Hold On NASCAR, Not So Fast
Written by: Byrds
The NASCAR Cup guys hit the TVs this weekend, with the first Busch Clash exhibition race at the Los Angeles Coliseum. You know, the football one, where OJ Simpson used to play. It’s cool, Ice Cube will be there and it’s the first Sunday of the year with no football, so a lot of folks will be watching.
And as much as I love NASCAR, this is literally not going to teach us much of anything for the real Cup season ahead. It’s a short, exhibition race on a ¼ mile track thrown together in a football stadium, where they will qualify in heats and run a race of 37.5 green flag miles. The main event on Sunday will see 23 cars run 150 laps around a football field, in brand new cars that will rarely exceed 65 miles per hour for three seconds at a time.
Enjoy the new paint jobs and the new faces. Learn how well the new Generation 7 car bodies handle side-to-side contact and if the drivers can rub without flattening each others’ tires in close quarters racing. Literally, this will be the clinic on tire sidewall damage for 2022. But don’t expect to learn much about the new package and who has any sort of advantage in a handful of 14-second laps on a temporary track.
If we must wager on this one, we’ll lean toward those drivers who’ve shown strength at Martinsville, the most similar current track on the series. Off the top of my head, that’s the three top Toyotas from the Joe Gibbs team (Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Truex), Logano, and the top 2 guys at Hendrick Motorsports, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Short tracks with many laps tend to amplify the strength of the best drivers and teams. No surprises in those names, and there is very little pricing value to the bettor for any of those top 6 drivers to win.
Fluke winners don’t happen in 400 or 500 laps at Martinsville and Bristol. But with the heat system, 17 of the up to 40 drivers won’t even qualify to be in the final phase of the race. Just 23 will be on the track in the short final 150 lap feature. Maybe a couple super long shots could be in play, if they make the final. Need to do some research on Erik Jones, now that I think about it.
This is going to look a lot like the Friday or Saturday night deal at your local short track, with a bunch of short heats used to whittle the fields down to the most competitive cars. It’s unclear how much live odds bookmaking will be done during these qualifying play-in heats, and in-race. Rest assured, if I see obvious value, I will yell it loudly & quickly through the Telegram app. But, this race is going to be largely an exercise in randomness. It’s the equivalent of a mid-February split-squad MLB spring training game with pitching provided by Johnny Wholestaff. Would you normally bet on something like that?
Pre-race, I might dabble in a few one-on-one matchups. I can’t in good conscience suggest you do much more. I’m personally shocked they didn’t find a way to jam short-track ace Josh Berry into this exhibition. This year is going to be a lot about learning, especially with the Cup guys. Our best work last year printing money happened in the Trucks. Expect heavier Truck & Xfinity cards early in the season.
In Cup, this new Gen 7 car is going to make us play a little more safely, fewer units in Cup probably until March. A change like this hasn’t happened since 2013, and it took a couple months to shake out how the rules changes helped and hurt certain teams. Early returns from testing suggest that these new cars will be more challenging to drive, which means individual skill may be far more important than aero or individual team technology budgets. This is even more of a template car, with fewer user serviceable parts. NASCAR is already threatening far larger fines than in the past for illegal creativity in modifying the cars.
Liken a new car body or format to massive rules change in another sport. How much did offense (and totals) go up when MLB added the designated hitter? How much did basketball totals rise the years that shot clocks shortened or the three point line was born? That’s what this year will be like for the NASCAR Cup Series. Learn from it and we cash bigger wins for the 36 real races to come.
NEXT UP: Season Prop Bets Incoming. And, why is Daytona such a big deal and why does it have to be in Week 1?