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NASCAR Betting: A Gambling Guide for the 2021 Season

NASCAR Betting: A Gambling Guide for the 2021 Season

NASCAR Betting: A Gambling Guide for the 2021 Season

NASCAR is a unique sport when it comes to sports betting in that it has a very brief offseason. The schedule spans from February to November with races happening nearly every single week, which provides bettors with endless opportunities to cash in on the marathon. The COVID-19 pandemic created much uncertainty surrounding the sports calendar, but the Cup Series showed that it could forge ahead, completing a full schedule in 2020. Even when the sport took a brief hiatus, NASCAR launched an engaging iRacing virtual series that sportsbooks offered odds on to keep the auto racing betting dollars in action. But there's no replacement for on-track activities, with 2021 expected to be as competitive as ever.

How to Bet on NASCAR

There are a variety of ways to wager on NASCAR. Let's start with the simplest one: week-to-week race winner bets. This is one of the most popular ways to bet on the sport. All a bettor has to do is predict who is going to win the race in order to cash a ticket (we say that tongue in cheek). In almost every case, a bettor is looking at a plus-money payout if the ticket cashes due to the ample amount of cars in the field. The favorites often range anywhere from +200 on more predictable tracks (especially in the Xfinity Series) and can go as high as +800 on pack-racing tracks such as Daytona and Talladega. 

The great part about NASCAR is that even though the favorites normally fare well, anyone can win, especially with the sport continuing to make adjustments that level the playing field. In 2020, we saw rookie Cole Custer win at Kentucky as a +25000 long shot. If a bettor had a $100 ticket on Custer, he or she could take home $25,000 on one race. Not a bad day at the office.

While the rewards may be fruitful for race winner bets, there's a reason the odds are always plus money. If you're a bettor who doesn't like to throw darts nearly as often, we suggest head-to-head driver matchups. These pit drivers against each other, with the one who finishes ahead of the other declared the winner. Odds typically fall anywhere from -180 to +150 depending on the matchup. Some books also offer expanded versions of these bets in the form of groups, where the odds are a little bit more juiced, but you have to choose between four drivers instead of two. 

In 2020 we saw books really take on live betting in NASCAR as well, and there was tremendous value to be had. At points, we saw live instances where you could bet on which driver would win various stages throughout a NASCAR race as well as identify live race winner odds. Typically, the best time to strike on these sorts of bets is when a driver with a fast car is riding lower in the field for whatever reason. NASCAR is aware of this growth market, and we fully expect it to become more prevalent in regulated jurisdictions this coming season than ever before.

Similar to other sports, NASCAR also allows you to bet on who you believe will win the championship. The usual suspects like Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who always find their way into the dance, are popular bets at values +500 and higher early on in the season. However, like most futures, you'd have to wait to make your money. Those who saw the rise of Chase Elliott could have secured prices upwards of 12-1 even during the playoffs.

While we're focusing on straight betting on NASCAR, we'd be remiss not to mention that the sport is a big weekly daily fantasy venture as well. Like most sports, NASCAR has weekly contests in which you put together a lineup of five or six drivers depending on the site being used. Points are accumulated based on where a driver finishes versus where they start, how many laps they lead, and how fast they run. Pro tip: NASCAR often penalizes drivers and sends them to the rear before the race begins; however, the drivers are still scored from their starting positions. Oftentimes, DFS players do not adjust their lineups, so double-checking inspection reports prior to a race could help give you an advantage over recreational players.

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Betting the 2021 Season

You will typically know which drivers are the cars to beat by the third or fourth race of the season. However, there are still three or four races to bet on before you get to that point. We'll get to the Daytona 500 in a little bit, but as it concerns races like the Daytona road course and Homestead to finish out February, you can't go wrong with a veteran like Martin Truex Jr. He is likely to provide value in that he didn't win as many races as Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin or Chase Elliott in 2020, but he has a proven track record at the second and third stops on the schedule.

Looking at the bigger picture in the championship hunt, the best value right now is clearly on Kyle Larson at +1200. We have seen his odds shift around a bit since Larson opened at +2500, but +1200 is likely the best you're going to get on him at this point in the offseason. Larson was a dark horse for many Championship 4 brackets last season before an off-track issue derailed his season with Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson has since returned to NASCAR and will drive for Hendrick Motorsports. Expect him to win races and compete in the playoffs with superior equipment to what he's ever had previously.

Last season wasn't a great one for 2019 champion Kyle Busch, but don't expect a repeat in 2021. This is seriously one of the best drivers in the sport's history with plenty left in the tank as he takes on a new crew chief in 2021. +900 is great value on Busch, who started to get things together at the end of the 2020 season.

Ryan Blaney at +1000 is another value option. Blaney showed speed throughout the year, but a costly pre-race penalty early in the 2020 playoffs cost him a shot at advancing and truly competing for a title. He is a breakthrough candidate in 2021 like Elliott was last year.

Looking further down the board, another value option can be found in Alex Bowman, who showed flashes of brilliance with an unlikely playoff run last year. Bowman is +2000 to win the title as he moves over to Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car this season. His teammate William Byron could also be a solid target for bettors in the No. 24 car, as that team looks to take the next step.

Complete Odds to Win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series

 

Kevin Harvick

+550

Brad Keselowski

+550

Denny Hamlin

+550

Chase Elliott

+550

Joey Logano

+650

Martin Truex Jr.

+650

Kyle Busch

+900

Ryan Blaney

+1000

Kyle Larson

+1200

Alex Bowman

+2000

Kurt Busch

+2800

Aric Almirola

+4000

William Byron

+4000

Matt DiBenedetto

+5000

Tyler Reddick

+7500

Christopher Bell

+7500

Cole Custer

+7500

Austin Dillon

+7500

Ross Chastain

+10000

Bubba Wallace

+10000

Chase Briscoe

+10000

Erik Jones

+15000

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

+30000

Chris Buescher

+50000

Daniel Suarez

+200000

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Note: NOTE: Odds are from Athlon Sports' 2021 Racing magazine. Drivers in bold have won a championship in the past.

Previewing the Daytona 500

This is one of the few races on the schedule where truly anyone can win. That said, Denny Hamlin is the "most reliable" bet, which is why he's the favorite at +800. Hamlin is one of only six drivers in NASCAR history who have won the race three or more times, and he is the only active driver to have won the Great American Race multiple times. He is a truly gifted pack racer and is really the only driver who can offer any shred of comfort in betting come February.

Now that we've gotten the favorite out of the way, we're looking at sincere Daytona 500 value picks here. You won't find any +25000 picks like Custer at Kentucky last season, but there are plenty of drivers in the +2000 to +5000 range worth taking a look at.

Let's start with the driver who has the second-to-worst odds in Erik Jones at +5000. Jones won at Daytona during his time at Joe Gibbs Racing and did so by holding off Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap. He knows how to win a plate race, which is half the battle. In 2021, Jones will be downgrading racing teams as he moves from the No. 20 at JGR to drive the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports, but let's not forget that Bubba Wallace drove that same car to a second-place finish a few years back in the Great American Race. There's definite value on Jones.

There's also some value on Wallace at +2500 as he moves on to drive for Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin at 23XI Racing. We're not sure exactly what to expect from the No. 23 team in 2021, but what we do know is that Wallace is a strong pack racer, and he's driving for Hamlin, whose Daytona credentials can't be ignored. While the number could be slightly more favorable, Wallace is definitely a threat to win his first career race at Daytona.

Finally, don't sleep on Matt DiBenedetto at +3000; he's a good plate racer with everything to lose in 2021. DiBenedetto already knows he won't be back with Wood Brothers Racing in 2022, as that ride is expected to go to Austin Cindric, so the pressure is on for him to get a win early.

Complete Odds to Win the Daytona 500 via FOXBET

 

Denny Hamlin

+800

Chase Elliott

+1000

Brad Keselowski

+1000

Joey Logano

+1000

Ryan Blaney

+1000

Kevin Harvick

+1200

Kyle Busch

+1500

Aric Almirola

+1800

Kyle Larson

+1800

Alex Bowman

+1800

William Byron

+1800

Kurt Busch

+1800

Martin Truex Jr.

+1800

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

+2000

Bubba Wallace

+2500

Austin Dillon

+2500

Matt DiBenedetto

+3000

Ross Chastain

+3000

Cole Custer

+4000

Tyler Reddick

+4000

Christopher Bell 

+4000

Chase Briscoe

+4000

Chris Buescher 

+5000

Erik Jones

+5000

Daniel Suarez

+12500

NOTE: Odds are from Athlon Sports' 2021 Racing magazine. Drivers in bold are past Daytona 500 champions.

Other Factors to Watch in 2021

Schedule, schedule, schedule. The 2021 schedule is going to feature seven road courses. That can only bode well for reigning champion Chase Elliott. Expect him to be a heavy favorite in most if not all of them, but be prepared to lay the cheddar on the No. 9 car to win. Elliott is hands down the most talented road racer in the field right now, and this schedule is designed for him to win. Martin Truex Jr. would be a popular non-Elliott play on road courses.

Chase Briscoe is also going to be a great value play on road courses, especially when the series goes to Indianapolis to race on the road course at the Brickyard, which is his home track. While we can't forecast exactly what kind of value Briscoe will offer, expect him to be a threat at road courses. Austin Cindric is also expected to do one-offs in the Cup Series on road courses and could provide deeper value in races that actually require right turns.

Another addition to the schedule will be a dirt race at Bristol. When we get here, remember these names: Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell. Both of them are accomplished dirt racers, especially Larson. Larson ought to be the favorite in those races, and we don't recommend betting against him. Larson raced on dirt throughout 2020 and showed just how dominant he was during his sabbatical from the Cup Series. As for Bell, with his move to the No. 20, he'll likely be more competitive on a weekly basis and could provide some value deeper down boards early in the season.

We also mentioned Bubba Wallace going to 23XI Racing. It remains to be seen how this team will perform, but we'd suggest laying off of the No. 23 after Daytona. It takes a lot to put a successful alliance team on the track, and there are going to be growing pains. We're not saying they won't win in Year One, but if they do, it's more likely to come later in the season.

Continue to bet the usual suspects — Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Blaney — until they show you otherwise. These are the drivers we'd consider the favorites, and we expect Kyle Larson to join that group rather quickly.

Definitely explore all sides of NASCAR betting and see what makes the most sense for you. Remember, the payouts are large on race wins but harder to win with any consistency even for the most seasoned pros. Always pay attention to how drivers have performed in recent weeks as well as previous trips to the track. There's much value to be had, so go out there and get it, always remembering to gamble responsibly and stay within your lane.

— Written by Bet the Board Staff for Athlon Sports' 2021 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.

(Talladega Superspeedway photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)