In Texas, NASCAR fans had to endure one of the longest race weekends in recent memory. After the race was rained out on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, they finally resumed on Wednesday afternoon, and Kyle Busch earned his first win of the season.
With a non-playoff driver winning in Texas, it sets up a thrilling race at Martinsville on Sunday. Only Joey Logano is locked into the 'Championship 4' following his win in Kansas.
Here are my four favourite head-to-head bets for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500.
Martin Truex Jr. (-140) over Denny Hamlin
Martinsville is appropriately named because this has been Martin's best track recently. He's won each of the last two races here--the first Martinsville race in June and this race last year, which punched his ticket into the 2019 Championship 4. Truex Jr. has finished in the top-10 in six straight races at Martinsville, with five of those being top-5s.
Hamlin has had success at Martinsville as well, finishing in the top-5 in three of his last four races. Historically it's been one of his best tracks but Truex Jr. starting on the front row has the opportunity to get out front right away and dominate this entire race. Last year he started third, got to the lead and led 464 of the 500 laps. Hamlin could finish second and still lose this matchup.
Alex Bowman (-120) over William Byron
Bowman enters the final leg of the Round of 8 in fifth place, just 25 points out of the Championship 4. Bowman and his team will do everything they can to win this race, and starting third gives him a good chance to stay near the front all day. Martinsville hasn't been his favourite track, with just two top-10s in five starts in the Hendrick Motorsports No.88. His teammate, William Byron, has had more success here recently but doesn't have much to race for. Track position is so key at Martinsville, and Bowman will start with it. Trying to get him into the season finale, crew chief Greg Ives will do everything he can to make sure he stays up there. A top-10 seems highly likely for the No.88 team.
Kurt Busch (-110) over Jimmie Johnson
This one shouldn't be close. Busch is also looking to get into the Championship 4, but with an 81-point deficit, he'll likely need a win. Busch starts 22 spots ahead of Johnson in fifth and said that he will have "elbows up and won’t be afraid to rub other cars as he faces a must-win scenario." Throughout his career, his second-worst average finish (20.1) comes at Martinsville, but he's been much better here in recent years. He has three top-10s in his last four trips to Martinsville, including a sixth-place finish last year.
The starting track position advantage and the fact that Johnson doesn't have a top-10 at Martinsville since 2016 suggest that Busch should win this head-to-head handily.
Aric Almirola (-110) over Erik Jones
Jones is coming off of a disappointing performance in Texas and now heads to a track where he has never had a top-10. Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones has never finished better than 17th at Martinsville. Almirola hasn't finished his last two races here but has consistently been around 10-15th in recent years at Martinsville. Almirola probably won't need to be great to win this head-to-head. A top-15 should be enough.