NASCAR championship longshot not worth the risk

Chris Buescher, RFK Racing, Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, RFK Racing, Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Chris Buescher has had a breakout 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, but it will likely come to an end this Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.

Heading into this Sunday afternoon’s Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the third and final race of the semifinal round of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, two drivers are locked into the Championship 4, two sit above the cut line, and three sit within striking distance of the cut line to advance on points.

One driver, however, needs to win Sunday’s 500-lap round of 8 race around the four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847-kilometer) Ridgeway, Virginia oval to keep his championship hopes alive, and that is RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher.

Buescher has had a breakout season in 2023, reeling off three straight oval victories to end the regular season. He entered the playoffs as a top four seed, and his momentum continued in the round of 16 and the round of 12.

But a rough start to the round of 8 has left him entering Sunday’s race 43 points below Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney for the final Championship 4 spot above the cut line.

A driver can theoretically close a 43-point gap in a single race without winning. But Buescher would also need to make up 26-point gaps to Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin as well as a 36-point gap to 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick.

He cannot make up a 63-point gap to Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, so all of that needs to happen in order for him to advance without winning the Xfinity 500.

So yes, for all intents and purposes, he is in a must-win situation.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is giving fans a $200 bonus just for betting $5, lists the top seven contenders between +150 to +1400 to win the championship. But Buescher is listed all the way down at +6000.

But even at +6000, far longer odds than any other remaining NASCAR Cup Series championship contender, Buescher isn’t worth the gamble.

In 16 career starts at Martinsville, his best finish is ninth place. In seven starts at the track with RFK Racing, he has just one finish higher than 12th, and he finished 14th back in April. Worse yet, he has led as many (or perhaps fewer) laps there as you have.

In each of the first nine seasons of the Championship 4 format, the champion has won the season finale. If we assume that Buescher would have +300 (25% chance) odds to win the title as a Championship 4 driver, that would mean his odds to win this coming Sunday’s race are roughly +1400.

There is simply no way anybody should be betting on Buescher at +1400 to win at Martinsville, which is one of his worst tracks. It’s a lack of value and simply isn’t worth it.

And even if his Martinsville odds end up being longer than +1400 (update: he is listed at +2500), that renders his +6000 longshot odds to win the title even less worthwhile.

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Tune in to NBC at 2:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, October 29 for the live broadcast of the Xfinity 500 from Martinsville Speedway. If you have yet to begin a free trial of FuboTV, do so now!