For the first time in over a month, the NASCAR Cup Series will be racing on an oval this Sunday. The FireKeepers Casino 400 is always a big one on the calendar for teams who partner with the Ford and Chevrolet manufacturers. After all, Michigan International Speedway is literally in the backyard of each auto giant’s headquarters. A familiar Chevy driver tops the odds as the NASCAR betting favorite this week. That said, there are plenty of Toyotas looking to spoil the party as well. There are numerous handicapping angles to consider when making NASCAR betting picks this week.
The following article offers a breakdown of the NASCAR odds and best NASCAR betting picks for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
FireKeepers Casino 400 Race Info
52nd FireKeepers Casino 400
Date: Sunday, August 22, 2021
Start Time: 3 p.m. EST
Track: Michigan International Speedway — Brooklyn, MI
Distance: 400 miles
Stages: Three (Laps 1-60; 61-120; 121-200)
Pole Sitter: Kyle Larson
Defending Champion: Kevin Harvick
Check out the complete FireKeepers Casino 400 starting lineup and race stats!
FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR Betting Odds
No driver has had a 2021 season quite like Kyle Larson (+260). With five victories, countless stage wins and a newly acquired lead in the points standings, it has been a comeback tale unlike any other for Larson. He shed any doubts about a rough transition to Hendrick Motorsports long ago. The No. 5 team carries a 22-point lead into the FireKeepers Casino 400. Even when Larson hasn’t been winning races, he has still been finishing extremely well. Despite all of the carnage and destruction we saw last week at Indianapolis, Larson calmly followed up his Watkins Glen victory with a third-place showing. He is a sizable and deserving NASCAR betting favorite both for this weekend’s race and in the championship futures odds.
Harvick’s Stomping Grounds
While this NASCAR Cup Series season has largely been dominated by Kyle Larson, recent races at Michigan International Speedway have been the Kevin Harvick (+700) show. Harvick’s dominance at the track they call ‘Wide and Fast’ extends well beyond being the defending FireKeepers Casino 400 champion.
In fact, Harvick swept both Michigan races last year, giving him outright victories in an astounding four of the last five Cup Series events at the track. Add in a runner-up finish six races ago and two additional top-5s and Harvick is averaging a finish of 5.0 over the last ten races in the Great Lakes State. While 2021 has been a down year for Stewart-Haas Racing and certainly the lofty standards of Harvick, he has to be considered a contender this week. The NASCAR betting odds reflect as much.
In actuality, the heading for this section is somewhat misleading. Michigan International Speedway falls under the tracks using the low horsepower, high downforce package this season. So while the 550 setups will be in use on Sunday, this certainly figures to benefit the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets based on what we’ve seen so far this season. Chevy has had a distinct advantage at the high downforce tracks with Ford being the manufacturer notably a step behind. Toyota has run well, but the Camaros have been the class of the field.
Taking the setup package into account, it should come as no surprise that all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers are drawing respect from the NASCAR betting odds. In addition to Kyle Larson being a sizable race favorite, teammates Chase Elliott (+900), Alex Bowman (+1200) and William Byron (+1400) are all among the top eight drivers in terms of odds to win this week. Bettors might be wise to keep an eye on Elliott specifically. His average finish of 7.7 in the last ten Michigan races ranks second only to Kevin Harvick.
FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR Betting Picks
FireKeepers Casino 400 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin (+900)
Despite securing his spot in the NASCAR Playoffs last week, Denny Hamlin undoubtedly spent the week reminiscing about what might have been. That elusive first victory of the season went up in smoke in the closing laps courtesy of Chase Briscoe. Perhaps that was just the kind of added motivation Hamlin needed to finally get over the top.
Despite still owning the best average finish among all NASCAR Cup Series drivers for the year, the No. 11 Camry remains winless. Furthermore, Hamlin is now trailing Kyle Larson for the regular-season points championship. He has won this very race twice before and finished runner-up in two of the last three races at Michigan. The pressure is on for Chevrolet and Ford to deliver this weekend, but Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is poised to spoil the party with a long-overdue victory.
Other FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR Betting Picks
Top 5 Finish: Denny Hamlin (+150)
Whether you choose to view it as doubling down or a selective hedge on an outright victory wager, the NASCAR betting value on Denny Hamlin to score a top-five finish is undeniable. Over the last ten races at Michigan, Hamlin ranks tenth among all Cup Series drivers with an average finish of 10.3. He has four top-five showings over that span, including a pair of runner-up results in the last three races. He followed up a sixth-place effort in the first race here last year with a second-place showing in the FireKeepers Casino 400. Hamlin will start ninth on Sunday and certainly figures to have some added motivation after last week’s late-race debacle.
Top 10 Finish: Matt DiBenedetto (+280)
While I am admittedly a bit skittish when it comes to backing Fords this week given their struggles on the low downforce tracks, a profitable price on a Matt DiBenedetto top-10 is worthwhile. After numerous early-season struggles, the No. 21 team has been operating much smoother in recent weeks. Going all the way back to Road America in early July, DiBenedetto has three top-10s and no finish worse than 11th. Despite taking damage last week at Indy, the team hung in there and finished fifth. DiBenedetto is desperate for a victory to sneak into the NASCAR Playoffs field. That might be a stretch when it comes to NASCAR betting picks, but a solid top-10 is reasonable.
Group B Winner: William Byron (+300)
While he only has one victory thus far on the season, William Byron has been running well each and every time out. His average driver rating of 97.5 for the season ranks sixth among all NASCAR Cup Series drivers and speaks to the consistency of the No. 24 team. The NASCAR betting odds see Byron slotted in as the third choice to win Group B this week. Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are each +250 while Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Alex Bowman, is the group longshot at +350. Combine the struggles of Ford when running the 550 horsepower package this year along with a poor average finish for Alex Bowman at Michigan in previous races and Byron has the most upside of anyone in this group.
Group E Winner: Kurt Busch (+320)
Bettors who have been on Kurt Busch during the summer portion of the NASCAR Cup Series season are undoubtedly in the green when it comes to their bankrolls. Given his recent form and past success at Michigan International Speedway, it’s somewhat surprising to see the veteran as a Group E NASCAR betting longshot this week. Ryan Blaney (+175) sits as the favorite at both books. Christopher Bell (+220) is the second choice, followed by Kurt Busch and Tyler Reddick (+450).
Over the last ten races at ‘Wide and Fast’, the elder Busch brother ranks sixth among all drivers with an average finish of 9.9. That average ranks well ahead of any of the drivers he is matched up against in this group. Busch has seven top-10 results over that span and has only finished outside of the top-12 once. +320 value is too good to pass up in this week’s NASCAR picks.