NASCAR Betting Guide: EchoPark Texas Grand Prix

Joey Logano has finished runner-up in two straight road-course races but still carries longer odds to win Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. Who else could run up front in the Cup Series' first trip to the track?

With the return of practice and qualifying in the NASCAR Cup Series comes the return of inflection points for betting. That's going to impact how we play things for the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix.

Because this is the Cup Series' first trip to Circuit of the Americas (COTA), they'll hold a practice session Saturday morning and qualifying on Sunday. Both of those represent flagpoles where drivers' odds could shift dramatically. We'll want to account for that when filling out a betslip.

For example, some drivers' odds will shorten on Saturday if they're fast in practice. If we expect that to happen, it's in our best interest to bet them now.

However, if some shorten, others should inherently lengthen. That could mean our best time to bet some drivers will be after odds are re-posted Saturday afternoon.

This is an inexact science, to be clear, but it's a necessary balancing act for this type of weekend. Once practice is in the books and odds are re-posted, I'll circle back to this piece with any additions I want to make. But here's what I'm looking to bet before Saturday's practice session based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Joey Logano to Win (+1600)

Joey Logano isn't some hotshot burner in practice. But his number as it stands is just too long to justify taking any risks. We should bet it now while we can.

As is often the case, Logano is the best win value in my simulations right now. He's 8.2% to win there compared to his implied mark of 5.9%. We can always add to our exposure to him later if his number lengthens, but this is a value we should lock in.

The reason Logano grades out so well in the simulations is his record on 750-horsepower tracks. He has had a top-nine average running position in all seven races using this package for the season, and he has had a top-five mark in four of them.

One of those top-five average running positions came at the Daytona roval. There, Logano ran up front all day and finished runner-up behind Christopher Bell (+1800). It was Logano's second straight runner-up outing in a point-paying race, and he also hit the podium in the Busch Clash, which was run on the Daytona roval.

The 750 angle here is key because there is overlap in the driving styles. Talented brakers can get a leg up, and there's a correlation of 0.782 between each driver's average running position at Daytona and their aggregate mark on the 750 ovals. Given how good Logano has been both there and at recent road courses, it's fair to think the bookmakers are underestimating him.

William Byron to Podium (+550)

Unlike with Logano, we should assume that William Byron will be fast in practice on Saturday. He ranked third in the practice-only portion of my model for the 2019 race at Charlotte, and he won the pole for that one, as well. That's one of three front-row starts for Byron on a road course, putting him there for half the road-course races in which there has been qualifying.

The speed for Byron hasn't been exclusive to pre-race festivities, either. He has led 20-plus laps on a road course three times, and he has had a top-eight average running position in each of the past two Charlotte roval races.

The reason we're going with a podium here rather than an outright is upside. Byron hasn't finished better than sixth on a road course yet, and he hasn't run out front a ton this year, either. His 11 straight top-10s show consistency but don't necessarily reflect upside.

My win simulations account for that, though they still show some value on his outright (6.1% in the sims versus 5.3% implied at +1800). The bigger edge is in his podium odds (20.5% simulated versus 15.4% implied), making him a prime non-outright bet if you want safety from the favorites in Chase Elliott (+250 to win) and Martin Truex Jr. (+400).

Chase Briscoe to Finish Top 10 (+240)

Chase Briscoe's Cup Series debut on a road course didn't go to plan as he had a 22nd-place average running position and finished 32nd. We shouldn't let that erase our memory, though, of what he did on these tracks in the Xfinity Series.

Briscoe was the chief competition to Austin Cindric (+2000 to win) and A.J. Allmendinger (+2200) down there the past few years. In 2020, the three competed in four road-course races. Here's where each driver finished in those.

Race Austin Cindric Chase Briscoe A.J. Allmendinger
Indianapolis 5th 1st 4th
Road America 1st 3rd 2nd
Daytona 1st 29th 4th
Charlotte 6th 18th 1st

In a vacuum, you'd take Cindric and Allmendinger over Briscoe, and they bested him in 2019, as well. But they're both +120 or shorter to finish top-10 while Briscoe is double that.

Briscoe has a slight leg up, too, because he's running the full Cup Series schedule while the other two are not. He's used to this car and this rules package. With no qualifying, Briscoe hasn't gotten to start better than 17th the entire season. He may finally get a reprieve there, allowing us to buy in despite the lack of results.

Ryan Preece to Finish Top 10 (+470)

Ryan Preece isn't a guy you think of as being a road-course ringer. He has been getting solid results recently, though, putting him on the board as a long-shot top-10 bet.

Preece's past two average running positions on road courses have been 15th and 18th. Those aren't jaw-dropping, but it means he's putting himself in position to finish well. He capitalized late in Daytona this year and finished ninth, his second-best finish of the year.

We saw flashes of this in the Xfinity Series, too. Preece had top-five runs in both Charlotte and Watkins Glen back in 2018 while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. He's not in equipment that good anymore, but he's far from a back-marker.

Basically, Preece is priced like a dud when he has shown that's likely not the case. You can justify holding off here to see if Preece is competitive in practice, but you're unlikely to get him at this number if he is. There's enough wiggle room to like him at +470 where we should feel comfortable locking it in before Saturday's session.

Post-Practice Addition: Martin Truex Jr. Outright (+500)

This is how I was hoping things would play out. Before practice, Truex was +400 to win. He ranked just 23rd in single-lap practice time and has since slipped to +500. Get it while you can.

Truex was borderline a value in my win simulations earlier in the week when he was +450. He was 18.0% in the sims versus 18.2% implied. My thought process was to sit back and hope I'd get him at a longer number later on.

That looked dumb initially as Truex's number kept shortening, but the practice data finally moved the needle the right direction. Adding in the practice numbers did lower Truex's win odds in the simulation, but with practice having been run in the rain, I don't care too much. I'm willing to get Truex here at +500.

Truex is always in contention on these road courses, and he has won three of seven races in the 750-horsepower package for the season. Now that his odds have slipped, we should take advantage of what looks like an overreaction to practice.