The stakes are as high as they've been in NASCAR this season as the playoffs Round of 8 wraps up at Martinsville. Entering the race only one thing is guaranteed: Joey Logano, who won at Kansas, will be racing for a championship next week at Phoenix.
Three additional three spots in the Championship 4 are up for grabs on Sunday. As it stands, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski are the four drivers above the cutline while Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch are on the outside looking in. All can clinch by winning and all but Busch can clinch on points with a solid finish and the right pieces falling into place.
Wondering who to wager on this weekend? Have no fear, we've got you covered. Below are our picks for Sunday's Xfinity 500 at Martinsville.
All odds via William Hill Sportsbook
Pick to win: Kyle Busch (+700)
You expected us to pick a playoff driver didn't you? Well, technically we did, but it's also technically a driver that was eliminated in the last round of the playoffs. He also just earned his first win of the season just days ago at Texas.
If Busch was still in contention for the Championship 4, he may be a co-favorite with Martin Truex Jr. (+300) to win. Instead, he provides value as one of the top drivers in the field. While Truex and Keselowski (+550) both have something more to race for and an average finish of 6.6 at Martinsville over the past 10 races, there is one driver with a better average finish and that's Busch.
The past two trips to 'The Paperclip' were not typical Busch performances as he finished 14th and 19th respectively. In the eight starts prior to that, Busch won twice and averaged a finish inside the top three. He's that good here. Couple that with the fact that his crew chief, Adam Stevens, is in a prove-it situation to keep his job atop the No. 18 team's box and there's plenty of motivation for Busch to get another win.
While Truex and Keselowski may be the favorites, Busch is a strong value play given his track record. Another driver among the favorites we'd consider would be Ryan Blaney at +900. Blaney is another non-playoff driver but finished second at Martinsville earlier this season and has three straight top-five finishes at the track.
Long shot with some value: Bubba Wallace +20000
We wanted to give you a real long shot with value here. For what it's worth, guys like Kurt Busch (+2500), William Byron (+2800), and Clint Bowyer (+3000) have some good value down the board but they're odds really aren't long enough to be considered big value plays.
Bubba draws a long shot price partly due to the fact that he's starting near the rear of the field in 32nd. Of course he's also a long shot because he hasn't won a race yet in his career. However, this season in particular, Wallace has outperformed his equipment on multiple occasions. One of those occasions was earlier this year at Martinsville where Wallace drove parts of the race inside the top 10 before finishing 11th.
Most, including Kurt Busch, don't expect Wallace to win until 2022, a year after he joins Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin's 23XI Racing team, but this could be an opportunity for him to put an exclamation point on his rollercoaster season. It would also generate buzz around the sport heading into the championship race as Wallace was named the most known driver in NASCAR right now per a new Morning Consult survey.
We're not saying Wallace is going to win the race but could be worth a small wager with a high payout, much like we saw with Cole Custer earlier this season. One bettor cashed out $25,000 on a $100 Custer bet at Kentucky in July.
Best DFS Value Plays
When putting together a daily fantasy lineup, you're going to put in your dominators. These are the guys like Truex, Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch. Our recommendation is to play different lineups with mixtures of these drivers depending on who you like.
Busch provides good value this week at $9,600 in DraftKings and $11,800 in FanDuel. He's amongst the lowest priced dominators in the field. Obviously he's our pick to win and will be in our DFS lineups. We mentioned Blaney earlier and he could be a good pairing with Busch in a contrarian lineup.
In terms of the mid-range drivers, Aric Almirola ($8,700 FD, $8,100 DK) and William Byron ($9,800 FD, $7,700 DK) are recommended plays. Almirola drives top-10 equipment and will be scored from the 20th position, meaning you can capitalize on place differential. His past two starts have been forgettable at Martinsville, but prior to that he had three straight top-15 finishes. As for Byron, his place differential isn't as attractive starting 13th but he has two straight top 10s at the track including a runner-up finish last season.
Our long shot pick to win, Wallace, is going to draw high ownership starting 32nd with a price of $7,200 in DraftKings and $7,000 in FanDuel. We strongly recommend giving high exposure to Wallace, who has top-10 potential. The other low priced option we like is Chris Buescher, who will be scored from the 28th position. Buescher likely isn't a threat to win the race but has two straight top-13 finishes at Martinsville which if he can repeat will mean a big payday. He is priced at $6,700 in DraftKings and $6,600 in FanDuel.
Driver matchup picks
Here are picks for head-to-head finishes at Martinsville. Drivers in bold are our picks to win each matchup.
- Denny Hamlin (-145) vs Chase Elliott (+125)
- Martin Truex Jr. (-150) vs Brad Keselowski (+130)
- Kyle Busch (-110) vs Ryan Blaney (-110)
- Alex Bowman (-135) vs Kurt Busch (+115)
- Jimmie Johnson (+100) vs Clint Bowyer (-120)
- Ryan Newman (-120) vs Bubba Wallace (+100)
- Aric Almirola (+100) vs Matt DiBenedetto (-120)
- Christopher Bell (+110) vs Austin Dillon (-130)
- Erik Jones (-125) vs Tyler Reddick (+105)
Top matchup play: Bowyer to finish ahead of Johnson
Championship 4 predictions
Joey Logano is already locked into the playoffs, so that makes the first part easy. We have Kyle Busch winning the race, so that means the final three spots will be clinched on points. If you've been following along and paid close attention to the matchup picks, we have actually already revealed our Championship 4.
We don't predict any major hiccups for Harvick, Hamlin or Keselowski, meaning they're our picks to advance through solid finishing positions. All should be in position to earn stage points throughout the race and be there towards the end to hold their ground.
Come back to CBS Sports next week once the field is set and we will reveal who we believe will win the championship race at Phoenix.