The NASCAR Cup Series will stay out west for another weekend. This time, the drivers will take to Phoenix Raceway for the United Rentals 500 on Sunday, March 12, with the race scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET. Our expert will break down the betting odds to identify the top NASCAR bets and make his predictions for this weekend’s action. Ryan Preece’s outright odds make him stand out as a value bet early this week.
Now that the regular season is in full swing, I will handicap the opening outright odds for the NASCAR Cup Series early in the week, and I’ll post a prop article once those markets become available. Only members of OddsShopper Insider Access will get access to my full betting card, but I will include most of it in articles and on our YouTube Channel.
Best NASCAR Bets & Expert Prediction United Rentals 500
When Will Ryan Blaney Find Victory Lane Again?
Ryan Blaney won in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series. He then proceeded to win one race every year until 2021, when he scored a monster three wins and finished seventh in the standings. However, he couldn’t find victory lane in 2022 despite scoring a career-high 12 top-5 finishes and leading 636 laps, more than he led the year before.
Yet Blaney enters the weekend as the co-favorite with Joey Logano to win this year’s event at Phoenix Raceway. At a price of 17-2, bettors may not feel that excited about backing Blaney in a new low-downforce package that creates plenty of uncertainty. The books are probably over-weighing Blaney’s recent performances at Phoenix in non-equivalent equipment, right?
That uncertainty shouldn’t matter. Blaney is one of the most talented drivers in the Cup Series field and should easily adapt to the modifications the sport has made. Blaney led a dominant 40.3% of all possible laps at Phoenix last year. That’s despite Joey Logano, his teammate, leading 29.9% of the laps in the fall Phoenix race. Blaney cut Logano plenty of slack as his veteran teammate competed for a championship. Don’t expect him to extend that same courtesy this year.
Blaney may close at a number that’s closer to 7-1 than 17-2 for a few reasons. First, one of his primary competitors on short tracks, Chase Elliott, is out. Second, Blaney earned the third-best average starting position of all full-time drivers last year (10.1). He earned the pole for the spring Phoenix race and started second in the fall. The new car could throw things off, but Blaney probably should have opened with a shorter number.
Best NASCAR Bet: Ryan Blaney 17-2 for 0.2 Unit at Caesars
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Who Will Benefit the Most From the Low-Downforce Package?
The United Rentals 500 will run on a short, flat track. The cars will have an unprecedentedly low amount of downforce. Expect drivers with experience in open-wheel modifieds, or low downforce cars that primarily run on the short, flat tracks of New England, to have a leg up. Two former modified drivers stand out as especially sharp bets for this weekend’s race.
Few modified drivers get a shot to run in the Cup Series, but two currently have full-time rides at Stewart-Haas Racing: Ryan Preece and Aric Almirola. Preece fits the profile of a traditional modified star. He cut his teeth in the SK Modifieds at Stafford Speedway, a flat, half-mile oval in Connecticut, along with the Whelen Modified Tour, which runs at tracks like New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a comparator track for Phoenix.
Aric Almirola doesn’t quite fit that mold. He grew up in Florida and began his career racing go-karts. However, he started racing modifieds at places like New Smyrna Speedway, a short but less flat oval, before graduating to late-model racing that is far more popular in the southeast. Still, Almirola’s modified background is clear from looking at his Cup Series resume: he owns a win at New Hampshire, and his two best tracks by average finish (minimum three starts) are short, flat ovals: Phoenix (14.4) and Richmond (14.9).
Both Preece and Almirola will drive Fords in Sunday’s event, which is another key reason to consider backing them. Fords led 79.4% of the laps in the spring Phoenix race and 99.4% of the laps in the fall. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe led 112 (17.9%) of the total laps between these events, and Cole Custer, who Preece replaced in the No. 41 Ford, led three of his own (0.5%). Both Almirola and Preece will have a big opportunity on Sunday — time will tell if they can cash in on it.
Corey LaJoie also has modified experience — he won last year’s Whelen Modified Tour event at Martinsville Speedway — but his No. 7 Chevrolet lacks the race-winning speed necessary to back him on outright markets. That said, I may come back and target him on a top-10 or matchup market later in the week.
Best NASCAR Bet: Ryan Preece 45-1 for 0.1 Unit at Caesars
Best NASCAR Bet: Aric Almirola 50-1 for 0.1 Unit at DraftKings