Sunday’s Cup Series race at Las Vegas may be the second-most important race of the playoffs.
Vegas marks the first race of the third round as eight drivers are racing for four spots in the winner-take-all championship race at Phoenix. And just like in the first two rounds of the playoffs, a win by a playoff driver equals automatic advancement to the next round.
That’s why Las Vegas is so key. If a playoff driver wins Sunday, his team has two weeks to focus on getting ready for the championship race while everyone else still has to worry about simply getting there.
The favorite to get that victory is Kyle Larson. The 2021 Cup Series champion is +500 to win Sunday’s race and get his fourth win of the season. Larson easily advanced to the third round of the playoffs but didn’t have a top-10 finish in the second round. Both he and Martin Truex Jr. relied heavily on the playoff points they accumulated during the regular season to get into the third round.
Truex, the regular-season champion, is 8-to-1 to win the race. Truex hasn’t finished better than 17th in the playoffs and needs to start racking up top 10s in the third round if he wants to have a shot at racing for the title.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the race. All odds are from BetMGM.
Kyle Larson (+500)
Denny Hamlin (+600)
William Byron (+600)
Martin Truex Jr. (+800)
Tyler Reddick (+900)
Larson has one win and 10 top-10 finishes in 14 Las Vegas starts. Hamlin also has one win, but he’s made 23 starts. Byron won the spring race at Vegas for just his second top-five finish in 11 starts. Truex has the second-best average finish (10) of any active driver at the track and has two victories and 14 top 10s in 23 starts. Reddick has three top 10s in seven starts.
Good mid-tier value
Chris Buescher (+1400)
Chase Elliott (+1600)
Buescher has just one top-10 finish in 13 Vegas starts but he could be in line for his second on Sunday. Elliott’s No. 9 car is still in the owner playoffs — that’s where teams earn most of their points money — and will be very competitive as he searches for his first win of the season.
Don’t bet this driver
Ryan Blaney (+1400)
Blaney has five top fives and eight top-10 finishes in 14 starts at Las Vegas but is winless, and the Ford teams seem to be at a slight speed disadvantage to the Chevys and Toyotas.
Looking for a long shot?
Kevin Harvick (+4000)
Yeah, Harvick is in a Ford, but he’s worth a flier as he looks to end his career with a win. Harvick has 14 top-10 finishes in 28 starts.