NASCAR: 3 extremely undervalued playoff drivers

Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Kyle Larson is the new favorite to win the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship following his victory at Darlington, but several drivers are being slept on.

For the first time since Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in mid-July, there is a new betting favorite to win the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson, the favorite before Truex became the favorite, is once again the favorite after opening up the playoffs by winning the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, followed by points leader and teammate William Byron. Truex dropped to third.

While the 2021 champion is now the favorite to become a two-time champion, he is far from a prohibitive favorite at +400. Don’t forget that he was the favorite for much of last season, only to find himself eliminated in the round of 12 due to a bad break at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Bottom line, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship is still up in the air.

And given the playoff format, that is guaranteed to remain the case until the closing laps of the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 5.

Here are the top five favorites at FanDuel Sportsbook, which is currently offering fans an instant $200 just for signing up and placing a single $5 bet.

What is hard to understand is why there is such a huge drop-off from the two drivers listed fourth and fifth (Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch) at +650 down to the driver listed sixth (RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher) at +1400.

This season has been one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent history, so the idea that there has been a clear group of top five drivers is sort of baffling.

Just two teams — RFK Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing — got all of their drivers into the driver playoffs and all of their cars into the owner playoffs, and neither one of those two teams reached the playoffs at all a year ago.

Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports only got half of their drivers into the postseason, the same percentage as Front Row Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing had a driver miss the playoffs for just the second time since 2019, and Team Penske had a driver miss the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

For that reason, there are quite a few drivers listed outside of the top five who are extremely undervalued following the opening race of the playoffs at Darlington.

Here are three.

Undervalued NASCAR drivers after Darlington: No. 1 – Chris Buescher

Chris Buescher continues to solidify himself as one of the title favorites, yet he is still largely being overlooked at +1400. RFK Racing’s resurgence is real, and now that he is actually converting speed into wins on a regular basis, he is absolutely a threat to win it all.

Just one driver has more wins than Buescher this season, and all of Buescher’s wins have come in the six most recent races. In fact, his third place finish in Sunday’s race at Darlington was his worst oval finish and first oval non-win since July 23.

Even after moving ahead of six of the other 15 playoff drivers in the odds following this race, he is still relatively undervalued.

Undervalued NASCAR drivers after Darlington: No. 2 – Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski hasn’t done what his teammate has done in terms of converting race-winning speed into race wins, but he too has been a huge beneficiary of RFK Racing’s resurgence, a resurgence he helped spearhead by leaving Team Penske and joining the team as not only a driver but as a co-owner last year.

Throughout the 2023 season, the 2012 champion has proven that he didn’t just suddenly forget how to drive overnight. He actually finished the regular season in the top five in the standings, placing him higher than a consistent and race-winning Buescher, and has just one finish lower than sixth place in an oval race since the start of July.

At +2000, he is listed with shorter odds than just four drivers, two of whom are largely viewed by the public as having no chance.

Undervalued NASCAR drivers after Darlington: No. 3 – Tyler Reddick

Like Keselowski, Tyler Reddick’s +2000 odds are shorter than just four other drivers. Execution has undoubtedly been a problem on the No. 45 23XI Racing team throughout the season, but they opened up the playoffs with arguably their most well-executed race of the year aside from Reddick’s win at Circuit of the Americas.

The speed is certainly there, as evidenced not only by Reddick’s runner-up finish but by teammate Bubba Wallace’s rally to seventh place after an early spin. If this team can continue to execute like they did at Darlington, their odds should be more representative of Reddick’s third place position in the point standings than his No. 10 seed to start the playoffs.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

The second race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is the Hollywood Casino 400, which is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Kansas Speedway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, September 10. Start a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss any of the action!