The Action Network: Do you take Bell over last weekend's winner Bowman at Phoenix?

PJ Walsh examines why last weekend’s Las Vegas winner Alex Bowman might just be the driver to go against in a matchup with Christopher Bell.

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For the first time this season, the NASCAR Cup Series’ Next Gen car will take on a short, flat track in a points-paying race.

The Next Gen car did race on a quarter-mile circuit at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the preseason Busch Light Clash. However, Sunday’s Ruoff Mortgage 500 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) will be the first of these tracks with points on the line.

RELATED: NASCAR BetCenter | Odds for Phoenix Cup race

And while we can consider both Phoenix Raceway and the LA Coliseum as “short, flat tracks,” they’re really not all that similar.

Phoenix is a 1-mile, tri-oval compared to the Coliseum’s quarter-mile oval, so how the cars handle might be quite different.

With this in mind, I’m focusing more on historical performance at Phoenix Raceway when projecting performance for the Ruoff Mortgage 500. And after doing so, one side of the Christopher Bell vs. Alex Bowman featured driver matchup is showing enough value to bet right now.

NASCAR Picks for Phoenix

*Odds as of Tuesday morning

The reason I like this bet is equal parts buying on Bell and fading Bowman.

While it was more than five years ago, there’s still some idea floating around among NASCAR bettors and DFS players that Phoenix is a good track for Bowman.

Sure, he had an incredible performance while subbing for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. back in the fall of 2016 at Phoenix, a race in which Bowman piloted the No. 88 Chevrolet to a sixth-place finish that included the most fast laps run, the most laps led and the best driver rating.

However, it’s important to remember that the No. 88 team had Phoenix figured out during this time period no matter who was driving, with Earnhardt posting finishes of second, eighth, first and fifth in four of the five races leading up to Bowman’s stellar run.

Since that race in 2016, Bowman has struggled some at Phoenix, finishing 13th, 30th, 35th, 23rd, 14th, 16th, 13th and 18th, while leading zero laps and averaging just 1.5 fast laps per race in those eight starts, all of which came while driving Hendrick Motorsports’ top-tier equipment. Throw in the fact that Bowman is coming off an exciting win last week at Las Vegas, a track that has essentially zero similarities with Phoenix, and it’s reasonable to assume he’s a bit overvalued for all of these factors.

On the other hand, Bell has been very solid at the short, flat tracks since getting his shot in Joe Gibbs Racing’s elite equipment before the start of last season, including two ninth-place runs in 2021 at Phoenix. Additionally, Bell has a win at Phoenix in the Xfinity Series, so he’s certainly capable of running up front if provided with a fast car.

Just like previous weeks’ featured NASCAR matchups the edge here isn’t massive, but Bell should be a short favorite over Bowman, making his +100 price tag at BetMGM one worth considering.