If you wanted some drama with the 2021 NASCAR Championship Weekend, former Virginia resident Denny Hamlin sure has delivered.
On Sunday (3 p.m, NBC), this year’s Cup Series champion will be crowned.
The NASCAR Cup Series Championship, aka the Season Finale 500, takes place at Phoenix Raceway in Arizona. With 312 laps around the mile-long track, the 500-kilometer race will ultimately determine this year’s No. 1 driver.
The finalists include Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. The top finisher in the race among that group of four will be this year’s Cup Series champ.
But thanks to Hamlin, all eyes will be on another driver: “Hack.”
Hack and Hamlin at NASCAR Championship Weekend
Last weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia proved to be a heated affair. Of course, with short tracks come short tempers, and those tempers flared big time at the race’s conclusion.
During the Xfinity 500 on Oct. 31 at Martinsville, Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman spun leader Hamlin with six laps remaining. Bowman, who was previously eliminated from the playoffs in the second round, ultimately won Sunday’s race. It was his fourth of the year and the first of his career at Martinsville.
But veteran Hamlin, who qualified for this season’s final four even with last weekend’s spin, didn’t appreciate Bowman’s aggressive driving.
Thus, the “Hack” meme was born:
Look, as someone who attended the Xfinity Series race the day before, I can understand how the close confines of Martinsville could cause some flared tempers. And even with 46 career Cup wins over 17 years, as Hamlin has, every trophy still means something.
But Hamlin, who lived in Chesterfield, Virginia, for much of his childhood, actually getting booed here? Turning heel in front of a hometown crowd?
Oof. Not a great look for the 2021 championship hopeful.
Season Finale 500 betting odds and picks
Here are the odds to win the race, with the four finalists also having the shortest odds:
- Kyle Larson: +190
- Chase Elliott: +350
- Denny Hamlin: +400
- Martin Treux Jr.: +450
- William Byron: +1400
- Kyle Busch: +1600
- Joey Logano: +2200
- Brad Kewelowski: +2500
- Ryan Blaney: +2500
- Alex Bowman: +2500
And here are the odds for the final four to win the 2021 season championship, with Larson as the favorite:
- Kyle Larson: +170
- Chase Elliott: +270
- Denny Hamlin: +300
- Martin Treux Jr.: +380
As for Bowman, he capitalized on the moment and began selling “Hack” T-shirts. A portion of sales will benefit animal shelters:
Feeling a little Hacky this weekend? Caesars Virginia is offering an Odds Boost to +3300 (max bet is +100) for Bowman to win Sunday’s race. With those odds, a winning $100 bet would net you $3,300 in profit.
Final four for Xfinity Series
The Xfinity Series will also crown a champion as part of 2021 NASCAR Championship Weekend.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship, aka the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200, takes place Saturday (8:30 p.m., NBCSN) in Phoenix.
The finalists and their odds to win the Xfinity Series season championship include:
- Austin Cindric: +225
- AJ Allmendinger: +275
- Noah Gragson: +275
- Daniel Hemric: +330
However, Caesars has an Odds Boost available for Gragson at +500 ($100 max bet).
The shortest odds to win just the race, not the full season championship, on Sunday include the four finalists, plus John Hunter Nemechek:
- Austin Cindric: +350
- John Hunter Nemechek: +380
- Noah Gragson: +450
- AJ Allmendinger: +450
- Daniel Hemric: +550
As for Virginia native Brandon Brown, this is his last race of a breakthrough 2021 campaign. He set career highs in wins (one), top 5s (three), top 10s (nine) and accidental national politically polarizing memes (one big one). Brown is +30000 (300-1) at Caesars to win Sunday’s season-ending race.
Brown had fought and clawed his way into the top 10 before the leaders crashed and took out Brown late in last week’s race. Here’s hoping the 28-year-old can end a commendable 2021 campaign on a high note with Saturday’s race.
Truck Series to crown champ on Friday
The Truck Series will also determine a 2021 champ as part of NASCAR Championship Weekend.
The Lucas Oil 150 takes place Friday at 8 p.m., and it airs on FS1.
The odds to win the race, courtesy of DraftKings, include:
- John Hunter Nemechek: +250*
- Sheldon Creed: +500
- Zane Smith: +650*
- Ben Rhodes: +700*
- Matt Crafton: +800*
* – Final-four driver