While some professional bettors look to take advantage of the randomness that results from restrictor plate racing, drafting at 200-plus mph and the crashes that usually ensue, other sharps believe it is too difficult to find an edge and stay away from superspeedways completely.
For public bettors, the buzz around Talladega and Daytona, plus the long odds available on top drivers in races such as Sunday‘s GEICO 500, are too enticing to ignore.
Zack White, a pro bettor who specializes in NASCAR, has long avoided superspeedways and in recent seasons has pared down the number of races he bets to only about half the Cup schedule, tracks “where I’m still finding some edges,” he said. “I used to try to bet just about every race, maybe save the superspeedways.”
“The bookmakers know this, too, but it’s just a super crapshoot until the last few laps,” White said of superspeedway races. “It’d be really rare to go into a Talladega or a Daytona week and see anybody at +150 or anything around that range (in a driver vs. driver matchup prop). The bookmakers know that it’s fairly random. I’m sure a few people out there try to piece something together that they think is a winning strategy at these tracks, but I just choose not to.”
Sharp NASCAR bettor Blake Phillips agrees that the randomness of superspeedways makes it difficult to predict outcomes, but from his perspective, since oddsmakers are up against the same challenge, opportunity is borne from this randomness.
“The normal stuff that you would think is correlated with a win or at least finishing in a good position doesn‘t necessarily apply as much in these kinds of races,” Phillips said. “First off, you have the issue of drafting, which changes the equation a little bit. But more importantly, you‘re practically guaranteed a giant wreck that‘s going to wipe out a big percentage of the drivers.
“Talladega and Daytona are tracks where I have a different approach that‘s a lot less based on fundamental handicapping and a lot more looking at the offerings available and seeing where I feel there‘s too heavy of a lean in a race with low predictability.”
That strategy translates into giving serious consideration to underdogs in head-to-head and group matchups, manufacturer to win and other props.
Superspeedway randomness also means longer odds in the outright market than we see for most races. At SuperBook USA in Las Vegas, no driver opened with single-digit odds to win the GEICO 500, as Denny Hamlin was made the 10/1 favorite. Nine drivers are listed at less than 20/1 odds, and six more opened at exactly 20/1.
Conversely, for last week’s race in Richmond, the SuperBook offered six drivers in single digits and a total of 11 at 20/1 or less.
“Talladega is much more open than Richmond,” said Ed Salmons, vice president of risk management at the SuperBook. “At Talladega, if you got six drivers against the field, the field would be a huge favorite.”
The chance to bet drivers like Chase Elliott at 12/1 odds, Brad Keselowski at 14/1 or Martin Truex Jr. 20/1 doesn‘t come around often, and these opportunities motivate casual bettors. Handle tends to pick up for Talladega, according to Salmons.
“People always like this race,” he said. “You get good odds on everyone, no matter who you bet.”
Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.