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Early week best bets for the South Point 400, how and why I’m backing Bubba Wallace

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The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is in its final stretch now. There are just four races left in the season. The penultimate round of the playoffs begins on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in you guessed it, Las Vegas. This will be the Cup Series second visit to Las Vegas this year, although its been seven months since the March race.

Handicapping Las Vegas

Las Vegas is one of the four 1.5-mile “cookie cutter” ovals on the schedule. Like its sister track, Kanas Speedway, Las Vegas is more specifically at 1.5-mile tri-oval. The turns of the track are banked at 20 degrees. The front and back stretches are banked between 9 and 12 degrees. As this is the sixth, and final visit of 2023 to a tri- or quad-oval track we have quite a bit of data to look back on in trying to handicap this race.

As noted above, Kansas is often considered a sister track to Las Vegas. Although there are some minor difference between the two, primarily that Kansas has a little more tire wear, the two tracks are highly predictive of one another. Texas on the other hand is the least correlated of the 1.5-mile tracks. This is likely due to its lower tire wear and different banking in turns 1/2 compared to turns 3/4. Although Texas is the more recent race, I am therefore focusing more on Kansas than Texas in my analysis. That said, I am looking at performance across all of 2023 intermediate tracks. The emphasis being on Las Vegas, Kansas, Charlotte, and Texas. So lets get into the bets.

Bubba Wallace Top 10: +100 (Bet365) 1 unit to win 1 unit

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

A few years ago Bubba was a drafting track specialist. Bubba is a specialist no more. Since joining 23XI Bubba has become a highly proficient intermediate track driver. At Kansas several weeks ago he was a front runner even leading laps. Unfortunately while running 2nd he got loose and hit the wall. That incident ended his ability to be competitive in that race. In the other four races at 1.5-mile ovals in 2023 Bubba has finished fourth, fourth, fourth, and third. This makes him tied with William Byron for the most Top 5 finishes at these tracks.

Looking at the percentage of laps completed inside the Top 10 at these tracks Bubba is among the series leaders. He has completed 65% of his laps at these tracks inside the Top 10. That even includes the 156 laps after his accident at Kansas that were all outside the Top 10. If we remove those laps, as if he had crashed out, rather than just crippling his car, his Top 10 rate jumps to 73.27%. That would be good for third best in the Cup Series behind only Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

If we expand our sample size to include other high speed intermediates Bubba remains strong. He finished fifth and seventh at the two races at Darlington. At Pocono he was 11th and at Michigan he was 18th. Although he did lead meaningful laps at Michigan. And don’t forget, he won at Kansas last year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Bubba is Denny Hamlin or Kyle Larson. He isn’t. The books are still not giving Bubba enough respect though. If Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson are “S Class” intermediate drivers, Bubba, at least in 2023, is an A class driver. So I’ll gladly take Bubba at +100 to finish inside the Top 10 this weekend and would bet this down to -115.

Bubba Wallace Top 5: +300 (Hard Rock) .5 units to win 1.5

As noted above, in his four incident free races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2023 Bubba is 4/4 finishing in the Top 5. If we look at percentage of laps inside the Top 5 he has completed 30.7% of his laps. That rate is good for seventh best in the Cup Series. Like his Top 10 rate though, that 30.7% includes 156 laps at Kansas after his car was junked. If we remove those 156 laps the rate improves to 34.34%.

Even using the lower number, if we assume that completing 30.7% of his laps inside the Top 5 will translate to roughly finishing inside the Top 5 30% of the time, the fair odds for this bet would be +233. This is obviously an over simplification of the matter. There are a lot more things that go into the actual fair odds that Bubba will finish inside the Top 5. A disconnect exists however between Bubba’s odds, at between +250 and +325 depending on the shop, and his on track performance.

I want to keep a good cushion between his actual fair odds and the odds we are getting. So my floor on this bet is +300. But at +300 we are getting significant value on a very good intermediate driver.