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Martin Truex Jr.
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With one event left in the 26-race NASCAR Cup Series regular season, there is one spot available in the 16-driver postseason Playoffs.
Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick clinched berths on points in last Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International.
Relatively speaking, Bubba Wallace is in a commanding position in the battle for the 16th spot. He leads rookie Ty Gibbs by 32 points, an extremely difficult deficit to make up in one race.
No driver other than Gibbs has even a remote shot of making the Playoffs on points. But here’s the rub—a victory on Saturday means automatic promotion to the Playoffs for drivers not already in the postseason field.
For Gibbs, 18th-place Daniel Suarez, 19th AJ Allmendinger, 20th-place Alex Bowman, and 21st-place Chase Elliott, it’s win or bust.
Remember last year, when Austin Dillon—currently ranked 29th—stole the final Playoff berth when he snaked through a 13-car wreck with 22 laps left and won the regular-season finale?
This year, Elliott is the favorite at +1000 via DraftKings Sportsbook, but we don’t expect the 2020 champion to salvage a Playoff spot in a star-crossed season in which he has missed six races with an injury and one on suspension.
Have the oddsmakers not noticed how well Michael McDowell has been running lately? His Front Row Motorsports Fords have never been stronger.
McDowell won two weekends ago at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and was running up front last Sunday at Watkins Glen before a pit road penalty tanked his efforts.
And, for goodness sakes, McDowell won the Daytona 500 on this very track in 2021. Road courses may be McDowell’s favorite milieu, but he’s also an adept superspeedway racer, with six top fives and 15 top 10s on those types of tracks.
That’s why we think McDowell is absurdly undervalued at +3500 via DraftKings. Though we don’t think he’ll win the race, he’s worth a bet at +1000 to finish in the top three.
We also like AJ Allmeniger for top-three (+1200) and top-five (+550) bets. In 20 Cup starts at Daytona, Allmendinger has finished third three times, including twice in the last five races.
Roush Fenway Racing was mired in a decade-long slump when Brad Keselowski added his name to the masthead in 2022 as a co-owner/driver.
Since then, the organization has made a quantum improvement, with Keselowski’s teammate, Chris Buescher, leading the way with three victories, two this season.
Both team cars have been consistently fast, and Keselowski has an excellent record on superspeedways. He owns a remarkable six victories at sister track Talladega and a win at Daytona in the summer of 2016.
Keselowski is a master at controlling the field from the front of the pack, and we think he’ll get his first win as an RFK principal on Saturday night at +1100 via DraftKings.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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