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Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook.
AJ Allmendinger to win the race at +1200
Jordan Taylor to finish in the top three (+1200) and top five (+500)
AJ Allmendinger to beat William Byron head-to-head at +110
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If Chase Elliott were healthy, doubtless he’d be the favorite to win Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex.
But Elliott is still recovering from a broken left tibia he suffered in a snowboarding accident in Colorado in early March. By default, it seems, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson, has been installed as the +650 favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.
There’s a certain logic to that. The Hendrick Chevrolets have been consistently fast this season. William Byron has won two of the five NASCAR Cup Series race so far, and Larson recently earned the 15th pole position of his career at Phoenix.
Larson also has four poles on the technical road course at Sonoma. Three of his 19 career victories have come on road courses—two at Watkins Glen and one at the Charlotte ROVAL.
We’re just not sold on Larson at COTA. Yes, he finished second there in the inaugural Cup race in 2021, but that was in heavy rain.
Last year, under typical dry conditions, Larson qualified 13th and ran 29th. The weather forecast for Sunday is mostly sunny.
Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix will feature one of the most star-laden casts of characters in recent NASCAR Cup Series history.
Former Formula 1 champions Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button are competing—Raikkonen for Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 and Button in a Ford prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing for Rick Ware Racing.
IndyCar driver Conor Daly is piloting a Chevrolet for The Money Team, and sports car ace Jordan Taylor is subbing for Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Camaro.
All are long shots. DraftKings has Taylor at +4000, Raikkonen (who raced in a Cup car last year at Watkins Glen) at +5000, Button at +10000, and Daly at +100000.
Of that group, Taylor is the sleeper. He boasts three titles in the IMSA Sports Car Championship, one in Daytona Prototypes and two in GTLM. He won the GTE Pro Class in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans. His resume also includes victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.
Taylor will be driving the No. 9 Chevy that has carried Elliott to seven road course wins, including the 2021 inaugural at COTA.
Though we don’t like Taylor to win on Sunday, the odds for top-three and top-five finishes (+1200 and +500, respectively, via DraftKings) are long enough to tempt us.
We’ll freely admit that the Kaulig Racing Chevrolets haven’t shown sufficient speed through the first five races of the NASCAR Cup Series season.
We’ll also acknowledge that there are sections of the Circuit of the Americas where horsepower is a strong benefit.
But that won’t deter us from picking Kaulig driver AJ Allmendinger to win Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. The Dinger has shown on more than one occasion that his prodigious talent can make up for a deficiency in speed.
Both of Allmendinger’s Cup wins have come on road courses, where he knows what his car needs to go fast, and where he can outbrake almost anyone else into the most treacherous of corners.
In a part-time Cup role with Kaulig in 2021, Allmendinger won on the Indianapolis Road Course. Racing full-time for Kaulig in the Xfinity Series last year, Allmendinger won four road course races.
And at +1200 via DraftKings, his price is right.
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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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