NASCAR TicketGuardian 500 Preview and Picks

Thursday, March 8, 2018 1:59 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018 1:59 PM UTC

This week, NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series travels to the newly-named ISM Raceway in Avondale, just outside of Phoenix, for the TicketGuardian 500. Sunday’s race is slated to get underway at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on FOX.

Kevin Harvick brings a two-race winning streak into Phoenix after taking the checkered flag at Atlanta before kicking off the trip out west with last Sunday’s victory in Las Vegas. Kyle Busch took second last week racing in his hometown and Kyle Larson placed third.

The betting odds for this Sunday’s race have been posted at 5Dimes and the following three drives offer the best value in my book at varying degrees of a risk/reward return.

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Top Valued Favorite

It is hard enough winning two races in a row, let alone three, but I am still going to ride the hot hand with Harvick as my top valued favorite at +275 betting odds. This number has been pared down from last week’s +500 payoff, but the value is still there when you combine the current form of the No. 4 Ford with Harvick’s past success at this track. Going back to the 2012 season, he has won six Cup Series events at Phoenix as part of his eight career victories here. From 2014-2016, he won this race all three seasons and his overall average finishing position here is a steady 9.7. Staying consistent with last Sunday’s Top 3, Busch is a +550 second-favorite to win this week followed by Larson at +750.

Top Valued Contender

The contender category this week is rather limited with longer odds for most of the drivers in the field. Both Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski offer value at +850, but I am going to stretch things a bit further with Denny Hamlin as my top play at +1250.

The No. 11 Toyota with Hamlin behind the wheel is currently ninth in the Cup Series standings with 97 points on the strength of two Top 5 finishes in the first three races. After placing third at Daytona, the team finished fourth in Atlanta before fading to 17th in last week’s race. Hamlin’s past track record at Phoenix has been spotty with an 11.8 average finishing position, and last year’s run resulted in one Top 10 finish in the two events. However, current form adds value to his odds along with two Top 5 runs at this track in his previous five Cup Series events.

Top Valued Long Shot

I went to the top of the list for this week’s long-shot pick with Ryan Blaney’s +2000 odds to win. He is another driver whohas gotten off to a steady start with a seventh-place finish at Daytona and a fifth-place run last Sunday in Las Vegas. He led 118 laps in this year’s Daytona 500. The No. 12 Ford is in fourth place in the standings with 131 total points. This is just his third full-time season racing at NASCAR’s highest level, and he broke through last season with his first career victory in a points-race event by taking the checkered flag at Pocono. In limited experience at Phoenix, Blaney has posted two finishes in the Top 10 in four Cup Series events.

Some of the bigger names in the long-shot category this week start with a struggling Jimmie Johnson at +2750 to win. Veterans ’ Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer are set at +4000 and this year’s Daytona 500 winner, Austin Dillon, is a +20000 long shot.

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