NASCAR Betting Guide: Jockey Made in America 250
Restraint, restraint, restraint.
That's my key for this week when trying to bet the NASCAR Cup Series. In races with practice this year, I've been too eager to bet beforehand, hoping to bet numbers before they shift.
In reality, markets haven't moved a ton post-practice, at least not relative to how much they moved pre-pandemic. This minimizes the upsides of waiting for practice while keeping the benefits of having that data the same.
This week, we do have practice prior to the Jockey Made in America 250 at Road America. Qualifying won't take place until Sunday, either, and it's the first time the Cup Series has run the course in 55 years. We're going to learn a good amount on Saturday during the practice session, and we should take advantage of that.
As such, I'm going to start off this week's betting card light with just a couple of longer outrights. Then I'll likely circle back Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning to add some top-10 and group bets once we've got practice data to play with.
For now, though, I do think we can get some value in betting on Joe Gibbs Racing.
Denny Hamlin to Win (+1900)
My model for this week has a tier of five drivers at the top. Those drivers are Chase Elliott (+240 to win at FanDuel Sportsbook), Kyle Larson (+270), Martin Truex Jr. (+600), Joey Logano (+1400), and Denny Hamlin (+1900). Hamlin's got the longest odds in this group, pushing me to bet his outright now.
Hamlin's inclusion in this group is due both to his form on 750-horsepower ovals and what he has done on road courses. In six non-dirt oval races using the 750-horsepower package, Hamlin leads the sport in aggregate average running position (4.7), topping Logano (6.0) and Truex (7.8). Given the overlap in the importance of braking between those races and a road course, I'm fine putting stock in that this week.
But Hamlin has shown upside on road courses, too. He finished on the podium in both Daytona roval races and is a past winner at Watkins Glen. Road America -- like Watkins Glen -- is faster and has some long straightaways, which bodes well for Hamlin. In addition to the win at Watkins Glen, he has finished top-five there in three of the past four races.
Hamlin's odds are simply too long for how good he has been both on road courses and in the 750-horsepower package. Given his past success at Watkins Glen, we shouldn't be surprised if Hamlin's in contention on Sunday.
Christopher Bell to Win (+3500)
Christopher Bell has three big marks in his favor. He has already won on a road course this year in the Cup Series, he's a former winner at Road America, and he's going to have plenty of track time before he takes the green flag on Sunday.
The win for Bell this year came at Daytona, another track with long straightaways and heavy braking zones. Bell didn't snag the lead until late, but his sixth-place average running position proves it wasn't a fluke. He hasn't fared as well in two road races since, but that demonstrated his upside.
Bell got the win at Road America in the Xfinity Series back in 2019. He out-dueled Austin Cindric (+4700 to win), something not many have done on road courses in the Xfinity Series the past couple of years. He was also on the podium at both Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio that year.
Bell has already logged on-track time this week, having completed a pair of practice sessions in the the Trans Am 2 series on Thursday. That race will take place after the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, giving him an extra helping of exposure to the track.
Before practice, Bell's at 3.9% win odds in my simulations, which is a decent amount higher than his implied odds at 2.8%. The model doesn't account for his past win at Road America or the track time he'll get in TA2, so it's possible it's underestimating him a smidge. There's enough here for me to take the plunge and see if Bell can snag his second checkered flag of the year.
Post-Practice Addition: Kurt Busch to Finish Top 10 (+135)
Truthfully, I shouldn't have needed practice times to bet Kurt Busch to finish top 10. But it didn't hurt.
Busch had the best single-lap time in the entire field. The reason that's not a surprise is that Busch is a quality road-course driver. He has had a top-nine average running position in four of five road-course races since the start of last year. He has converted that into three top-10s, including two top-fives.
My model this week has a healthy amount of variance baked in, so not many drivers show value in the top-10 market. Busch is one of the exceptions, finishing top-10 in the sims 46.3% of the time compared to his implied mark of 42.6%. You can make some more aggressive swipes with Busch, but to me, this is the best market.
Post-Practice Addition: Austin Dillon to Finish Top 10 (+550)
In 18 career road-course races, Austin Dillon has never finished inside the top 10. Seems bad, man. But he has taken some steps forward this year that at least get me interested.
The Cup Series has run eight road-course races since the start of 2019. Dillon's three best average running positions in that span have come in this year's three races, and he has a couple of top-13 finishes to show for it. He's getting closer to finally breaking through.
Then Dillon did show some decent speed in practice Saturday, ranking 15th in single-lap speed. Dillon will also run the Trans Am 2 race later on Saturday, giving him extra on-track time prior to qualifying. My sims have Dillon finishing inside the top 10 24.9% of the time, which is much more optimistic than his implied odds of 15.4%. We shouldn't let Dillon's history scare us out of what looks to be a value bet.