NASCAR at WWTR 2022: Odds, Preview and Top StorylinesJune 4, 2022
NASCAR at WWTR 2022: Odds, Preview and Top Storylines
While there have been NASCAR events held at World Wide Technology Raceway before, the Cup Series has never raced at the track, which is located in Madison, Illinois, just east of St. Louis. The Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series have both competed there, but never the Cup cars.
However, that's about to change this weekend.
The Cup Series is set to hold its inaugural event at WWTR on Sunday, as drivers will be taking part in the Enjoy Illinois 300. They'll go 240 laps around the 1.25-mile flat oval, with one team heading to Victory Lane as the first-time winner of this race.
The Truck Series has held an event at WWTR every year since 2014, but the Xfinity Series hasn't been there since 2010. So it's been more than a decade since NASCAR has held a non-truck race at the track.
Here's everything else you need to know heading into Sunday's race.
Top Odds to Win
Kyle Larson: +850 (bet $100 to win $850)
Ross Chastain: +900
Joey Logano: +900
Ryan Blaney: +900
Tyler Reddick: +1000
Kyle Busch: +1100
William Byron: +1200
Denny Hamlin: +1200
Chase Elliott: +1200
Chase Briscoe: +1200
Martin Truex Jr.: +1400
Kurt Busch: +1800
Christopher Bell: +1800
Kevin Harvick: +2000
Austin Cindric: +2500
Alex Bowman: +2500
Team Penske Looking Fast Upon Arrival to WWTR
Because the Cup Series drivers are much less familiar with this track than many on the schedule, Friday's first practice session was longer than it is most weekends. They got 50 minutes to become more acclimated with WWTR ahead of qualifying on Saturday.
That led to a strong showing for Team Penske, as Joey Logano (lap speed of 136.753 mph), Ryan Blaney (136.260) and Austin Cindric (136.104) had the three fastest lap times of the opening practice session. If that's an early indication of how qualifying could go, then Penske may have three drivers near the front of the field at the start of Sunday's race.
Team Penske has been faring well over the past month. Logano raced to victory at Darlington on May 8, while Blaney won the All-Star Race at Texas two weeks ago. WWTR has a similar shape to Darlington, so perhaps that will mean more success for Logano on Sunday.
It was only one practice session, but it's clear that the Penske cars are running strong and these three drivers may already be comfortable with this track.
Can Larson End His Mini-Drought This Weekend?
Kyle Larson was so dominant during the 2021 season that it's been unusual to only see him get to Victory Lane once so far in 2022. And it's been a while since that happened, as Larson's lone win thus far came at Auto Club Speedway in California, which was the second race of the year.
After winning 10 races last year en route to his first career Cup Series championship (which came in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports), Larson will be looking to go on a roll this summer. Maybe that will start at WWTR, where the driver of the No. 5 car is the betting favorite to win.
Larson has never raced at this track in another series, so he'll have to learn quickly. But that shouldn't be a problem for a driver as talented as him.
While it's hard to predict who's going to win a race in a given week (especially at a track that has never previously hosted a Cup Series event), it wouldn't be surprising if Larson gets back to Victory Lane after finishing in the top 10 in five of the past six points races.
Some Drivers Have More WWTR Experience Than Others
Not every driver is as inexperienced at WWTR as Larson. There are some who have raced at the track before, whether that was in the Xfinity Series or the Camping World Truck Series. And some have even been to Victory Lane there before, too.
Kevin Harvick (2000 and 2001), Martin Truex Jr. (2004), Kyle Busch (2009) and Brad Keselowski (2010) are among the drivers in Sunday's field who have won an Xfinity Series race at WWTR. Harvick (2010), Bubba Wallace (2014), Cole Custer (2015), Christopher Bell (2016) and Ross Chastain (2019) have won a Camping World Truck Series race at the track.
For those who raced at WWTR in the Truck Series, it hasn't been too long since their last experience at the track. So maybe that will help those drivers be among the top finishers in the inaugural Cup Series event.
Chastain's No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet could be one of the top cars to watch on Sunday. He's already notched his first two Cup Series wins this season, and he's one of only three drivers (along with Denny Hamlin and William Byron) to have multiple victories in 2022.
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