The Action Network: Best early bet for Monster Energy Series championship race

The Action Network’s P.J. Walsh delves through the data and the early odds to come up with the smart-money bet for the NASCAR championship race.

It all comes down to this. After 35 points-paying races, the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) championship will be settled during Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, four drivers that combined to win 21 races this season, will vie for the title in Miami.

For those new to the playoff format, a normal field of drivers will compete on Sunday, but only those four drivers are eligible to win the championship.

And the eventual champion doesn’t necessarily have to win the race, but simply finish ahead of the other three contenders, no matter where that is in the final finishing order.

Here’s a look at Monster Energy Series championship odds from the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas:

NASCAR Championship Odds, Pick

  • Kyle Busch: +250
  • Martin Truex Jr.: +250
  • Kevin Harvick: +280
  • Denny Hamlin: +280

As one would imagine considering these have been the best four drivers all season, championship odds are tight.

And Homestead is a racy, 1.5-mile track with massive tire wear and multiple grooves, so expect plenty of comers, goers and side-by-side racing.

But because this track is unique and the Monster Energy Series hosts only one event here every season, finding meaningful data to rely on can be difficult.

As a result, I looked at races earlier this season at other high tire wear tracks — Atlanta Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway — and recent results at Homestead to pinpoint the smartest championship bet.

First, here is our three-race sample from this season, sorted by Driver Rating.

*ARP stands for average running position.

Harvick has had the edge this season at these three high tire wear tracks, including the most laps out front, but Busch has run the most fast laps.

And now, here is the same data over the past four races at Homestead.

Note: I chose the past four races because that’s when Furniture Row Racing (Truex’s former team) switched to Toyota and a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, which also catapulted Truex into a championship contender.

Again, recent stats from Homestead point to Harvick and Busch as the best performers, with Kyle out front more often but Kevin ripping off considerably more fast laps.

NASCAR Championship Pick: Kevin Harvick (+280)

Considering Harvick ranks as the best of the championship drivers at Homestead in recent years as well as at the high tire wear tracks this season, he’s the best value to win the title, especially considering he’s not priced as a favorite, though he likely should be.