Are you a bettor who likes to find big paydays? Well, what if we told you that you could do that on a weekly basis in NASCAR if you’re patient, shrewd and oftentimes lucky? Spoiler alert: You can and have been able to for years now in the Cup Series.
In 2022, NASCAR will be ushering in the Next Gen racecar. It is expected to level out the competition to a degree, meaning that more longshots will have an opportunity to cash in, especially early in the season. This makes the 2022 season very appealing to bettors of all ability levels.
How to bet on NASCAR
The most obvious and longstanding way of betting NASCAR has been to predict the race winner. Sounds easy, right? Well, if you bet on Cup Series champion Kyle Larson at all last season, you’d probably think so. There was plenty of value to be found betting on the No. 5 Chevrolet.
Will Larson have another 10-win season and be a popular bet week in and week out? That’s the beauty of NASCAR. In 2020, Kevin Harvick won a series-high nine races but then went winless in 2021. When betting race winners, pay attention to momentum from the previous race and how a driver has performed in recent years at given tracks. With the Next Gen car coming into the fold, a driver’s familiarity and success at a track in the past is going to be a major indicator for how he’ll perform, especially early in the season.
One final point worth making on race winner bets. While it is nice to cash in on a big longshot ticket, understand that they don’t happen each and every week. One of your biggest opportunities will be when the series hits tracks like Daytona and Talladega. These tracks feature all sorts of crashing that often allows drivers without much pedigree to win. You won’t typically get 250-to-1 here, but you can cash in regardless. See for example how Brandon Brown won at Talladega in October’s Xfinity Series race. He cashed in at 40-to-1 odds.
You may not like the risk, which is perfectly okay. That’s why NASCAR also offers head-to-head matchups. These are more standard, like you’d see in an NHL or MLB game. With these, you’re betting on a driver to finish in a higher position than the driver he’s matched up against. They’re much harder to negotiate on tracks like Daytona and Talladega, but with research, you can find an edge on who is going to have a better race each week and find at least one matchup worth an investment.
Some books even offer live odds now. This could range from who you think will win the race to who will win a given stage of the race. NASCAR operates in multiple stages, with playoff points being awarded to the stage winners. For bettors, this is an opportunity to place a race-winner type of bet but not be committed to the entire race. Say, for example, Denny Hamlin starts from the rear but has a rocket ship of a car. You can choose to live bet him to win Stage 1 with longer odds than even his full race price. NASCAR continues to integrate live betting into most books’ menus, and stage bets will only grow in popularity with their quick-fix nature.
NASCAR, like any other sport, has futures for the championship as well. They’re not as popular, given the value that you see every race, but it’s always important to monitor throughout the season. At one point before last year, Larson was given 25-to-1 odds to win the title. He went on to cash that ticket, although most people got him at a modest price of 12-to-1 or shorter. It’s all about timing your market entry before oddsmakers get their bearings.
Before we move on, we should mention that NASCAR has a highly immersive Daily Fantasy option on FanDuel as well. You’ll assemble a lineup of five or six drivers each week. The scoring system is based on a variety of options, such as where drivers finish vs. where they start, how many laps are led and how fast they run. If you want to get a leg up on the competition, monitor NASCAR reporters’ social media accounts prior to the race or listen to the officials’ scanners. You’ll find that drivers are sent to the rear of the field for penalties, putting them at a disadvantage. These drivers are still scored from their original position, so it can hurt you if you leave them in your lineup. Casual players don’t typically check for this, and it’s an effective way to gain a small edge.
Betting the 2022 season
With NASCAR starting the season off at Daytona, it’s difficult to say who exactly is going to be the car to beat. That has become even more difficult with the Next Gen car’s debut. NASCAR has said over and over again that this new car will level the playing field, but like all new things, go with what you know. Expect that the premier teams will still be ahead of the smaller operations.
“Anytime a new rules package is rolled out, especially one of this magnitude, it absolutely resets the field back to level ground,” says Brian Murphy, associate shop foreman at Stewart-Haas Racing. “Usually teams with the most resources, best people and honestly a lot of luck on their side are the ones that produce the best results, but with this new Next Gen platform, where all of the teams will be working with the same parts and pieces, and research and development has been drastically limited, the gap between the front and the back of the field will without a doubt shrink.”
Looking at the championship hunt, all the value is gone when it comes to Kyle Larson. You’re not getting 25-to-1 or even 12-to-1 like you got with him last year. He’s a heavy favorite for a reason. You’re probably better off betting him on a week-to-week basis if you believe last season’s dominance will carry over.
When it comes to finding value, there are still our usual suspects. Let’s start with Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney, both at 10-to-1. Busch is a two-time champion and still one of the most capable drivers out there. He races for Joe Gibbs Racing, which will undoubtedly be one of the first teams to figure out the new car. Busch is primed for a bounce-back season after racking up just three wins over the past two years. As for Blaney, Team Penske lost Brad Keselowski this offseason, making Blaney the top dog over there (sorry, Joey Logano). Expect the majority of Team Penske’s wins to come from Blaney as he begins to find his stride.
There are two drivers at +1500 who tell very different stories in Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Harvick is coming off a terrible year by his standards; however, you’ll remember that he had nine wins a season before. A driver of that caliber has no business sitting at 15-to-1 if SHR is quick to figure out the new car. Those are by far the best odds on the board. Keselowski, on the other hand, is probably a bit too short for the situation he’s entering in 2022. He is going to a new team that hasn’t been competitive, and it’s hard to believe he’ll have it all figured out right away. Expect him to be competitive on the plate tracks, but there’s a learning curve in a team’s first year.
Some other options to consider would be Alex Bowman at 30-to-1 and Christopher Bell at 40-to-1. Should you bet all your money on these guys? No. However, both drive for strong teams and proved themselves at points last season. They’re both poised to make a jump into that next tier and perhaps compete for a championship if things break the right way.
— Written by Bet the Board Staff for Athlon Sports' 2022 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.