NAS 2022 Ambetter 301: Preview, Odds & Predictions

The Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) falls during a distinct and unique portion of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule — a time when several drivers have claimed stake as championship favorites and several drivers typically carrying that torch still need to lock in for a title run.

The top of the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings illustrates that point.

The 2020 series champion Chase Elliott became the first three-race winner of the 2022 season with a maiden victory at his “home track” at Atlanta Motor Speedway last Sunday. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet continues to lead the championship standings for the 15th week — and is currently up 47 points on Ryan Blaney in second place.

Despite his hot streak, Elliott has only the seventh-shortest odds this week at BetMGM. He has held steady at +1000 despite leading the field with 12.5 percent of the total bets backing him and is second with 16.2 percent of the handle.

That heavy action is setting Elliott up to be the sportsbook’s biggest liability this week.

Elliott has won two of the last three races — at Nashville and Atlanta — but no driver has won back-to-back races this year.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney would like to continue that streak and break into the win column himself, a trophy to accentuate a season of high performance. He has four top-10 finishes in nine New Hampshire races with a best of fourth place in 2019.

The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford has finished in the top-10 in four of the last five races leading into New Hampshire, including a season-best third-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway.

Blaney is the pre-race favorite at +6000. However, he had been backed by a modest 3.9 percent of the bets and 3.6 percent of the bets as of Thursday.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell would surely like to transfer some of his Xfinity Series good juju to his NASCAR Cup Series work at New Hampshire. He’s won the last three Xfinity races at the New England miler, and he was runner-up to race winner Aric Almirola in last year’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

At +1600, Bell has been backed by 3.1 percent of the bets but only 1.3 percent of the handle at BetMGM.

Kevin Harvick (four wins), Kyle Busch (three), Kurt Busch (three), Denny Hamlin (three), Brad Keselowski (two), Joey Logano (two) and defending race winner Almirola have all earned giant lobsters in New Hampshire Victory Lane.

Of the seven former active New Hampshire winners, Almirola, Keselowski and Harvick are still racing for a win and what could be an automatic Playoff berth.

None of the three are currently ranked in the top-16 of the points standings to earn that Playoff position. Harvick, who currently has a 62-race winless streak (dating back to Bristol in 2020) has four wins at New Hampshire — most among active drivers. He sits 17th in the standings — 19 points behind Bell. He has made the Playoffs for the last 12 consecutive years, also a high mark among active drivers.

And, the 2014 series champ has been particularly successful at New Hampshire, finishing in the top-10 22 times, or nearly 60 percent of his starts. Of those, 13 are top-five finishes.

Counting Harvick’s back-to-back wins in 2018-19 and Almirola’s victory last year, Stewart-Haas Racing has won three of the last four New Hampshire races. However, SHR has only a single win in 2022 — Chase Briscoe’s trophy at Phoenix in March — also a one-mile track.

Briscoe is BetMGM’s second biggest liability this week as he has drawn 10.0 percent of the handle – third-most at the sportsbook – at +2800. Leading the way is Martin Truex Jr., who had been supported by a whopping 25.2 percent of the handle at +900 as of Thursday.

Keselowski is also a multi-time New Hampshire Cup winner, hoisting a pair of trophies (2014 and 2020). And that solid resume must be encouraging for the new team owner, who has only two top-10 finishes in 2022 — a best of ninth-place in the season-opening Daytona 500 — since becoming a partial owner in the RFK Racing operation.

A major early season penalty has left him playing catch-up and he is ranked 30th in points, essentially needing a win in one of the remaining seven regular season races to get into the Playoffs. He’s qualified for the Playoffs every year of his career, winning the championship in 2012.

Qualifying is set for Saturday at 12:20 p.m. ET. There will be two rounds of single-car time trials televised beginning at noon on USA Network.

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Ambetter 301
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, July 17
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,102,088
TV: USA Network, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 318.46 miles (301 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 70),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 185), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 301)

–Field Level Media (NASCAR NewsWire contributed to this story)

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