All-Star Dark Horses

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In 2016, Trevor Bayne finished sixth in the All-Star race. In 2018, Daniel Suarez was second behind Kevin Harvick and in 2019, Bubba Wallace finished fifth behind – among others – Kyle Larson, who won that edition after he and Wallace advanced from the Open.

This is an event that anyone can win.

As such, bettors want to treat it like they would an aero-restricted superspeedway event. Favorites are favored for a reason. With a near-perfect top-five record on 1.5-mile tracks and back-to-back wins in the last two events, it is easy to see why Larson has such unattractively low odds of +340 at PointsBet Sportsbook.

But the top-ranked drivers don’t always win. Chase Elliott was an even heavier favorite last week at Sonoma Raceway before he fell one position short of Larson. A small win is better than none at all, but when Larson cashed in last week at +800 he went a long way to replenishing the kitty.

If you wager on Larson this week, you may wish to hedge your bets with some drivers with longer odds.

In this week’s NBC Edge discussion with Parker Kligerman, the analyst touted Austin Dillon with +3000 odds as one of the drivers to watch in the All-Star race. One big reason for that is because Dillon qualified for this exhibition race with a win in last year’s O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He has not earned a top-five on the 1.5-milers since – but that is why he’s a longshot.

Dillon is a dark horse worth riding, however, because his last three efforts on this track type ended in top 10 and he hasn’t been worse than 12th in a full field of more than 35 drives in his last seven attempts.

Kurt Busch (+4000) makes his presence known as a potential dark horse with great regularity. The reason for that is he’s won at least one points’ paying race in each of the last seven years. In 21 previous seasons since joining the Cup circuit, he’s failed to win only four times. One simply never knows when he is going to make his presence known. This is not a points’ race and it won’t keep his streak alive, but with 40/1 odds, he would cover a year’s worth of bets.


Harvick was one of our longshots for a top-five this week. His teammate Cole Custer (+9000) is on the radar as well. Like Dillon, his ticket to the All-Star race was punched on a 1.5-mile track. He was on a roll at the time after scoring a fifth in the Brickyard 400 one week previous. He hasn’t cracked the top five since, but a rising tide lifts all the boats in a harbor and Stewart-Haas Racing is slowly improving. If the race comes down to an aggressive restart, put your money on Custer.

There is not quite as much money to be made on the Team Penske drivers as the troika already profiled, but they are each greater than 10/1 and in equipment that is more than capable of propelling them to the lead.

Ryan Blaney (+1300) already has a 1.5-mile track win under his belt in 2021. And he stole the trophy from the current "cookie-cutter" king Larson at Atlanta Motor Speedway to punch get his invitation to the playoffs. He’s been erratic on this track type, but when he has the right setup he’s hard to beat. Blaney finished fourth at Texas last fall and was seventh in the spring.

Teammate Joey Logano (+1300) also swept the top 10 at Texas last year, which suggests he has a good baseline set of notes from which to work. Better still, if one looks back five years, he has finished worse than seventh on this track twice in 10 races; one of those was a 10th-place finish. Logano won the 2016 All-Star race over teammate Brad Keselowski on another 1.5-mile track.

Keselowski (+1600) also provides a great opportunity. He has the same equipment and skill as Blaney or Logano, but with an extra $3 on his payout, he hedges the favored bets to a greater degree. Kez has one win and three more top-three finishes on the 1.5-milers in the last two years.

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