Win … and playoff driver can clinch title shot

Win ... and playoff driver can clinch title shot

Is Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway the most important race of the third round?

The playoff driver who wins on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, NBC) guarantees a chance to race for the championship at Phoenix on Nov. 7. A win at Texas removes playoff pressure for two weeks ahead of the most pivotal race of the season. And it gives the winning team two weeks to prepare for the title race. That’s a significant advantage.

The race is also the first points race at Texas in 2021. If you count Charlotte Motor Speedway as a regular-season site, Texas is the only track in the playoffs that wasn’t the site of a regular season race.

The track did host the All-Star Race earlier in the season. And, like most Texas races, the All-Star Race turned into a track position affair. Texas has been a hard track to pass at ever since the folks in charge decided that changing the layout was a good idea. The track then realized that the layout change didn’t make for good racing on its own and has spent years adding substances to the track to try to help add a second groove in the corners.

Here’s what you need to know to bet on the race. Odds are from BetMGM.

The favorites

  • Kyle Larson (+275)

  • Denny Hamlin (+600)

  • Chase Elliott (+700)

  • Kyle Busch (+700)

  • Martin Truex Jr. (+750)

Texas is one of Larson’s worst tracks. He has just four top 10s in 13 starts, though he won the All-Star Race earlier this season. Hamlin has three wins and 14 top 10s in 30 starts while Busch has four wins in 30 starts. Elliott has finished in the top 10 in five of 10 starts and Truex has 17 top 10s in 31 starts but has never won at the track.

Good mid-tier value

  • Joey Logano (+1400)

  • Brad Keselowski (+1400)

A playoff driver at 14-1 odds to win a third-round race is always a good value, even if Logano and Keselowski haven’t had the speed at intermediate tracks that teammate Ryan Blaney has shown.

Don’t bet this driver

Harvick has the best average finish of any driver with more than 10 starts at Texas. But the speed he’s shown over the second half of the season has been more skewed to lower downforce tracks. Harvick will probably finish in the top 10, but he hasn’t led a lap at a non-Darlington intermediate track all season.

Looking for a long shot?

  • Ross Chastain (+8000)

Chastain is about the most realistic longshot driver to win the race. We wanted to go with Tyler Reddick (+3300) again, but we picked him a week ago.