The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue with the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol, Tenn. The second-to-last race of the opening round of the playoffs gets going on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, a track historically dominated by Kyle Busch.
The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has won eight times in Bristol, more than any active driver. His previous success at the track also explains why the 36-year-old is sportsbook ’s favorite to win the race and lock in his second checkered flag of the season.
Still, can the 2015 and 2019 NASCAR Cup Series champion deliver and justify the short price or will the race at Bristol produce a surprise winner?
Busch Eyeing Second Win
NASCAR Odds for this weekend show Kyle Busch as the favorite to win the race (+400 at BetUS), which makes a lot of sense. The 36-year-old is by far the most successful driver on the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Over 31 starts, Busch has recorded a 12.8-place finish and he hasn’t ended the race outside of the top four across his last four appearances. That stretch includes a win in 2019, two fourth-place finishes and a runner-up finish in 2020.
What’s more, Busch’s average finish in Bristol across his last seven starts is at 4.7, with three wins, one 20th-place finish, two fourth-place finishes and a silver medal. With those figures, it’s difficult to look past him as a serious candidate to claim the win on Saturday.
The only thing that could make you slightly concerned about his chances to win in Bristol is Busch’s iffy form, having managed only two top-10 finishes across his last five starts — seventh in Michigan and sixth in Darlington.
Elliott Hard to Ignore
The younger of the Busch brothers has the most wins and top-five finishes while Kevin Harvick is the reigning champion in Bristol. However, Chase Elliott (+800) has the best average finish in Bristol at 12.1 across 10 starts.
Although the 25-year-old never won on the Bristol Motor Speedway, he has claimed three top-three finishes and five top-10s. Elliott has finished inside the top 10 in half of his starts in Bristol to put it into perspective,
On the topic of drivers who have done well in Bristol before, Kevin Harvick (+1200) ranks as the fourth-most successful driver with an average finish of 13.5 across 40 starts. Although his figures are worse than Elliott’s and Busch’s, Harvick has an edge as the most experienced driver on the track.
Across those 40 starts, Harvick won three times (most recently in 2020), secured 13 top-five finishes, and has 20 top-10s. Like Elliott, Harvick has finished inside the top 10 in half of his starts at the Bristol Motor Speedway, albeit across 30 more races.
However, we should take Harvick’s impressive record on the track with a grain of salt, considering his 2020 victory was his first top-10 finish in two years. Since his 10th-place finish in 2018, he has managed 13th, 39th, 11th and first.
Choosing between the two is tough, but we have to favor Elliott, who presents a better sports betting option. The defending champion did well in his last start in Richmond, where he finished fourth and maintained a healthy advantage over the elimination line.
“Definitely good to come here and run fourth,” said Elliott after the race. “This is a tough place, so I was proud of that.”
Bristol is not a place for a surprise winner and we don’t believe this year’s race will be any different. There is a good reason why only a few drivers are priced at under +1000, most of whom have already won in Bristol.
Obviously, there is always a chance that we might see an upset, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Busch and Elliott should be in the front row to claim the victory. Elliott is priced at more generous odds and might be a more appealing option for some, but we like Busch as our main betting pick for Saturday’s race.