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Early Best Bets for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Sunday the Cup Series makes its first of two stops for the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Las Vegas is a 1.5 mile tri-oval track which has fairly significant tire wear. Although the number of 1.5 mile tracks on the circuit has gone down some in recent years, there are still six of these race on the 2023 schedule. The Cup Series will make two visits to Las Vegas and Kanas, as well as single stops at Texas and Charlotte. This makes the 1.5 mile tri-oval the most common track type that the Cup series will race on in 2023.

In addition to the large amount of data from the other 1.5 mile tri-ovals, data from Darlington and Homestead has meaningful predictive value for Las Vegas. Finally, while there are a lot of difference between Auto Club and Las Vegas, the fact that teams haven’t had a lot of time to digest data or make adjustments means that I am using some data from Auto Club. Last year there was fairly significant correlation between Auto Club and the first race at Las Vegas, likely because teams that were fast found something, while teams that are slow need time to make adjustments. This means we have a huge amount of data that we can fall back on to project this race.

Bubba Wallace to Win | +4000 (Bet365)

(Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images)

When books first started to publish odds you could find Bubba as long as +5000, which is where I got him and recorded the pick on my Action Network profile. While you can’t get him at 50-1 anymore, +4000 available at Bet365 is still good value.

Last year Bubba and 23XI showed significant improvements over 2021 on intermediate tracks. Kurt Busch, who has since retired due to issues related to a concussion he suffered at Pocono, won the first race at Kanas. Bubba then won the second Kanas race. Other than Las Vegas itself, Kanas had the strongest correlation with Las Vegas in 2022.

In 2022 Bubba started out with fairly average at the 1.5 mile tracks, with incident adjusted speed ranks of 19th and 12th at Las Vegas 1 and Kanas 1 respectively. The second half of the year he turned it on though. He was third in incident adjusted speed at Charlotte and the second Kansas race and fourth at Las Vegas 2. He also started to record significant numbers of laps led, 87, and fastest laps run, 46. This includes leading 29 laps at the second Las Vegas race before he had an unfortunate incident with Kyle Larson which ended his day.

+4000 is simply too long for a driver who has shown as much upside at 1.5 mile tracks as Bubba has. I have .2u on Bubba at +5000 and would bet this all the way down to +3300.

Alex Bowman Top 10 | +110 (Kambi Books – Barstool, BetRivers, and UniBet)

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Compared to last week books did a better job of getting Top 10 odds published earlier this week. When I started to review odds the odds on Alex Bowman to finish Top 10 stood out. At +110 Alex Bowman only needs to convert 52.39% of the time for this to be profitable and I have him easily above that mark.

Alex Bowman was very strong at 1.5 mile intermediates in 2022. He missed the last race at Las Vegas due to concussion issues he suffered a few races earlier, but at the 1.5 mile races he did run he was five of five finishing Top 10. As I have mentioned before, finishing position isn’t particularly predictive of future finishing position though, so lets dig into the underlying stats as to why I like Bowman to finish Top 10 here.

In my incident adjusted speed metric Bowman was 5th, 13th, 18th, 5th, and 17th in the five points races he did run at Las Vegas, Kansas, Charlotte, and Texas. At first that might seem to be worryingly inconsistent, but if we look at some other numbers its less concerning. Looking at all laps run at 1.5 mile tracks, including the All Star Race, Bowman was in the Top 10 for 48.5% of laps run. That would translate to +106 odds if we assumed the laps were randomly distributed across all laps run. If we take out Texas however, which is the least similar track to Las Vegas, and where Bowman had his worst performances, the percentage of laps inside the Top 10 jumps to 63.2%.

Digging even deeper, Bowman wasn’t just hanging out in the back of the Top 10 when he was there, 57% of his laps inside the Top 10 were also inside the Top 5. He also led 16 laps at Vegas 1 and 107 at Kansas 2. Maybe it is because he is “all luck no skill” or “backs into wins” but Bowman is being overlooked here. There is no reason the reigning winner of the Spring Las Vegas Race should be plus money for a Top 10. I have a full unit on this at +110 and would bet it down to even money.

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