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Early best bet for the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway

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On Sunday the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Brooklyn. Brooklyn Michigan that is, for 200 laps on the 2-mile D-shaped oval of Michigan International Speedway. Between its length and its flatter banking, Michigan has no truly comparable tracks. Auto Club is often considered a sister track to Michigan. With the vastly different tire wear however the two tracks don’t have particularly strong correlation.

When trying to handicap this race I’m focusing on D-shaped oval intermediate tracks, other than Auto Club. I’m also considering the recent race at Pocono. While Pocono is a triangle, it does have lower banking in its corners, and was the most recent race using the intermediate package which makes it relatively useful in projecting Michigan performance. A driver’s historical performance at Michigan is also important. This means that the six races I’m most concerned with for Sunday are 2022 Michigan, 2023 Las Vegas 1, 2023 Kansas, 2023 Charlotte, 2023 Nashville, and 2023 Pocono.

With all of this in mind, the outright odds for one driver stick out to me and I want to lock in this bet now before practice and qualifying, when I think his odds could get significantly shorter.

William Byron to Win | +1100 (Bet MGM)

(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Of the 37 drivers entered in Sunday’s race only four have completed every lap at the six races I’m focused on for projecting this race. William Byron is one of those four. Of the four he also has the highest average running position (5.64) across at six races. In fact, only Denny Hamlin has a better average running position across these events (5.31).

Across the six races he has led 21.4% of all laps. This includes a win at Las Vegas. Byron has 9.33% of all fastest laps in the six races. Only Martin Truex Jr, at 10.12% and Denny Hamlin, at 9.64% have more fastest laps. Byron’s 176 laps led at Las Vegas is certainly pulling his numbers up, but Las Vegas is not an outlier. Byron led 60 laps (37.5%) at Pocono two weeks ago and 91 laps (22.75%) at Charlotte. He also led laps at Nashville and Kansas earlier this year.

Of the six primary races I’m considering, the biggest red flag is that Byron does have a mixed history here at Michigan. He failed to lead any laps, or even run any laps in the Top 3 in 2022. His second place finish in 2021, where he led 18 laps shows he can get up front and lead here though.

+1100 translates to implied odds of just 8.33%. For a driver who has lead more than 8.33% of laps in half of the races I’m keying in on, that’s just too long. I would also take this at +1000 (9.09% implied) which is available at Kambi books and Barstool. I want to lock this in now as Byron has consistently practiced well in 2023. He has also qualified in the Top 10 for all four of the most relevant races in 2023.

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