NASCAR at Nashville expert predictions: Alex Bowman presents juicy odds (2024)

The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to the Music City this weekend for the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. This will be the series’ fourth consecutive year in Nashville, and it’s been a good track for Chevrolet, with Ross Chastain (2023), Chase Elliott (2022) and Kyle Larson (2021) claiming wins.

On the business end of the sport, a lot has been going on this week, keeping our NASCAR experts burning that midnight oil. But they still took the time to sit down and answer our latest NASCAR questions and make some predictions for Sunday’s race and beyond — including what might happen to the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) drivers, which drivers they’re surprised haven’t gotten a win yet, what defines a NASCAR driver “it” factor, and favorites and long shots for the Ally 400.

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NASCAR at Nashville is this Sunday, June 30, at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Let’s get into it!

This week, Jordan wrote about how NASCAR is expected to make multiple changes to next year’s Cup Series playoff schedule. You mentioned that one of those changes in particular — removing Homestead-Miami from the playoffs to a regular season race — is probably going to be unpopular. So why is it happening? (Another way to ask that: Did Homestead just totally mess up negotiations, or is something else afoot?)

Jeff: Beats me. I’m sure there’s some sort of reason that Jordan can share, but Homestead is one of NASCAR’s all-time great Playoffs Era tracks. It was the scene of every “championship” type race since the Chase began in 2004 until 2019, and thankfully it returned to a late-season playoff race in 2022. It’s a venue steeped in this generation’s championship history, with echoes of Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart’s glory there, and it belongs in a prestigious position on the schedule. Moving it again is a bummer.

Jordan:The reasoning as explained to me is that, with California Speedway currently not operational and fewer races on the West Coast, NASCAR needed additional warm-weather venues at the beginning of the year. This, in turn, hopefully helps alleviate the inclement weather that faces NASCAR during the spring when it travels to tracks where poor weather is often an issue. Homestead became the choice because there weren’t any other viable options, as tracks like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Circuit of the Americas and Texas already have spring races. Echoing what Jeff said, the hope is this is a short-term solution and Homestead will return to hosting a playoff race soon.

In our preview for New Hampshire, Jeff, you picked Ryan Preece as a good long-shot bet to have a top-10 finish. It was so close! He finished 11th. With the shuttering of SHR, what does Preece need to do over the next few weeks to keep his career on track? What are the other SHR drivers up against, and what does the future look like for them?

Jeff: At this point, I don’t know how Preece stays in the Cup Series next year. A better bet might be to drop down to the Xfinity Series and try to win races, and he hinted at that during an interview with NBC Sports’ Kim Coon during a rain delay at New Hampshire. No matter what, Preece isn’t getting an upgrade over his current ride for 2025 — and this is while he’s 28th in the point standings with only one top-10 finish. So if those results are only going to get worse should he jump to a lesser team, what’s the point? Preece is a true racer who wants to be competitive each week. As for the other SHR drivers, Chase Briscoe officially announced his move to Joe Gibbs Racing on Tuesday, Josh Berry’s stock keeps rising after multiple strong runs lately and Noah Gragson likely has sponsorship backing that should keep him at the Cup level.

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Jordan:Preece’s best option at this point is to secure a ride with a winning Xfinity Series organization that allows him to consistently challenge for wins. If he does this, Preece may then be in position to land a solid Cup ride down the road in a year or two. As for the future prospects for Berry and Gragson, both are in line to land a Cup ride for the 2025 season based on what they’ve shown this year and their respective ceilings. Because let’s not forget that there are at least three competitive Cup teams in need of drivers, and each is a viable candidate to land with one of those teams.

Last year, after New Hampshire, you asked whether Chase Elliott could make the playoffs. This year, I’m going to ask it for a different driver: Can Kyle Busch make the playoffs?

Jeff: No. Not the way he’s running now. I mean, could Busch win one of the next eight races? Sure, I guess. He’s “KFB,” after all — one of the greatest drivers to ever get behind the wheel of a stock car. But where is that win going to come from? I’m not seeing an obvious place where he’d be among even the five or 10 favorites to win, based on how Richard Childress Racing’s cars have performed lately.

Jordan:The way things look at the moment, no. Sure, the 45 points Busch lags behind the current playoff cut line could quickly be erased, especially with eight regular-season races remaining. Except nothing about the current state of his No. 8 team, or Richard Childress Racing overall, or Busch’s struggles with the Next Gen car suggests this is possible. That makes winning a race Busch’s best path to the playoffs. And while anything can happen — witness Austin Cindric winning at Gateway — it doesn’t seem likely.

Follow-up: Who are you most surprised has NOT qualified yet? What are your predictions for those drivers for the rest of the season?

Jeff: It’s pretty crazy Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t won yet, considering how fast they’ve been at times. But it always seems like the No. 19 gets snakebitten by something, so even though he’s fourth in points, it’s not surprising. Heck, two years ago, he was fourth in the standings and missed the playoffs because there were so many different winners in the first year of the Next Gen car that it knocked him out.

Jordan:Truex is the obvious answer. He should already have two or more wins this season.

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In your “12 Questions” interview with Christopher Bell, you asked him about the best way to measure success in racing outside of winning. One of his answers was “it” factor, though he admitted it’s very hard to see in stock cars. But you’re the experts! Who are a few drivers that you would say have the most obvious “it” factor? What are a few ways you would define the indefinable “it”? (I think of, for example, Hamlin’s supposed sixth sense for anticipating and avoiding crashes.)

Jeff: It’s very, very hard in today’s NASCAR to look at the cars going around the track and say, “OK, that guy is good.” Most of the cars are running roughly the same speeds and often in the same line. If you took the numbers and paint schemes off the cars, and they were all blank, and you said, “Point to which cars have the best drivers,” I just don’t think you could do it. That said, the “it” factor can be seen at times by daring moves that work (William Byron in the Coca-Cola 600 last month) or drivers who can make a different line work than others can (Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson). Ultimately though, the best way to evaluate talent in today’s NASCAR is to compare where a driver runs to where you think their car should run. If their team usually finishes around 20th place, and today they’re running 12th, that’s something. If they regularly outperform their teammates, that’s something. If the car dramatically improved from the previous season after a driver change, that’s something. So there are still ways to tell.

Jordan:How a driver runs compared to their teammate(s) is a big indicator. If a driver is consistently outrunning their teammate(s), who in theory should have equal equipment, by a notable margin, then they’re obviously doing something well. This is the barometer I often use.

Who is your favorite to win at Nashville?

Jeff: This sure feels like a “return to normal” type of week at first glance. Always wait and see what happens in practice, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the typical Hendrick Motorsports/Joe Gibbs Racing type of race. That doesn’t exactly narrow it down, but I’d go with Denny Hamlin if I had to pick one. Nashville is a concrete track and Hamlin won on the other two concrete ovals this year (Bristol and Dover, although those were shorter and had different circ*mstances).

Jordan:Both Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are hitting their strides to the point where it feels like the Hendrick teammates are going to start rolling off wins on the regular. Especially Larson, who over the past three races has one victory (Sonoma) and probably should’ve had another (Iowa). Also worth noting is that each of these drivers has previously won at Nashville (Larson in 2021, Elliott in 2022).

Who is a long shot you like this weekend?

Jeff: If there’s even an Alex Bowman race, it would be this one. Bowman at +5000 in a Hendrick car is a juicy pick, especially given this is the Ally 400, and there will be extra emphasis for his Ally-sponsored car (designed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., by the way) to have a good performance. There’s no way Bowman should be this low in the odds, frankly. Could pay off nicely.

Jordan:Bowman at +5000 offers tremendous value. He typically does well on concrete tracks and the No. 48 team has had more speed in its cars as of late. Plus, he certainly isn’t lacking motivation for all the reasons Jeff laid out.

Odds for NASCAR at Nashville race winner

Oddsvia BetMGM.

(Photo of Alex Bowman: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images)

NASCAR at Nashville expert predictions: Alex Bowman presents juicy odds (2024)

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