NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol: Best Bets for Food City 500

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NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol: Best Bets for Food City 500

The NASCAR Cup Series makes the first of two trips to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for another day of short track racing with the running of the Food City 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX). After several years of transforming Bristol into a dirt track for the spring race, we are back on the concrete in 2024.

Toyota was the class of the field last week at Phoenix, leading 298 of 312 laps with Christopher Bell taking home the checkered flag. While Toyota looks to build off of its success in the desert, Bristol is a much more unique short track, being a half-mile in length with 24-28 degrees of corner banking on a concrete surface.

Kyle Larson is the betting favorite at +500 after a 14th place finish at Phoenix. The lack of speed out of Chevrolet last weekend is concerning, but the books know that Kyle Larson is still Kyle Larson. Christopher Bell (+500) and Denny Hamlin (+550) are the only two other drivers priced shorter than +1000 this weekend.

With value down the odds board, here’s who I have my eye on pre practice and qualifying for the Food City 500 (odds as of Thursday, March 14).

RFK Racing

Both Chris Buescher (+1200) and Brad Keselowski (+1400) have momentum after a pair of top five finishes at Phoenix. Buescher has finished top five in three of the last five Bristol races, including a win in 2022. Keselowski is a three-time Bristol winner who, like his teammate, has thrived on the high banks in recent trips and is looking to break his 102-race winless streak.

Buescher, specifically, has not qualified better than 20th in the last four Bristol races, making me willing to wait and see if his price shifts in our favor as a result once cars hit the track. I’m more interested in Keselowski at +1400 pre practice and qualifying.

Ty Gibbs +1200

There is no driver more dialed in at the start of the season than Ty Gibbs, who is knocking on the door of his first career NASCAR Cup Series win. He enters the weekend with three-straight top ten finishes and the best average finish (8.75) through four races.

Gibbs finished fifth at Bristol in the fall of last year with an average running position of 4.4, so if he qualifies well, he will be a legit contender for the win.

Erik Jones +4000

Keeping with the trend of betting on Toyotas, look for Erik Jones to make some noise this weekend. Legacy Motor Club continues to find its footing after switching from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2024, and they showed promising speed alongside Joe Gibbs Racing at Phoenix.

Back when Jones ran for Gibbs, he was above average at Bristol, with four top fives in eight starts. This is a driver I am looking to get ahead of the market on during the week, especially after a fourth-place qualifying effort at Phoenix. Keep an eye on the No. 43 this weekend.

Noah Gragson to finish Top 10 +230

Gragson has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin 2024, with two top 10s in the first four races and narrowly missing out on his third at Phoenix last weekend. He’s a two-time Bristol winner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and I believe his confidence is as high as it has ever been in his Cup Series career.

If he brings this level of consistency to Bristol, we need to start looking at this No. 10 more closely, but I like his chances to be a borderline top-10 car once again this weekend.

Carson Hocevar to finish Top 10 +285

Hocevar was my preseason pick to win Rookie of the Year, and he has quietly put together a solid start to 2024. While still searching for his first top 10 of the young season, Bristol presents a great opportunity for him to do so.

Hocevar finished 11th in the fall of last year with an average running position of 12.6 while filling in for Legacy Motor Club. A top 10 is within his grasp, and at almost 3-1 odds, it is worth a bet for me.

Ryan Preece to finish Top 10 +550

I am not entirely sure why Ryan Preece is priced so long for this race, but the books are giving us a serious number at a top-10 finish for the No. 41. Preece is one of the best short track racers in the Cup Series, and while he has not lit it up to begin the year by any means, he was a borderline top-10 car at Bristol last year.

The bright spots for Stewart-Haas Racing have been Noah Gragson and Chase Briscoe, but I am not going to overlook Preece at this number for a top-10 finish.