According to BetMGM, the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD enters the weekend with 6-1 odds to win his fourth career race at Texas Motor Speedway. He sits just ahead of Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson (7-1) and Chase Elliott (8-1). Hamlin’s teammate Christopher Bell also has favorable odds at 8-1.
Hamlin has won at Texas during multiple generations of the Cup Series. He swept the 2010 season in the Car of Tomorrow and then he added his third win in 2019 while driving the Gen 6 Toyota. Hamlin also finished second overall in the 2022 All-Star Race while driving the Gen 7 Toyota.
Larson, for comparison, only has one win at Texas Motor Speedway in the Cup Series. He won the 2021 playoff race that kicked off the Round of Eight. He automatically clinched his spot in the championship four.
Hamlin Enters in Need of Points
The driver of the No. 11 secured his spot in the Round of 12 with two runner-ups and a ninth-place finish in the first three races of the playoffs. However, he has no room for error heading toward Texas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin has 3,013 points entering the Round of 12. This puts him a mere four points above the cutline and Chase Briscoe. Hamlin is also in a tie with Bell and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (10-1 odds).
As the Round of 16 showed, drivers with several bonus points needed them to survive the battles of attrition. Elliott entered the playoffs as the regular-season champion, but he had to fight to move on after a DNF at Darlington Raceway. Similarly, Blaney used up all of his bonus points while sitting behind the wall at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Texas Motor Speedway will be Hamlin’s best opportunity to secure his spot in the Round of Eight considering the inevitable wrecks at Talladega Superspeedway and the Toyota woes at road courses. For comparison, he has three previous wins at Texas, and all of the Toyota drivers have shown speed at the intermediate tracks.
A Unique Streak Could Continue
While Hamlin and Larson top the list of drivers with the best odds, they will not be the only names worth watching. There are several playoff drivers with strong performances at Texas Motor Speedway, and there is also a history of non-playoff drivers turning in some upsets.
According to NASCAR’s statistical advance, non-playoff drivers have won at Texas Motor Speedway in the playoffs three times. Tony Stewart won in 2006 while he was ranked 11th in points. Jimmie Johnson then won in 2014 after getting eliminated in the Round of 12. Johnson then won at Texas once again in 2015 after his elimination in the Round of 16.
The 2022 playoffs have not featured a championship-eligible driver reaching Victory Lane. Erik Jones stunned the field at Darlington Raceway before Bubba Wallace led a career-high 58 laps at Kansas Speedway. Chris Buescher then won his second career race at Bristol Motor Speedway to close out the Round of 16.
There is a scenario where a non-playoff driver wins at Texas Motor Speedway, especially with names like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon all having previous trips to Victory Lane at the track. Another driver could also put on a show and set a record by becoming the 20th Cup Series driver to win in the first 30 races.