Over a marathon season, the opportunities are endless
NASCAR is one of the fastest-growing markets for recreational bettors largely due to the fact that there is barely an offseason. The sport has also shown its acceptance of betting by forging various partnerships in the space with content outlets and live data deals with industry leaders. The Cup Series schedule spans 10 months — including the dog days of summer when even the casual baseball bettor looks to test his or her gambling acumen in another arena. It’s amazing to think the sport only disappears from betting boards between Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl; it’s a true marathon for those looking to get a sweat.
How to Bet on NASCAR
Wagering on NASCAR can be done in a variety of ways. On a week-to-week basis, bettors make their pick to win each individual race usually at favorable odds that provide a lofty payout if the ticket cashes (Kyle Busch racing the Xfinity Series or Trucks would not qualify here). For example, last year’s Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin is one of the favorites to win the 2020 Great American Race at +1000. If he repeats, a $100 bet would turn into $1000. Not bad for one day’s work. And in cobbling together multiple bets of favorites, value picks and longshots, you’re not obligated to bet just one driver in order to turn a profit.
Betting the race winner can definitely pad your wallet, but doing so means you’re banking on one driver to beat out 39 other drivers most weeks. That’s where group props and head-to-head matchups become attractive options as well. Group props often consist of four comparable drivers. For example, a group bet might include Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin rather than pitting the sport’s top teams against those not boasting similar equipment. The objective is to pick the highest-finishing driver in that particular group, which usually warrants plus-money as well — albeit not in the same range as an outright race winner.
If you’re looking for yet another wagering alternative, head-to-head matchups are the way to go. This is where you simply bet one driver to finish higher than another driver of similar stature. For those unfamiliar with head-to-head matchups, one of the most fascinating parts of this betting market is watching the prices change from early in the week before cars unload compared to post time, when the field is set and practice times are well documented.
Sportsbooks also take NASCAR bets in the futures variety with regard to who will win the championship. This is standard practice with other sports, as you can bet who will win the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, NCAA Tournament, College Football Playoff and other titles. Keep in mind that it’s always important to know the playoff schedule before betting into this market, especially with the final race moving from Miami to Phoenix. Every bettor always wants to gain an edge; knowing the schedule nuances can provide that welcome competitive advantage.
Building on what we mentioned earlier, the sport itself has recently taken measures to expand its gambling initiative across the country, adding live betting to multiple casinos and sportsbooks. Soon, bettors around the country will be able to bet things such as stage winners, fastest lap times, number of lead changes and number of passes throughout a race. NASCAR has labeled its current rollout as Phase 1 of a larger operation that has those of us in the gambling community extremely excited.
Betting the 2020 Season
Jimmie Johnson a 2020 Cup Sleeper
Heading into the Daytona 500, Martin Truex Jr. is the favorite at FOXBET to win the NASCAR Cup Series at +550. He’s listed ahead of 2019 champ Kyle Busch and Championship 4 driver Kevin Harvick at +650. The aforementioned Denny Hamlin has the next-best odds at +800. To name a few other drivers, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano are each at +1100, followed by Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski at +1200, before the odds dive down to +2000 for the young trio of Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Erik Jones. Keep in mind that the young guns will need to reverse a trend of old-man dominance, considering the Championship 4 this past year was the oldest average ever in the current format.
At +4000, you’ll find a handful of veteran drivers, including Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and, of course, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. In his final year driving full time, Johnson can be looked at as a strong sleeper knowing he’ll be doing everything and then some to retire at the top of the sport. He has full sponsorship backing at Hendrick Motorsports, as well as a team with all the motivation in the world to make it a reality. Johnson is looking to secure a record eighth title, while the rest of his garage is hoping to hold onto their jobs once a replacement is named to the No. 48.
|Complete Odds to Win the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+550|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||+100000|
|John Hunter Nemechek||+500000|
Note: NOTE: Odds are from Athlon Sports' 2020 Racing magazine. Drivers in bold have won a championship in the past.
Previewing the Daytona 500
We mentioned Denny Hamlin as one of the favorites for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16. Also at +900 are Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski as well as Hendrick’s Chase Elliott. Behind them, it’s reigning Cup champ Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney at +1400. Hamlin actually closed at +1400 in some shops last season when he went on to win the race.
While Daytona is known in NASCAR parlance as the Great American Race, that name can be applied to the betting opportunities it offers as well. We’ve seen drivers with longer odds finish in the top 10 and win the race during recent installments. For example, when Austin Dillon won the big race a couple of years ago, he came in at +4000. Dillon is again +4000 for this year’s race, offering similar payouts as Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick.
Of the drivers who finished in the top 10 in last year’s race, 10th-place finisher Ross Chastain has the longest odds at +25000, behind fifth-place finisher Michael McDowell at +8000. Ty Dillon (sixth place) and Ryan Preece (eighth place) both come in with long-shot odds as well, set at +7500. More than any other track during the season, Daytona offers ridiculous value for longshots, and given the legacy that a win here provides to the victor, it’s become a track known for plenty of incredible storylines.
Fair warning: Superspeedway tracks are arguably the most difficult to bet, and that’s why they’re significantly harder to handicap. Only so much research can be done on the cars and drivers before a major wreck takes a driver (or 20) out of the field in one fell swoop. The recommendation when betting the 500 is to target props, with a small sprinkle on the race winner to protect your bankroll.
|Complete Odds to Win the Daytona 500 via FOXBET|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+2500|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||+2500|
|John Hunter Nemechek||+10000|
NOTE: Odds are from Athlon Sports' 2020 Racing magazine. Drivers in bold are past Daytona 500 champions.
Other Factors to Watch in 2020
We mentioned in-race betting taking on a bigger role this upcoming season, as NASCAR continues to innovate during its gambling push. That’s not the only innovation the sport has made recently, as on-track experimenting has become synonymous with the sport’s evolution. Last season was a test year for NASCAR’s new rules package, which led to more competitive racing. The sport’s executives continue to express an interest in making the sport a level playing field, which means more opportunities for drivers with longer odds.
The usual suspects at Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske will be the typical drivers to focus on most weeks, but in Year 2 of the new package, bettors can be more inclined to place a ticket on an alliance-team driver such as Matt DiBenedetto with Wood Brothers Racing (Penske affiliate) or rookie Christopher Bell (JGR affiliate). These drivers are likely to offer odds in the +3000 to +4000 range or longer for each and every race and have the ability to take the checkered flag given their tremendous talent.
Also in 2020, NASCAR has modified its schedule in a major way. Most notably, the championship race will no longer be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Instead, it will now be in Phoenix at ISM Raceway, a track that has recently favored the likes of Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin (most recent winner) and Kyle Busch.
Another notable schedule change occurs during the summer with the trip to the Tricky Triangle of Pocono morphing into a weekend doubleheader. This means there will be two opportunities to cash in on Cup racing on June 27 and 28. Additionally, the summer race at Daytona will no longer take place near the Fourth of July, instead becoming the regular-season finale in August.
Remember — in NASCAR, like any other sport, it’s always important to walk before you run. Experiment with the various bet types that seem most intriguing to you, and have fun with the marathon schedule all season long. You never know what it takes to discover a hidden sports betting talent, and it just might be a knack for identifying value on the asphalt (or concrete) before they wave the checkered flag.
— Written by Bet the Board Staff for Athlon Sports' 2020 Racing magazine. 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.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)