NASCAR

NASCAR Betting Guide: Coca-Cola 600

Sunday's race is one of the most prestigious on the entire calendar for the NASCAR Cup Series. The Coca-Cola 600 is a crown jewel within the sport, intended to push drivers and equipment to the edge and see who can make it to the end.

When you look at the list of past winners at the event, it's basically just a list of the series' biggest names. Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, Buddy Baker, and Jimmie Johnson are all drivers who won the 600-miler at least three times, and you're not going to get more old-school, historic NASCAR than that.

That doesn't mean Charlotte won't get a little weird every now and then.

With 600 miles on the docket, a lot of things can happen. There have been fuel-mileage races and other bizarre happenings that have allowed drivers like David Reutimann and Casey Mears -- who have three combined wins in the Cup Series -- to find victory lane. You expect the best of the best to emerge, but this track will jump out and surprise you every now and then.

That makes things fun from a betting perspective because we have choices. We know the drivers we should expect to contend, but we don't have to stick to exclusively that list.

Which drivers stand out based on the current odds at FanDuel Sportsbook? Let's check it out.

Alex Bowman (+1200)

When I ran my betting model on Thursday, seeing Martin Truex Jr. (+550) at the top wasn't a shock. He's a three-time Charlotte winner who has led fifty billion laps here the past few years. You expect him there.

The guy in second, though, was Alex Bowman. That one got my attention.

Once you dig into what Bowman has done this year, you can start to see why it would be high on him. Bowman has had a top-eight average running position in four of the five non-Daytona races, and he converted that into a win in Fontana and a runner-up in Darlington. Those tracks are different than Charlotte, to be sure, but speed be speed. He's had it to the fullest.

Bowman's history at Charlotte isn't Truex's, but it's not terrible. He has finished in the top 10 each of the past two years with a top-12 average running position both times. Those runs came when Hendrick Motorsports was still struggling, and that's very much not the case anymore.

This is the most favorably my model has ever viewed Bowman from a raw numbers perspective. He has had a top-end mark three other times, and he won two of those races. With Bowman sitting at +1200, it seems like betting markets aren't fully accounting for how much speed he has had this year. Bowman's shaping up as the best value relative to his odds that we've got.

Ryan Blaney (+2600)

Ryan Blaney sucks in Darlington. We can say that with a pretty decent level of confidence after he struggled there yet again this past week.

With those being the only two races we've seen the past two months, it makes sense that they would tug down on Blaney's betting odds for Charlotte. We should look to buy low, though, at +2600.

A quick glance at Blaney's track history would make you think he struggles here, too. After all, he has just one top-10 finish at Charlotte in eight races, worse than you'd expect for a driver of his caliber.

But it's also important to keep sample size in mind. Blaney has been to Charlotte just twice with Penske Racing. In one of those races, he finished second in the opening stage before eventually blowing a motor and finishing 36th. Last year, Blaney had an eighth-place average running position and was fourth at the end of stage three. He just didn't get the finish to show for it.

Before the layoff, we have to remember that Blaney was one of the fastest drivers on the circuit. He was close to winning each of the first three races and had a top-four average running position in both Las Vegas and Fontana. He's a volatile driver, but that's not a bad thing if he can hit the high end of his range of outcomes. This is a good bounce-back spot for Blaney off one of his worst tracks.

Aric Almirola (+4000)

Upside is a question with Aric Almirola, meaning he may be a driver who is better suited for top-five, top-10, and matchup bets once those are posted. His lone two wins in the Cup Series came on superspeedways, so betting him to win comes with trepidations. Still, there are lots of reasons to make sure you're checking his name in whatever market you prefer.

Almirola has consistently been at the front in 2020 with a top-10 average running position in three of the past four races. That includes a seventh-place average running position on Wednesday in Darlington, tied for his third-best average running position since the start of last year.

One of the races that tops that mark was last year in Texas. There, Almirola had a fourth-place average running position and finished second. The reason we care about that is Texas and Charlotte are sister tracks, both 1.5 miles with high banking. If a driver runs well on one, you'd expect them to compete at the other. Almirola showed that ability during the playoffs last year, and that's the most recent sample we have at a track like this.

With Stewart-Haas Racing, you know the speed will be there. We just have to see if Almirola can convert it into a non-superspeedway win. He's a better bet in other markets that don't require him to actually win the dang thing, but with how well he has been running, +4000 also seems like an appropriate number.

Matt DiBenedetto (+6500)

For all intents and purposes, Matt DiBenedetto is teammates with Blaney, Joey Logano (+1000), and Brad Keselowski (+1000) at Penske Racing. Wood Brothers Racing has been described as a Penske team with a separate Twitter account. That's why it's so tempting to keep on buying DiBenedetto at these long odds.

It also doesn't hurt that we've seen some of the fruits of that speed in DiBenedetto's performance this year. He has had a top-14 average running position and a top-14 finish in all five non-Daytona races. That includes a runner-up finish in Las Vegas and a ninth on Wednesday in Darlington.

A top-14 average running position may not seem ground-breaking, but it is relative to the others with odds near DiBenedetto's. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s (+2800) best average running position this year is 15th, and Austin Dillon (+4200), Matt Kenseth (+4500), and Tyler Reddick (+4500) have a combined zero top-12 average running positions since Daytona. DiBenedetto has achieved that in both Fontana and Phoenix. His odds are likely being dragged down by his poor history in Charlotte, but all those races came in doggy doo equipment. Keep on snagging shares of DiBenedetto until the markets adjust to his new situation.