Finding Betting Value in 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Odds
With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on a break this weekend, we need something to keep the juices flowing. Something to distract us from not having 10-lap practice times to obsess over in our Saturday afternoon boredom.
Why not take a little stroll five months into the future?
That's when the Cup series will be heading down to Homestead for the final race of the season to decide its 2018 champion. Four drivers will enter, and based on the way things have gone thus far, it seems pretty likely that three of them will be Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr.
But it's also a long season. There's plenty of time before then for another contender to emerge and potentially play spoiler at Homestead. And with all the attention being paid to those top three, we might be able to find some attractive betting odds on those second- or third-tier drivers.
So, which drivers have championship odds that should intrigue us a third of the way into the season? Let's check it out. (All odds will be via Paddy Power as of June 13th.)
Kyle Larson (13:2)
Larson seems to be the consensus pick to be that fourth driver to contend at Homestead, sitting in a tier by himself between Truex (7:2) and Brad Keselowski (11:1). Although Larson's odds may be a bit too close to that top tier for comfort, it's for good reason. The dude just smashes at Homestead.
Over the past two seasons, Larson has led a combined 277 laps at Homestead, accounting for 51.9% of the total laps in those two races. He was also fifth there in 2015 and has had a top-seven average running position with a top-five finish in three straight season-ending races.
The question with Larson is whether he'll make it to that final race. He is yet to earn a playoff point this year, and Truex demonstrated the immense value of that in 2017. Additionally, Larson's finishes this year at the three tracks in the final round before Homestead -- Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix -- have been 16th, 36th, and 18th, respectively, at each track's first race.
So, if you believe that Larson will make it to Homestead, he's an awesome bet right now. But that seems to be far from a lock, making Larson a bit of a leap of faith until he picks up some playoff points.
Clint Bowyer (30:1)
If you want to lock down Clint Bowyer at 30:1, you'd better move fast. He's already down to 20:1 in some other books, and he's likely justifiable even at those odds.
The big reason to love Boywer is that he is excelling in the area where Larson is not: playoff points. Thanks to his two wins, Bowyer's already up to 10 playoff points, ranking 4th in that category behind the big three. He's setting himself up well for a deep run.
On top of that, one of the races in the final round before Homestead is in Martinsville. Not only did Bowyer win there this year, but he led a whopping 215 laps with a third-place average running position. Bowyer has struggled the past three years at Homestead, but with how great his current form is, we'd be crazy to pass him up while he sits at 30:1.
Joey Logano (18:1)
Outside of Bowyer, Joey Logano's championship odds are the longest of any driver with more than five playoff points, sitting at 18:1. That means he's not as big of a value as Bowyer, but there's still some reason to dig Logano at these odds.
The first is that Logano has been back to his contending ways this year. In addition to his win at Talladega, he has 12 top-10 finishes in 15 races, the type of consistency necessary to make a deep playoff run. This includes a third-place finish in Kansas, a track that flashes plenty of similarities to Homestead.
Logano has also run well at Homstead in the past. His past three finishes there have been fourth, fourth, and sixth, respectively, and he led 72 laps in the 2015 race. Logano has been in the final four twice in the past, and he has a good chance to earn another shot this season.
Aric Almirola (70:1)
Aric Almirola is only 10 points behind Larson in the current point standings, and we know that Stewart-Haas Racing has the equipment necessary to win races. Almirola's odds may be a bit too long at 70:1.
Part of the reason to dig Almirola -- beyond the team he drives for -- is the diversity of the tracks where he has run well this season. His top-10 finishes have been at Phoenix (a track in that final round before Homestead), Bristol (a short track), Talladega (a restrictor-plate race), Kansas (very similar to Homestead), and Pocono (a superspeedway). There isn't a certain archetype at which he has failed to perform this year.
Perhaps the best thing for Almirola, though, is where his two best average running positions have occurred. They came in consecutive races at Kansas and Charlotte, and both are tracks that translate well to Homestead. Almirola's a long shot for a reason, but he's performing better than these odds would indicate.
Paul Menard (275:1)
Want a true dart throw? Give Paul Menard a little shake. At these odds, it can't hurt.
In his first year with Wood Brothers Racing, Menard already has more top-10 finishes (4) than he had either of his previous 2 seasons. It's pretty clear that the Fords just have a leg up on the field.
Menard is currently on the outside looking in for the playoffs, sitting 18th in points. But he's just 4 points behind Alex Bowman in 16th, and Bowman's championship odds are 50:1. Daniel Suarez is 50:1, as well, and he's lower in the points than Menard is. Heck, even Ty Dillon has better championship odds than Menard at 225:1, and he is yet to log a top-10 finish this year. This isn't a situation where Menard is overly likely to be crowned champion, but with where his odds are relative to other drivers in similar situations, we might as well at least give this guy a sniff.