NASCAR: There is about to be another new championship favorite

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

William Byron is poised to become the new NASCAR Cup Series championship favorite following his big win at Texas Motor Speedway.

At one point during Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series round of 12 opener at Texas Motor Speedway, it was said that Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and the No. 24 team simply hadn’t been running as well in the playoffs as they had during the first half of the regular season.

An hour or so later, Byron executed a perfect reverse announcer’s jinx, taking the lead from 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace with six laps remaining and going on to win the 267-lap Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Fort Worth, Texas oval.

His sixth win of the year, a mark twice as high as that of any other driver, netted team owner Rick Hendrick his 300th victory. Byron has now found victory lane 10 times in his career, all since August 2020.

Major sportsbooks have yet to update the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship odds.

But Byron is poised to become the favorite, marking yet another change in what has been a relatively volatile market throughout the first four playoff races.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is currently offering fans an instant and guaranteed $200 just for placing a $5 bet, listed Byron at +450 to win his first title heading into Sunday’s race.

Byron had been tied for second behind Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (+430), who had just become the third different favorite of the playoffs following his round of 16-ending win at Bristl Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. were also listed at +450.

With Byron having locked himself into the round of 8, he now has a massive advantage.

Not only does he have a series-high 41 playoff points to carry through to the next round, but he doesn’t have to worry about the inevitable chaos looming at Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval to conclude the round of 12.

Hamlin and Truex are both above the cut line, but that could easily change in either one of those races.

Larson finds himself above the cut line as well, but by only two points after crashing out at Texas while battling with Wallace for the lead. The round of 12 has been his kryptonite in almost every season other than his championship-winning 2021 season, so he certainly would have liked to not have to worry about the next two weeks. Unfortunately for him, it was not meant to be.

Byron still has work left to do in the round of 8, of course; you can’t win a championship with six races remaining like you can in, say, Formula 1. But he has won at all three tracks on the round of 8 schedule and is the most recent winner at Phoenix Raceway, the Championship 4 venue.

It would shock me to see Byron listed with anything longer than +350 championship odds throughout the rest of the round of 12, and it would be surprising to see a new favorite emerge until at least the round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Byron also happens to own the most recent victory.

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

Can a second driver lock himself into the round of 8 in this coming Sunday afternoon’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega, or will a non-playoff driver spoil the party like we have seen in the past? The race is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!