NASCAR kicks August off in New York with the Watkins Glen International race. With only four races left until the NASCAR playoffs, the Cup Series standings are getting tight at the top. Denny Hemlin narrowly holds the lead over Kyle Larson in second place, while Will Byron and Kyle Busch are hot on their heels. In fifth place sits Chase Elliott who has emerged victorious from the Watkins Glen two years in a row. From the Watkins Glen Cup entry list, it looks as though Michael Annett may be the only driver who sits this race out as he continues to nurse a stress fracture in his leg.
It’s going to be a humid and rainy day in Watkins Glen, New York on Sunday, which could make some slickness to the track. Road tracks are different from Oval tracks in that they require drivers to drive at slower speeds, and Oval tracks are inherently more dangerous with a higher chance of crashes. Keep that in mind if the roads start to get slick this Sunday, as drivers with a higher aptitude for driving on road tracks will have an advantage.
Drivers are coming off of a two-week hiatus during the Olympics, and several have already commented that the mid-season rest should be adopted annually moving forward. Kevin Harvick noted that he prefers the summer break as opposed to ‘all the breaks in the beginning of the year’. Kyle Busch is also in favor, after noting he was growing tired of winter vacations and enjoyed the chance to relax and getaway in the summer.
Betting on NASCAR: What To Expect
Chase Elliott deservedly sits atop the odds boards as bookmakers try to capitalize on his back-to-back wins at Watkins Glen. In a sport where there is only one winner, Elliott’s odds at +200 don’t seem like they are worth the payoff. Throw in things like rainy weather and slick turns, and this year’s Watkins Glen race is looking more like a crapshoot than other years. Bettors also need to take into account how drivers will emerge from the summer break. Will the momentum continue for drivers such as Aric Almirola who emerged victorious from the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301? His current +10,000 odds do not scream confidence from the oddsmakers.
Taking a look at the odds board, several interesting drivers stand out. The third-highest odds to win belong to Martin Truex Jr. at +600. Truex has had a strong season so far, with seven top 5 finishes and eleven top 10 finishes. Truex has also had a great history at Watkins Glen, with top 10 finishes in his last four races there, including the victory in 2017. Given his success so far this season, and his previous success at Watkins Glen, I like Truex at +600 over Elliott at +200 as my best bet to win the race.
Bubba Wallace finds himself way down the oddsboard and for good reason. The native of Mobile, Alabama has struggled to put anything together this season, although he is trending in the right direction as of late. He placed 5th at the Pocono Raceway in 2021 Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 back in June and has been within the top 15 in his past four races overall. He hasn’t had much previous success at Watkins Glen, with 25th place being his best overall finish. Still, at +25,000 to take first place, Wallace may be worth a bet to finish in the top 10 or top 5 if your sportsbook allows that.
One mid-priced sleeper you may want to take a look at is Ross Chastain. Casual NASCAR fans won’t be too familiar with the name, but savvy fans know how well Chastain has performed on-road tracks this season. Chastain has three consecutive top-ten finishes on-road tracks which is tied for the record this season. He may not win, but take a look at Chastain as a top 10 finish. He’s not the worst bet to win the race either at +4,000, but I like the stability of Truex Jr. over Chastain’s competence on-road tracks to prove to be more valuable in the end.
Race Winner Best Bet: Martin Truex Jr. +600
Best mid-priced longshot: Ross Chastain +4,000
Avoiding: Chase Elliott +200