NASCAR Betting Guide: Season Finale 500
The NASCAR Cup Series is going to hand out its championship trophy Sunday in Phoenix. Only four drivers left are eligible for the crown, and it leads to an interesting dynamic for betting.
In the previous six championship races NASCAR has held, a member of the championship four has won each time. In five of those races, another contender for the championship finished second. They were allowed to sort out their business amongst themselves, and it made outrights and championship markets converge toward each other.
That’s not the case this year. The race is being held in Phoenix instead of Homestead. Homestead is a fast, 1.5-mile track. Phoenix is short and flat, which means speed isn’t as big of a requirement. As a result, Kevin Harvick — who isn’t in the championship four — is actually the favorite to win (+310 at FanDuel Sportsbook).
We have to ask ourselves if we think the optimism that Harvick will break the string of championship contenders winning these races is legit. If not, it’ll open up a bunch of value in the outright market, potentially pushing us to bet championship contenders to win outright.
As we balance all of this, which bets should we look to make based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook? Let’s dig in here.
Joey Logano to Win the Race (+900)
This is a good week to pick the best market for each driver. We also get a bit of a hedge opportunity based on the market you’re betting.
Although Joey Logano has better odds to win the championship than Brad Keselowski (+270 to +310), it’s actually Keselowski who has the shorter odds to win outright (+800). We can leverage that by going with Logano to win the race and hedging with Keselowski to win the championship.
The reason we can expect the championship four to still control the race this weekend is simple: they’re the best on this track type. In five races at short, flat tracks this year, the championship four have combined to win four times, and they have 13 top-fives across 20 aggregate races. Harvick has just two top-fives in those five races.
Logano was one of those winners, claiming the checkered flag in the first race at this very same track. That run wasn’t an outlier, either. His worst finish in the five races was fourth, and he had a top-six average running position each time.
As a result of those runs, Logano leads my model for the race by a decent margin. Of the 16 drivers the model has projected within a half position of Logano since the start of last year, 6 of them (37.5%) won the race, and 10 were in the top 5 (62.5%). We can say with relative certainty that Logano will be in contention. Add in his incentive to win the championship, and Logano becomes the best outright bet on the board.
Brad Keselowski to Win the Championship (+310)
If Logano wins the race, Keselowski won’t win the championship. The championship goes to the highest-finishing driver in the championship four. So one of these bets is a lock not to cash. But if you want to hedge a bit, Keselowski’s the best bet to win the championship relative to his odds.
The reasoning here is similar to the reasoning behind Logano: Keselowski has been great on this track type. He has won two of the five races — in Richmond and New Hampshire — and is likely to use that same winning car this weekend. He was also top four in the two Martinsville races.
Keselowski’s lone blemish on the short, flat tracks came here in Phoenix when he finished 11th. However, that finish is ultra deceptive. Keselowski got caught up in an incident early that put him behind. He rebounded to actually win the second stage and led 82 laps. His average running position was sixth. There were just some poorly timed cautions late that pushed him back.
In my eyes, because of how they’ve run on tracks like this in 2020, Logano and Keselowski should be the favorites entering the weekend. The betting odds do not view them as such. So if you want to shoot for the upside, bet the outright and the championship odds on the same driver, giving you wiggle room if Harvick or another non-championship driver wins. But if you want to peg each driver in their most optimal market, then Logano on the outright and Keselowski in the championship odds is your best route.
Matt DiBenedetto to Finish Top 10 (+140)
If we’re this into Keselowski and Logano, it makes sense that we’d be into another guy in Penske Racing equipment, as well. That’s Matt DiBenedetto, who has put that equipment to good use this year.
In the five races on short, flat tracks, DiBenedetto has three top-10 finishes. Two of those were in Martinsville, but the other was a sixth-place run in New Hampshire, which is a more similar track to Phoenix.
Straight up, DiBenedetto ranks 11th in my model, and you can get him at +140 to snag a top-10 finish. That seems to be a worthwhile bet with what he has done on similar tracks this year.