Betting on NASCAR is much same experiences as placing a wager on the ponies, except the horsepower and race length is exponentially greater. And sometimes, so is the payoff. As in horse racing, a myriad of factors go into producing a winner on the track and on the betting slip.
|Driver||Odds to Win Title|
|Martin Truex Jr.||6/1|
Planning NASCAR betting strategy is challenging because there are up to 40 cars in the field each week, instead of 20 like in Formula 1. A win bet is therefore the most difficult to hit, but also the most lucrative. Betting on numerous drivers is a fun and wise hedge (and will maintain interest if one driver wrecks out or has a mechanical problem).
Another common type of bet is on a top-three finish. This one will not pay out as handsomely as a win bet, as one should expect. But the safer bet pays out more often: In 2018 Kyle Larson endured a winless season, but finished in the top three 10 times.
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A number of factors can impact NASCAR betting. Fans form a rooting interest in drivers based on where they grew up, their sponsors, or the manufacturer of the car they drive. But taking those factors out of the equation, a little knowledge is a major benefit in a sport that offers a lot of clues to the outcomes.
Some drivers perform better at superspeedways, some short tracks. Some excel on road courses. The venue and a driver’s success in that style of racing is one of the most important factors in picking a winner.
At superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega (we’ll discuss those more later) drivers can overcome a bad day in qualifying with a good car on race day. At smaller, tighter tracks like Bristol and Martinsville, qualifying at the front gives a driver the best pit stall, which is crucial for race strategy. And at road courses where it is difficult to pass during the race, qualifying is also critical. At any track it’s always best to start up front – and bettors need to pay attention to qualifying to make informed wagers.
Drivers change teams and manufacturers, and both can heavily impact performance. If Chevrolet has been poor on 1.5-mile tracks throughout a season and Ford or Toyota has been strong, that trend is likely to continue through a season. Also, some drivers just prefer certain types of tracks – for instance, Martin Truex Jr. is known for his mastery of intermediate tracks, especially 1.5-mile ovals. From 2007-18, Truex won 13 times on intermediate ovals and three more on road courses. But on short tracks (less than 1 mile) his first Cup victory didn’t come until 2019, his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
For more than 30 years NASCAR has tried to keep speeds somewhat contained at its two fastest tracks, Daytona and Talladega. In 2019 NASCAR got rid of restrictor plates in favor of tapered spacers and larger rear spoilers – but the result is the same, with cars racing in huge packs, leading to the nearly inevitable “Big One” crashes. It’s not unusual for 20 cars to get swept up in a single accident at superspeedways. How does that impact NASCAR betting? Superspeedway races are the most unpredictable in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, so if you like betting on longshots these races are ideal. Brad Keselowski won at Talladega in 2009 for the small, underfunded Phoenix Racing team, catapulting his career. And in 2018 Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 as a +5000 longshot. These races are not a pure dartboard proposition; some drivers are better at superspeedways than others. Just be prepared for your intelligent handicapping to hit the Turn 3 wall at 220 mph.
In 2015 Joey Logano had won three races consecutively in the Cup playoffs and was cruising at Martinsville, ready to punch his ticket to the final at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That was until a driver who was angry with him – Matt Kenseth – wrecked him intentionally while several laps down and effectively ended Logano’s title hopes. The boys get mad with each other. Others’ mistakes can undo everything. Also, if you follow NASCAR news and hear chatter about how a crew chief is not getting along with a driver, be wary of that car. If a driver and crew chief are not on the same page, that could cloud their strategy decisions and affect their results.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crosses North America in an expansive 36-race schedule, commencing, oddly, with its most prestigious event – the Daytona 500 – and culminating at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The series races twice a year at numerous tracks so bettors have twice as much information to go on for spotting trends. Be careful, though – Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts one race, a 600-miler, on its traditional 1.5-mile oval and one on its “roval” layout which gets its name because it’s a hybrid of the oval track and the road course in the infield.
The Super Bowl comes first in the Cup series, with two weeks’ worth of preliminaries culminating in the most important race of the season. Again, cars race in 200-mph packs around the massive 2.5-mile track. Though the technology changed in 2019, velocity remains high. The Daytona 500 produced its share of upsets even before restrictor plates were introduced. Because this race is so unpredictable, you can get good value on the best drivers.
The famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500, also has hosted the Cup series since 1994. But the Cup race became even more significant in 2018 when NASCAR moved it to race No. 26 on the schedule – the final “regular-season” race before the playoffs. The relatively flat banking and long straights, unique in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, is where the best drivers tend to shine the most. Series champions Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have all earned multiple Cup victories at The Brickyard.
The playoff format in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series means that three of the 10 season-ending races are “elimination” races, in which the playoff field is reduced. The first three “rounds” of the playoffs have three races each and the field of contenders is cut after each round. For 2019, the race at the Charlotte “Roval” layout (Sept. 29) will cut the playoff field from 16 cars to 12, Kansas (Oct. 20) will cut the field to eight cars and Phoenix (Nov. 10) will reduce it to the last four, setting up the title-deciding finale at Homestead. Elimination races are interesting betting opportunities. Drivers at or near the cutoff for advancing will be desperate to stay in contention. Those who won races earlier in each round qualify automatically for the next round – and while they might try to race hard to accumulate playoff bonus points, they could also decide to lay back, knowing their spot in the next playoff round is secure. Bettors who lean toward more desperate drivers in playoff races are often rewarded.
|2018||Joey Logano||Team Penske||8/1|
|2017||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row Racing||8/1|
|2016||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||7/1|
|2015||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||10/1|
|2014||Kevin Harvick||Stewart Haas Racing||20/1|
|2013||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||7/2|