NASCAR: Post-Las Vegas Kyle Larson change too drastic?

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR playoffs - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR playoffs - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Kyle Larson saw his NASCAR Cup Series championship odds shorten by a massive amount following his Championship 4-clinching victory at Phoenix Raceway.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson entered the round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the second favorite to win the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship. He was listed at +350 behind teammate William Byron at +330.

But after winning the round of 8 opener to become the first driver to lock himself into the Championship 4 for the second time in the last three years, the 2021 champion became the favorite to win his second title.

At the end of the day, regardless of who won the South Point 400, the winner was likely to become the title favorite.

On paper, that driver would have a 25% chance to win the title, as opposed to a 12.5% chance (theoretically only a 10.71% chance, with just three Championship 4 spots still available).

But Larson’s odds shortened all the way to +160 at FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $200 just for betting $5 on any driver. Is the change too drastic?

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Kyle Larson is naturally deserving of being the NASCAR Cup Series championship betting favorite at this point.

He is the only driver locked into in the Championship 4, thus meaning his results throughout the rest of the round of 8 don’t matter for him.

Plus, he has had the speed to be the favorite all year long; he leads the series in laps led with 1,031. It’s the consistency and execution that has been lacking, but now he has gotten to where he wants to be. He could finish 36th in the next two races and it wouldn’t matter.

But +160 implies a 1/2.6 chance (just under 40%), and while Larson is the only driver locked in at this point, there are going to be four Championship 4 drivers, no matter who they are. At some point, three other drivers are going to see their odds shorten, and typically, the title favorite heading into the Championship 4 is listed in the +200 to +220 range.

Hendrick Motorsports certainly have a competitive package at Phoenix Raceway, with Byron winning stage one, Larson winning stage two and leading the most laps, and Byron winning the race back in March.

But how smart is it to trust a driver whose seven DNFs are four more than any other remaining playoff driver?

These odds are right on par with the odds Larson had to win the 2021 title after locking into the Championship 4 by winning the round of 8 opener, and that year, he recorded the first 10-win season since 2007.

This year, his average finish is more than five places lower, his laps led total is more than 1,500 less, and he still hasn’t reached half of his win total.

Title favorite? Absolutely. But there have been four different outright favorites to win this year’s title after the first seven playoff races alone, illustrating the parity that exists this season. He is nowhere near the clear favorite like he was two years ago, and yet his odds are similar.

And if Larson gets snakebitten by the misfortune that has plagued him more times than any other driver this year, there won’t be anything anybody can do about it.

For that reason, I’d hold off on betting on Larson for now. It’s highly unlikely that his +160 odds will shorten over the next two weekends. They might actually end up getting slightly longer, depending on who else locks into the Championship 4.

The Championship 4 is scheduled to take place at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, November 5 at 3:00 p.m. ET. Before then, the remaining two round of 8 races are scheduled to take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, October 22 at 2:30 p.m. ET and at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, October 29 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

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