Welcome to NASCAR championship weekend.
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are the four drivers racing for the Cup Series title on Sunday at Phoenix (3 p.m. ET, NBC). It’s the second time that NASCAR has held its winner-take-all title race at Phoenix and the top four drivers finished 1-2-3-4 in 2020 as Elliott won his first Cup Series title.
All four of the title-contending drivers finished in the top seven at Phoenix earlier in the season. Truex got his first win at the track while Hamlin finished third and Elliott was fifth.
Here’s what you need to know to make a championship bet. And remember, the winner of the Cup Series title has been the winner of the final race of the season in every year of the winner-take-all championship format. All odds are via BetMGM.
Kyle Larson (+140 to win title)
A Larson win would be his 10th of the season and be the fitting cap to a dominant year. Larson’s return to the Cup Series has propelled him to the heights that many thought he would reach once he was on a team capable of winning races every week, and he’s led over 2,000 laps this season.
His dominance is why he’s at just +140 to win the title, though it’s worth noting that he’s been better at intermediate tracks and road courses than he has been at shorter tracks in 2021. Seven of Larson’s nine wins have come at intermediates and road courses. His Bristol win in the fall was his only win at a track a mile or shorter.
Larson finished seventh at Phoenix earlier in the year and has finished in the top seven in each of his last five races at the track dating to the fall race of 2018.
Chase Elliott (+275)
Elliott’s lone Phoenix win came a year ago as he won the Cup title. He led 153 of the race’s 312 laps and led the final 43 after he passed Joey Logano following the final pit stop cycle of the race.
Elliott’s only two wins of the season have come on road courses, though he’s been one of the quickest drivers in the series. Elliott’s average finish of 11.5 this season is a career best, and he can tie last year’s mark of 15 top-five finishes with a top-five on Sunday.
It won’t be too much of a surprise if Elliott wins back-to-back championships, but it’s also hard not to wonder what his odds would be if he were a different driver with the same stats this season. Elliott’s name recognition could be artificially lowering his odds. He may be the worst value of the four drivers racing for the title.
Denny Hamlin (+350)
Hamlin has been fast on shorter tracks all season long. If Elliott’s the worst value to win the title, then Hamlin may be the best value play. He was third earlier this season at Phoenix, though he was fourth of the four title contenders a year ago in the finale.
Hamlin was on the way to an easy top two or three finish at Martinsville before he was spun out by Alex Bowman. That race broke a streak of eight consecutive finishes inside the top 11 and his 24th place finish was his worst of the season on a track that’s a mile or shorter.
He’s also led laps at 30 of 35 races so far this season. While it took Hamlin 27 races to get his first win of the season, he’s been the only driver who’s been able to try to keep pace with Larson over the course of the season. Couple that with slightly better performance at shorter tracks, and Hamlin should be the top threat to Larson — and maybe the top threat overall — to win the championship.
Martin Truex Jr. (+450)
Truex has had a relatively quiet season for a guy who’s won four races — only Larson has more victories this season. Maybe it’s because Truex has finished outside the top 20 eight times or because he hasn’t led more than nine laps in a race since he won at Richmond in September or that the Richmond win was his first since he won three of the first 12 races of the season.
Like Hamlin, Truex has been quick at shorter tracks this season so that could serve him well. Given his speed and his odds as the relative long shot of the bunch, we aren’t going to be surprised if the four title contenders finish in the top four again. Or are at least all in the top 10 when the checkered flag falls on Sunday night.