Plus, 2019 season predictions
Betting NASCAR offers opportunities that don’t exist in most other sports. Whether it’s the types of wagers, allure of lucrative payouts or gut-wrenching late-race cautions, there’s no more exhilarating sweat in sports betting than putting a few bucks into play every race weekend through the marathon that is the Monster Energy Cup Series.
For those new to the world of betting NASCAR, here’s a brief synopsis of the most common type of bets available on each race.
This market is straightforward and the most common for casual fans to invest in when watching the race; just pick the winner. Whether you’re backing Kyle Busch at Richmond, Kevin Harvick at Phoenix or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Talladega, the approach here is investing in whichever driver you believe will take the checkered flag. Of course, prices are adjusted based on track, current form and driver history leading up to the race, but they’ll move after key data points emerge in practice and qualifying.
The good (or bad) part is that the price you secure is the price you’re guaranteed — unlike wagering on the ponies. There’s no greater feeling than grabbing Joey Logano at 12-1 before his car touches the track at Homestead and then watching other latecomers grab 5-1 an hour before post. Also keep in mind: There’s no rule that says you have to bet just one driver per race; use the various prices to your advantage and construct a portfolio that gives you an excellent chance to profit each weekend with a balanced combination of favorites, values and long shots.
This type of wager is more in line with handicapping a football or basketball game. Two drivers are paired head-to-head, and the one with the better race finish is deemed the winner. Prices for these are opened early in the week but get adjusted throughout practice and qualifying efforts. Here’s an example of a matchup bet: Kyle Busch -125 vs Kevin Harvick +105.
In this situation, a bettor backing Busch needs to risk $1.25 to win $1, while a bet on Harvick as the underdog means risking $1 to win $1.05 coming back. Let’s just say the “lucky dog” and “wave around” have cost many a matchup bettor in the most excruciating of fashions.
This is the largest bucket and a growing opportunity for not only bettors but also bookmakers to drive more handle. These bets include (but are not limited to) over-under driver finishing position, number of cautions, winning car number (odd or even), manufacturer, drivers finishing on lead lap, etc. The list is endless and arguably the most exciting way for someone new to the game to have some fun on race day.
Betting the 2019 Season
Now that you have a basic understanding of how you can bet the races, it’s time to do your homework and begin properly handicapping all the changes coming to a track near you in 2019. Bettors will have yet another wrench thrown into their best-laid plans; questions abound regarding how the new rules package will impact on-track performance and, more important, which teams can thrive early. In an October test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Erik Jones was quoted as saying, “It felt a little bit faster than the All-Star package earlier in the year.” During single-car runs, drivers were wide open, but Jones went on to say that within packs, it was unlikely they would be wide open all the time. This is good news if it comes to fruition, because uncertainty can create profitability for bettors doing their proper homework.
Any casual fan who watched the Xfinity Series’ experimental rules combinations quickly realized that the racing at each track featured subtle differences. While it seemed to work well at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono was a bust. If there is braking even at the reduced speeds, it will allow stronger cars to farther separate themselves from the packs. Unfortunately, Pocono is a one-of-a-kind track. This in and of itself makes handicapping these races much more difficult, because practices won’t accurately simulate how cars react when running together. Every veteran NASCAR handicapper understands that track history and current form are only part of the handicapping equation; practice, especially happy hour, gives you a proper glimpse of what to expect on race day.
The best information we have at our disposal is what transpired during All-Star weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway; Kevin Harvick won the exhibition, but the race had some NASCAR fans extremely happy about the style of racing and others cursing it. The growing concern among drivers is that running wide open at all times eliminates driver skill from the handicapping equation, placing even more of a premium on equipment. With TV ratings plummeting, NASCAR needed to do something, and time will tell if going in this direction is the right move. However, from a betting perspective, this might be the year to grab a few long-shot prices on racers not named Harvick, Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr.
Another change in 2019 will be Ford’s move to the Mustang. The blue oval dominated week in and week out in 2018, but will Ford stumble out of the gate (similar to Chevy’s struggles in 2018) while it tries to understand not only a new rules package but also a brand new body? There may be some value on Toyota and Chevy to win your manufacturer season-long prop bets if Ford does struggle, especially early on or even in the inefficient head-to-head market.
It’s been a long time coming…
Every weekend that NASCAR has gone to a short track the last few seasons, the narrative has been the same: How has Martin Truex Jr. failed to win a race at these distances? He was very close to winning several in 2018 but came closest to that elusive checkered flag this past fall at Martinsville. You may have seen the clip 100 times by now, so we’ll spare you the details. Chalk him up for a win in March at Martinsville, right? Very possible, but he’s had five consecutive races with a driver rating over 100 at another short track. Richmond is the location we have pegged to see you at the window with an outright ticket on the 19.
New format, new playoff pressure…
Only a few drivers project to make the playoffs on points. Given this new change, playoff points for winning stages and races become that much more valuable. In the past two seasons, there have been one or two drivers accumulating a lion’s share of stage points. This season could see more drivers gaining playoff points throughout the season compared to prior years.
Keep tabs on long shots every week; we don’t believe the same 1.5-mile dominance we saw from Truex, Busch and Harvick in 2018 will lead to deja vu in 2019.
Biggest turnaround in 2019 will be…
Will Jimmie Johnson (33-1 to win the Cup) be relevant again? Can Denny Hamlin (22-1 to win the Cup) find Victory Lane again? Seeing Joey Logano win a championship after a poor season in 2017 offers hope. However, the biggest disappointment of 2018 had to be Kyle Larson, who had four wins in 2017 and was a preseason pick by many to make the Championship 4. Chevrolet struggled for most of 2018, but Larson and Chase Elliott were competitive in several races. Elliott was ultimately able to take advantage of others’ miscues to secure three wins. However, Larson had the car to beat multiple times but for a variety of reasons was unable to celebrate in Victory Lane. Look for Larson (7-1 to win the Cup) to get a few wins and make a run in the playoffs. Should he finally punch his ticket to Homestead while in contention for the title, he would find himself as the pre-week favorite at BetOnline.ag.
Are Jimmie Johnson’s Championship Days Behind Him?
Johnson had a brutal year, and every single week bookmakers paid him no respect. The prices available on Johnson to win races last season started to get out of hand (he was 200-1 to win at Homestead at one point after qualifying). He found himself listed against Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon in driver matchups, frequently as an underdog, which is hard to imagine for someone who won the championship in 2016 and has seven titles to his name. Johnson has a new crew chief and title sponsor for 2019. He regularly lacked speed at 1.5-mile tracks last year, but the rules package can only help the 48 in the twilight of his career. While we don’t think he would crack our top 10 contenders list right now, we’ll be watching closely to see if the new-look Johnson can return to his winning ways.
2019 Cup Championship Picks
Kyle Busch (5-1)
Busch is arguably the most talented driver in NASCAR; he will figure out how to compete and win races with the new rules package. Also, keep in mind that short tracks and road courses are not impacted by the changes, meaning more of the same dominance for the No. 18. Kyle had three wins and one runner-up finish at short tracks in 2018. Busch is also generally among the favorites to win at the multiple road course venues. Two of his best performances in 2018 came in races he didn’t win: a 20th-place finish at the Bristol night race driving a torn-up car from multiple laps down, and his comeback from a late-race fueling mishap at Watkins Glen. While the big storyline that Sunday at the Glen was ultimately Chase Elliott’s first win, watching Kyle storm through the field during that last green flag run was incredible. Look for Busch to repeat as regular-season champion and to have a strong playoff run again.
Brad Keselowski (12-1)
The No. 2 team didn’t have the year it would’ve liked. Three straight wins, including a victory in the first round of the playoffs in Las Vegas, provided the highlights in an otherwise forgettable year. Keselowski did have some weeks in which he was a serious threat to win, but his three victories were with 10th-place cars that had timely cautions and good strategy fall their way. Keselowski has an elite racing IQ and has shown a real understanding of how to drive at places such as Talladega and Daytona, where Penske always brings strong cars. The 2019 rules package could allow Paul Wolfe and Keselowski to excel before most of the field catches up. Wolfe is not afraid to play the strategy game, putting Brad in position to steal a few races, especially if the pack racing causes more cautions and rewards those staying out when others pit. It would not surprise us if Brad led the win column in 2019. With his take-off on restarts, he’s a tough match for the rest of the field. With cars closer together late in races, it’s a real possibility Keselowski is in more races late than not throughout the season.
Erik Jones (20-1)
If you’re looking for a long shot to win the Cup, Jones could be that guy. “That Jones Boy” made great improvements from his rookie season to his second. His inaugural campaign saw too many mistakes that experienced drivers don’t make. Jones may be the youngest and rawest driver in the Joe Gibbs stable, but he’s an incredible talent. His lone win in 2018 came at a restrictor-plate race, but he had race-winning speed several times last season. If Jones can survive the round of 16, which features the Roval again, he’s capable of making it to Homestead.
2019 Daytona 500 Winner
Kyle Larson (25-1)
Larson should have attractive odds in the spring — and he’s been in a position late to win the Great American Race before. If you’ve ever bet on Larson, you know how gut-wrenching his near misses have been. Maybe he bucks the trend and wins 12 races this season.
Check out the Bet the Board podcast featuring Todd Fuhrman and Payne Insider for the best insight on sports gambling. Visit BetTheBoardPodcast.com or visit Apple Podcasts to listen.