlikely that he will fall below second in the standings, so even without winning another race or stage in the final four races, he will have 42 points to carry him through the first three rounds of the playoffs. That does not guarantee he will make it to Phoenix Raceway with a shot at the Cup, but in reality he has extremely strong odds to be among the Final 4.

The trick is in figuring out who he is most likely to race in the finale, because his relative odds to those drivers are the ones that need to factor into your betting strategy. Two short tracks and Darlington Raceway in Round 1 will make things interesting. Round 2 has the wild card of Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, so that can go any direction, and the real meat and potatoes of the playoffs happens in Round 3 with two similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks on the schedule.

Of course they have to get to Round 3, but the three drivers with the best recent records on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks are Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and (arguably) Alex Bowman.

With two wins under his belt, Chase Elliott (+600) is currently ranked second in Championship Odds. He currently has 11 bonus points and sits fifth in the standings. Currently three other drivers have more bonus points and Elliott has run well enough on ovals that he should be able to be among the top 12 once Round 2 is in the books. He has a strong opportunity to win on the Roval and make it to Round 3, but unless something dramatic happens, getting out of Round 3 could prove challenging for a driver batting only .500 in regard to 1.5-mile top-10s.

Ky. Busch (+700) is ranked third at the moment. He hovered around the +900 mark most of the season and started to move with his Kansas Speedway win. He dropped to +750 after that and then another 50 points after winning in Pocono.

One driver who is probably annoyed with the seesaw he’s riding is Truex. He has been as low as +650 this year and as high as +900. His average ranking is 3.64, (third-best behind Elliott and Hamlin), with average odds of +727. His third win of the season at Darlington dropped him to a low of +550, but he didn’t stay there for long and after Nashville Superspeedway, he was in the 800s.

No other drivers are currently ranked better than 12/1. Currently two Team Penske drivers are tied for sixth in the rankings with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski both at +1200. Logano has been ranked lower with greater consistency, but neither have generated a lot of excitement.

Bowman’s (+1400) three wins only have him ranked eighth on the odds chart. Traders have been trying to give him respect throughout the weeks, but he hit a high of +3000 early in the season and it has taken a while to adjust. After his first win, he dropped from +2800 to +1700. He bounced back to 22/1 and has been as low as 12/1. It is doubtful that much of anything will move the needle in the next four weeks. Keep an eye on him if it appears his is going to make Round 3, because he could win at either Texas or Kansas.

One more unique winner puts the winless Harvick on the bubble. He is currently ranked ninth at +1500, which is almost three times greater than his preseason odds of +550. He has gotten progressively higher odds each week and had 300 points added to his total after the Foxwood Resort Casino 301.

Fortunes can change quickly in NASCAR, however, and Harvick may yet lose some more points before the playoffs begin. With no playoff points to his credit, Harvick may struggle to advance through each round. But: if he makes it to Phoenix, he could cash in big, so now is the time to make a modest wager.

 

Driver

Avg. Rank

Wins

After
Race 22

Week 15

Week 10

Week 5

Preseason

Kyle Larson

3.82

4

270

500

750

800

1200

Chase Elliott

1.59

2

600

700

600

600

550

Kyle Busch

4.91

2

700

800

900

900

900

Martin Truex Jr./span>

3.64

3

800

600

650

700

650

Denny Hamlin

2.82

 

900

700

650

700

550

Joey Logano

5.14

1

1200

800

800

800

650

Brad Keselowski

7.05

1

1200

900

1000

900

550

Alex Bowman

10.73

3

1400

1400

1700

3000

2000

Kevin Harvick

5.68

 

1500

1000

800

750

550

William Byron

10.00

1

1500

1400

1400

1500

4000

Ryan Blaney

8.82

1

2000

1200

900

1300

1000

Christopher Bell

11.55

1

2500

2200

1600

1700

7500

Kurt Busch

12.77

1

3500

6000

2500

3300

2800

Aric Almirola

15.45

1

4000

15000

6000

5500

4000

Austin Dillon

14.45

 

8000

7000

5000

5000

7500

Tyler Reddick

16.55

 

10000

8000

6600

7000

7500

Matt DiBenedetto

15.27

 

10000

6000

6600

7000

5000

Ross Chastain

20.82

 

12500

20000

15000

15000

20000

Bubba Wallace

18.68

 

15000

15000

8000

9000

10000

Michael McDowell

19.14

1

15000

20000

8000

9000

 

Daniel Suarez

22.64

 

20000

20000

10000

50000

50000

Chris Buescher

24.18

 

20000

20000

30000

30000

50000

Cole Custer

18.73

 

20000

15000

6600

7000

7500

Ryan Newman

21.93

 

20000

15000

15000

 

 

Chase Briscoe

21.00

 

20000

20000

8000

9000

10000

Erik Jones

24.36

 

25000

20000

20000

25000

10000

Corey LaJoie

28.08

 

50000

30000

50000

 

 

Ryan Preece

27.15

 

50000

30000

50000

 

 

Quin Houff

29.50

 

50000

50000

100000

 

 

 

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.