The Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway will be followed by points’ paying races in Texas and Kansas in the coming weeks. Momentum means a lot in this sport and the opportunity to run consecutively on similarly-configured tracks allows both the drivers and teams to establish a good baseline setup that can be adjusted early on pit stops.
The past two weeks proved as much with back-to-back weekends at Pocono and Indy.
It will be a little trickier on the 1.5-milers because there are differences in corner transitions, banking, and track wear that ultimately change the setups from course to course, but typically drivers who run well on one have much higher odds of running well on the others. So far in 2020, five races have been run on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks: at Vegas, two at Charlotte, at Atlanta, and at Homestead. Ten drivers has scored at least three top-10s in those events, although no one has yet to score two wins in them.
1. Kyle Busch (+600 odds to win outright)
Busch has struggled on weekends when NASCAR foregoes practice, but that should not affect him this week in Kentucky where he's finished in the top five in all but two races.
2. Chase Elliott (+800)
With slightly different circumstances at the end of the Coke 600 and the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Elliott might well have three wins on the 1.5-milers this year.
3. Ryan Blaney (+1200)
After Blaney suffered through three races on flat 2.5-mile tracks, he is due a strong finish on a track type that has been kind recently. On the 1.5-milers, he has four consecutive top-five finishes to his credit.
4. Kevin Harvick (+400)
Harvick has been incredibly strong on 1.5-mile tracks this year, but his record at Kentucky is less impressive. He has only one top-five there in nine starts and an average of 10.8.
5. Denny Hamlin (+650)
In the last six races at Kentucky, Hamlin has alternated top-fives with sub-10th-place finishes. The pattern suggests he will struggle this week. On the other hand, he has top-fives in his last three 1.5-mile attempts on a variety of tracks.
6. Brad Keselowski (+800)
Keselowski will need strategy to win outright this week, but he's almost a lock to finish in the top-10 after sweeping that mark on 1.5-milers this year. His midweek Draft Kings odds to finish in the top 10 were -240.
7. Joey Logano (+900)
Logano simply is not covering the odds on 1.5-milers since winning in Week 2 at Vegas. His best finish on this track type in the last four races was a sixth. His average is 14th.
8. Martin Truex Jr. (+650)
Truex was among the best on 1.5-mile track in 2017/2018, but he's slipped recently. In his last 16 races on this track type, he has been outside the top 10 on five occasions.
9. Kurt Busch (+2000)
With 12 top-15s and a worst of 18th in the last 14 Cup races, Busch is a good bet to finish inside the top 10 on a weekly basis. This week his implied probability of doing so is 55.6% with odds of -125.
10. Jimmie Johnson (+2000)
Johnson was not out of the No. 48 for long after testing positive for COVID-19 last week; he produced two negative tests on Monday and Tuesday. He returns to action on the 1.5-miler this week on a track type that has been incredibly kind in the past.
11. Aric Almirola (+2800)
After finishing fifth at Homestead, Almirola has been on a five-race, top-five streak. That's the good news. The bad news is that he had not finished that well in 11 previous races this season.
12. Austin Dillon (+10000)
Dillon's odds to finish in the top 10 this week are +250. We'll take that bet because he's been 14th or better in every 1.5-mile race this year. His odds to finish top-three are +2500 and he scored a fourth this spring at Vegas.
13. Matt DiBenedetto (+6600)
DiBenedetto has +180 odds to finish in the top 10 this week and is +1600 to be in the top three. He finished a remarkable second at the start of the season at Vegas.
14. Tyler Reddick (+6600)
There are several bold plays for top-10 finishes this week. Reddick is one of them after scoring two so far in 2020 in five attempts. If he earns another, it comes with +180 odds.
15. Erik Jones (+2500)
With Joe Gibbs Racing power under the hood, Jones keeps sucking gamblers in. He has yet to produce a top-10 on a 1.5-miler this year despite his earning eight of them last year in 11 races.
16. Clint Bowyer (+4000)
Teammate Harvick's magic has not yet rubbed off on Bowyer. In five starts on 1.5-milers this year, he has not yet cracked the top 10 although he came close at Vegas and Homestead with a 12th and 11th respectively.
17. Alex Bowman (+2000)
Chevrolet has shown great improvement on unrestricted, intermediate speedways, but Bowman has not carried his weight. On the 1.5-mile versions, he has not yet scored a top-10.
18. William Byron (+3300)
Don't get overly excited about Byron this week. His ninth-place finish at Homestead snapped a six-race streak of results outside the top-10 on 1.5-mile tracks.
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+20000)
With a third-place finish at Vegas and a fourth at Charlotte earlier this year, Stenhouse has garnered a lot of attention. With odds of +500 to place among the top 10, he's worth a small wager.
20. Christopher Bell (+6600)
Bell is finding it rough going in the Cup series in the Gibbs’ satellite No. 95, but two of his highlights came at Charlotte and Homestead on 1.5-mile tracks.
21. Cole Custer (+10000)
Custer is a surprisingly good value on occasion. He has not yet finished in the top 10 on a 1.5-mile track, but he came close at Charlotte in the Coke 600 with a 12th.
22. JH Nemechek (+50000)
Nemechek has been surprisingly competitive in regard to winning rookie honors this year. Part of the reason for that is a consistent performance on 1.5-mile tracks where he's been 13th to 24th in five races.
23. Chris Buescher (+30000)
It's not the right time to place a bet on Buescher, but he should be watched closely this week. His worst finish on a 1.5-mile track in the past two years was a 23rd at Homestead this spring.
24. Bubba Wallace (+15000)
Coming off a ninth-place finish last week, Wallace is an interesting proposition. He finished sixth this spring at Vegas and is worth a small wager with +350 odds to finish in the top 10.
25. Matt Kenseth (+4000)
Kenseth opened last week at +6600 and came within one position shy of being a longshot winner of the Big Machine 400. That spooked the odds makers. He opened at +2500 on Monday, but was adjusted to +4000 by midweek.
26. Corey LaJoie (+100000)
If you can find the right parlay bet, LaJoie could be an interesting wager this week. In five races on 1.5-mile tracks, he has two top-20 finishes and a 23rd.
27. Michael McDowell (+100000)
McDowell has been an exciting long shot several times already this year. That is unlikely to happen this week since the 1.5-mile tracks reward teams with a great deal of funding.
28. Ty Dillon (+75000)
The top-10 in the Pennzoil 400 at Vegas was filled with longshots. Dillon finished 10th in that race, but he has slipped to 25th or worse in the last four attempts on this track type.
29. Ryan Newman (+10000)
Since returning to action after a head injury sustained at Daytona, Newman has averaged a finish of 19.6. With odds of +250 to finish in the top 10, it will take courage to place a wager on the No. 6.
30. Ryan Preece (+75000)
After blowing an engine in the first 1.5-mile race this spring, Preece has been one of the most consistent drivers on the track type with results of 22nd to 26th.
31. Daniel Suarez (+100000)
Suarez has been consistent on the 1.5-tracks. Unfortunately he has not been particularly strong with results ranging from 28th to 31st.
32. Brennan Poole (+200000)
Poole should challenge for a top-30 this week at Kentucky. He's finished that well in three of five races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and came close on one other occasion.
33. Quin Houff (+200000)
Houff has finished in the low-30s in four of five 1.5-mile races this year. If you find a parlay bet for back markers, he could provide some value.
34. JJ Yeley (+200000)
Yeley showed promise on the 1.5-milers at Vegas to start the season. He finished 28th there, but has been well outside the top 30 since.
35. Timmy Hill (+200000)
In the past two years on 1.5-mile tracks, Hill has a best finish of 33rd in 10 starts. One of these came in the second Charlotte race in May.
36. Josh Bilicki (+200000)
Bilicki has been consistent on this track type in 2020 with three results ranging from 34th to 37th.
37. Garrett Smithley (+200000)
With a best result of 33rd on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks so far in 2020, Smithley will not get a lot of play on any books.
38. Joey Gase (+200000)
Gase's best finish on a 1.5-mile track was a 31st at Vegas in the Pennzoil 400. Since then, he's been outside the top 35.