Chase Elliott needs a win, and he’s the Watkins Glen favorite

Chase Elliott has two chances remaining to make the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

After finishing second to Michael McDowell at Indianapolis, Elliott enters Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen (3 p.m. ET, USA) 80 points behind Bubba Wallace for the final spot in the 16-driver playoff field.

With a maximum of 55 points available to a second-place finisher, the odds of Elliott jumping past Wallace (and Daniel Suarez and Ty Gibbs between them) in the points standings are incredibly slim. He needs a win. And it has to happen at either the Glen or Daytona on Aug. 26.

Elliott is in this predicament because of a broken leg he suffered in March and a one-race suspension he received for wrecking Denny Hamlin at Charlotte. Elliott has missed seven of 24 races so far. He’s scoring enough points per race to easily make the playoffs. He just hasn’t competed in enough races.

Chase Elliott looks on before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Chase Elliott is 19th in the points standings with two races to go in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The good news for Elliott is that he enters Sunday’s race as the favorite to win at +350. Elliott is the best active driver at Watkins Glen, with two wins and four top-fives in six starts. No driver has a better average finish at the track than Elliott’s 5.7.

Elliott has been very good at road courses in 2023; he finished fifth at Sonoma and third at Chicago before his second at Indy. And he scored four top-five finishes in six road-course races in 2022.

But he also hasn’t been as good on road courses with the current Cup Series car as he was with the previous iteration. Seven of Elliott’s 18 wins have come on road courses, and all of them came with the previous car model.

If he gets an eighth road-course win Sunday, he’s in the playoffs, and Wallace will find himself on the outside looking in heading into Daytona. And if Elliott doesn’t win, he’ll be left facing a likely win-and-in scenario at Daytona.

Here’s what you need to know to bet Sunday’s race via BetMGM.

The favorites

  • Chase Elliott (+300)

  • Kyle Larson (+550)

  • Martin Truex Jr. (+700)

  • Tyler Reddick (+900)

  • Daniel Suarez (+1100)

  • Christopher Bell (+1300)

Larson has won the past two races at Watkins Glen, while Truex has one win and 10 top-10 finishes in 16 starts. Only Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have made more starts at Watkins Glen among active drivers. Bell and Reddick have finished in the top 10 in both of their starts at the Glen, while Suarez has three top-five finishes in five starts.

Good mid-tier value

  • Chris Buescher (+2200)

  • Austin Cindric (+2500)

Buescher has just one top-10 finish at Watkins Glen, but that came a year ago. He’s been really good on road courses with the current Cup Series car. Cindric was 13th a year ago and has a pair of sixth-place runs on road courses this year.

Don’t bet this driver

McDowell’s odds are a bit too short for our liking after his win at Indianapolis. It won’t be a surprise at all if he’s a contender at the Glen, but the chances of him going back-to-back seem lower than these odds reflect.

Looking for a long shot?

Jones’ odds are astronomical, but he has two top-fives and four top-10 finishes in five starts at Watkins Glen. He was 10th a season ago.