Analysis: Kansas performance a must for three playoff drivers
Today's race in Kansas offers opportunity that may not exist at Martinsville for Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.A potentially unexpected byproduct of NASCAR becoming a split-horsepower series is the ability of teams to choose their paths of focus. Among the remaining seven playoff drivers not already locked into the Championship 4, just three — Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney — have elite metrics across both 550 and 750-horsepower tracks.
Martinsville Speedway began hosting the NASCAR Cup Series in 1949, and the 0.526-mile paperclip-shaped oval will host the 2021 Xfinity 500 on Sunday. It's the penultimate race of the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs and Kyle Larson is the only driver who has secured a spot in the championship. Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano will fight it out for the other three spots when the green flag drops at 2 p.m. ET. © Provided by CBS Sports
NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. brings out a caution after hitting the wall during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hope remains strong for those below cutline heading to Martinsville
After numerous struggles Sunday at Kansas, those below the cutline in the Cup playoffs carry hope with them into the Oct. 31 race at Martinsville.Such was the feeling for those who left Kansas Speedway below the cutline after Sunday’s playoff race.
Martin Truex Jr. has a three-point gap to close on fourth place, but he's the 7-2 favorite in the latest 2021 Xfinity 500 odds from Caesars Sportsbook as the winner of three of the last four at Martinsville. Hamlin and Elliott are both listed at 6-1 in the 2021 NASCAR at Martinsville odds. Before scouring the 2021 Xfinity 500 starting lineup and making any 2021 NASCAR at Martinsville predictions, be sure to see the latest 2021 Xfinity 500 picks from SportsLine's proven projection model.
Developed by daily Fantasy pro and SportsLine predictive data engineer Mike McClure, this proprietary NASCAR prediction model simulates every race 10,000 times, taking into account factors such as track history and recent results.
The model began the 2020 season paying out big by picking Denny Hamlin to win his second consecutive Daytona 500 at 10-1. The model also called Kevin Harvick's win at Atlanta and nailed a whopping nine top-10 finishers in that race. McClure then used the model to lock in a 10-1 bet on Hamlin for his win at Miami.
NASCAR playoff clinching scenarios for Martinsville
Check out the Championship 4 clinching scenarios for this weekend's NASCAR playoff elimination races at Martinsville Speedway.These races will finalize the Championship 4 drivers who will compete for series titles during the season finale weekend Nov. 5-7 at Phoenix Raceway.
At the Brickyard, the model called Harvick's fourth victory of the season. Then during the 2020 NASCAR Playoffs, the model nailed its NASCAR picks in back-to-back races, calling Denny Hamlin to win at 17-2 at Talladega and Chase Elliott to win at 7-2 at the Charlotte Roval.
In the 2021 season, McClure nailed Martin Truex Jr. to win at Martinsville for a strong 3-1 payout. The model also nailed Kyle Larson winning the NASCAR All-Star Race at 5-2 in Texas and hit Larson again at the Ally 400 for another 5-2 payout. Then, it called Chase Elliott to win at Road America for a 5-2 payout. The last two weeks, it called Larson's win at Texas for an 11-4 payout and his win at Kansas for a 9-4 payout. Anyone who has followed its lead on those plays has seen huge returns.
Now, the model simulated the 2021 Xfinity 500 10,000 times. Head to SportsLine to see the complete NASCAR at Kansas projected leaderboard.
Martinsville storylines: Keep it together
In his last three Martinsville races, Ryan Blaney has been hurt by pit road miscues. In Sunday's Round of 8 eliminator, he can't afford more mistakes.The Team Penske driver has been a contender to win in his last three visits to the Virginia half-mile track. But he came away empty-handed each time.
Top 2021 Xfinity 500 predictions
One surprise: the model is high on Kurt Busch, even though he's a 50-1 long shot in the latest NASCAR at Martinsville odds 2021. He's a target for anyone looking for a huge payday. The 43-year-old proved that he can still compete at the highest level with a late-season win in Atlanta to cement his place in the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs, but was eliminated after the Round of 12.
Still, the victory was his 33rd in the NASCAR Cup Series and now he returns to a track where he's had plenty of success. Busch is a two-time winner in Martinsville, and after recording only three other top-10s besides his victories in his first 36 starts at "The Paperclip," he's finished 10th or better in four of his last six starts there.
And a massive shocker: Chase Elliott, one of the Vegas favorites at 6-1, stumbles big-time and barely cracks the top 10. There are far better values in this loaded 2021 Xfinity 500 starting lineup. The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion is back up to second in the 2021 NASCAR standings after a second-place finish last week in Kansas.
Friday 5: Dale Jr. breaks down playoff field heading into Martinsville
NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. shares his thoughts on the seven Cup playoff drivers fighting for the three spots to the championship race.Seven drivers remain in contention for the final three spots in the Cup championship race entering Sunday’s elimination race (2 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock Premium). Only Kyle Larson has secured a spot in the Nov. 7 title race at Phoenix Raceway.
However, his only two wins this season have come on road courses and he's finished outside the top 10 in four of the eight races so far in the NASCAR postseason. Elliott is also in position with a 33-point cushion over the fourth-place bubble and he's likely to race more conservatively on Sunday to lock up his spot in the Championship 4.
How to make 2021 NASCAR at Martinsville picks
The model is also targeting another driver with 2021 NASCAR at Martinsville odds of 25-1 or longer to make a serious run at the checkered flag. Anyone who backs this driver could hit it big. You can see all of the model's NASCAR picks over at SportsLine.
So who wins the 2021 Xfinity 500? And which long shot do you need to back? Check out the latest 2021 NASCAR at Martinsville odds below, then visit SportsLine now to see the full projected 2021 Xfinity 500 leaderboard, all from the model that correctly predicted Kyle Larson's wins the last two weeks.
2021 Xfinity 500 odds
Martin Truex Jr. 7-2
Denny Hamlin 6-1
Chase Elliott 6-1
Ryan Blaney 13-2
Brad Keselowski 7-1
Joey Logano 7-1
Kyle Larson 15-2
Kyle Busch 17-2
William Byron 17-1
Kevin Harvick 25-1
Christopher Bell 28-1
Alex Bowman 30-1
Kurt Busch 50-1
Tyler Reddick 60-1
Matt DiBenedetto 75-1
Aric Almirola 100-1
Ross Chastain 125-1
Bubba Wallace 150-1
Austin Dillon 150-1
Chris Buescher 200-1
Daniel Suarez 200-1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 250-1
Erik Jones 300-1
Ryan Newman 300-1
Chase Briscoe 300-1
Cole Custer 300-1
Michael McDowell 750-1
Ryan Preece 1000-1
Corey Lajoie 2500-1
Anthony Alfredo 2500-1
Justin Haley 2500-1
Garrett Smithley 5000-1
Cody Ware 5000-1
Timmy Hill 5000-1
Josh Bilicki 5000-1
Joey Gase 5000-1
BJ McLeod 5000-1
Quin Houff 5000-1
2021 NASCAR standings
1. Kyle Larson 4181 points
2. Chase Elliott 4107 points
3. Denny Hamlin 4105 points
4. Kyle Busch 4074 points
5. Ryan Blaney 4073 points
6. Martin Truex Jr. 4071 points
7. Brad Keselowski 4068 points
8. Joey Logano 4048 points
Phoenix entry lists: Cup, Xfinity, Trucks .
Here is a look at who is entered for this weekend's Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races at Phoenix.Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series each will have practice and qualifying before they race for the final time this season.