Kyle Larson suffered another setback at the 2022 All-Stars race with another DNF. This is on top of the four DNFs he has already recorded in the NASCAR Cup Series this season.
A hard hit ends @KyleLarsonRacin‘s #AllStarRace. pic.twitter.com/dLYuEygeM7
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 23, 2022
So what – if anything – is going wrong for the defending champion? And is there any value in the Hendrick Motorsports driver still being the betting favorite to win the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series?
There are several issues at work when deciding whether to back Larson or not. Is the car or tires up to scratch? Is there a stand-out rival ready to take his crown? And the question has to be asked, is Larson underperforming?
And that’s where I’m going to start because if you take a look at Larson’s performance last season, he had only won one race at this stage – the same as he has this season.
So is Larson even having a bad season? Or is it simply a perception? One explanation for this perception, if it is one, is because of how strongly Larson finished the 2021 season!
From this point of the season onwards, Larson was just driving on another planet. So it was always going to be hard for both the team and the driver to maintain that level.
NASCAR Cup Series Winner Betting Odds
The top sportsbooks don’t seem to know whether to stick or twist when it comes to the defending champion.
In the betting to win the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series, Larson’s odds have pretty much been the same all season. He was at +500 at the start of the season, and that’s where he still is, depending on which sportsbook you are using.
The big movers in the markets are the drivers around Larson. William Byron is one. Byron started the season off at +1200 and is now into +700, the third favorite with BetOnline.
Martin Truex Jr is a driver whose odds are heading in the opposite direction. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver started the season at +800 and has now seen his odds drop significantly down to +1200 with the best NASCAR betting sites.
Truex Jr is yet to win this season and only has two Top 5 finishes to his name this season. He sits 6th in the driver’s standings on 400 points, 75 behind leader Chase Elliott. He has a driver Rank of 9, which is only one behind Larson, who is on a Rank of 8.
Truex Jr does have three stage wins to his name, which is joint second in the standings. Larson has just one.
Wide Open Season Helping Larson
The openness of the season could be what is also keeping Kyle Larson at the top of the betting. There have been 11 different winners this season, with no driver excelling and standing out.
But is it the case that no driver has excelled this season?
Think of it like this; if you were to ask a bunch of NASCAR fans who have been the top driver this season, I’m guessing you would have answers like Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Ross Chastain.
Of these three names, I believe Chase Elliott to be the interesting one. And judging by the betting odds, I’m not the only one.
Elliott is the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, and he drives what is widely regarded as the top car on the circuit; the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports.
At this moment in time, it’s Chase Elliott who looks like the value NASCAR betting pick to be this year’s Cup Series champion.
The Next Few Weeks are Crucial For Larson
So is Larson performing at the level expected, or is he underachieving? His Hendrick Motorsports team certainly isn’t going to comment publicly.
Even as things stand, Larson is still well in mix to land back to back titles, and is still the betting favorite with the best online sportsbooks.
But we are about to enter the crucial stage of the season.
Why? Well, because it was at this stage last season that Kyle Larson caught fire.
He won the 2021 Coca-Cola 600, the Toyota/Save Mart 350, and the All-Stars race across three weeks at the end of May and into the first two weeks of June.
This season the All-Stars race has been and gone. Although there are no points awarded, it is a reasonable marker to use. This year Larson was nowhere to be seen in the race.
There’s been a slight switch in the calendar this year, meaning the All-Stars race came ahead of the Charlotte and Sonoma events. Also sandwiched between them this year is the Illinois 300.
So with those three races coming up over the next two weeks, we really will have a good idea how Larson’s season is going. If he excels across the next three weeks, then his odds will disintegrate.
But on the flip side, if Larson continues on the same trajectory, along with a couple of good results for Chase Elliott, we could see a switch of favorites in the betting.
All eyes will be on Charlotte this weekend.