NASCAR Betting Guide: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
Not having practice prior to NASCAR Cup Series races since the end of the COVID-19 layoff has been a bummer. It robs us of key data we can utilize in trying to decide which drivers stand out as ideal betting options.
That's the bad. The good is that our actual on-track data is the best it has been all year.
Sunday's race in Atlanta will be the third race at a 1.5-mile track within the past two weeks and the fourth we've seen in 2020. It will also be the third race at a track with heavy tire wear in the past three weeks and the fourth of 2020. No matter which subset you look at, we have recent, relevant races that can signal to us who will be fast.
We should use that to our advantage for Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. We know who the contenders will be this weekend; we just have to decide which of those contenders has the juice to win the race.
Before we look at the best bets, it's worth noting that Kevin Harvick (+430) is tops in my betting model by a longshot. In fact, he has the eighth-best raw number my model has had since the beginning of last year, and sitting that high without any practice data is tough to do.
Because of that, you could consider betting Harvick at +430. He dominates in Atlanta, won in Darlington with heavy tire wear, and has had a top-six average running position in two of three races at 1.5-mile tracks this year. But with no practice data to lean on, it's hard for me, personally, to pull the trigger on a driver with odds that short. If your process is different, Harvick is worthy of his current number. If you're like me, though, here are my favorite bets for Atlanta based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Joey Logano (+900)
After Harvick in my model are Joey Logano and Chase Elliott (+600), in that order. It's a big dropoff down to those two, which is why rather than recommend Elliott, I'd rather just jump up to Harvick himself. The alternative is to go with the low man in that equation and bet Logano instead.
Logano is certainly worthy of that second-place ranking in the model. He has had a top-10 average running position in all but one race this year, and his two top-five average running positions both came at 1.5-mile tracks.
The one potential downside of Logano is that he hasn't popped as much at tracks with heavy tire wear. It's not as if he has been bad, though, with a top-10 average running position in two of those three races. He just hasn't been quite as good.
The other reason we're potentially able to get Logano at a bit of a discount is that he has never won in Atlanta and has just two top-fives in 13 career races. Still, he has had a top-nine average running position in five of the past seven races here -- including each of the past two -- and he was leading with 33 laps left last year before a loose wheel forced him to pit. Logano will start third and is a good bet to lead laps early and often.
Ryan Blaney (+1800)
(UPDATE: Blaney has since lengthened to +2100.)
For another example of why finishes are a bad judge of speed, you need not look further than Logano's teammate, Ryan Blaney. Specifically, his 22nd-place finish last year sells him short.
Blaney started that race back in 26th spot. He was already up to sixth by end of the first stage, finished fourth in stage two, and took the lead at lap 231. He held that lead for 41 laps, but a pit miscue and a tire problem put him a lap down and spoiled the good run.
As a result of that, Blaney enters this weekend with no top-10s in four career Atlanta races, helping keep his odds in check. But his runs in 2020 also show his upside for a win.
At the 1.5-milers, Blaney recorded a pair of third-place finishes in the two Charlotte races, and he had a fourth-place average running position in Las Vegas. A late caution took away his shot at the win in that one.
Blaney was -- frankly -- terrible in Darlington, but that has been a career-long trend for him at the track. In Fontana -- the other heavy tire-wear track -- Blaney led 54 laps and had a third-place average running position but had to pit while running second with a couple of laps left due to a tire issue. He has been faster than his finishes all year long, and regression is going to hit eventually. When it does, it shouldn't be a surprise to see Blaney in victory lane.
Clint Bowyer (+2800)
(UPDATE: Bowyer has since shortened to +1600.)
There are a couple of interesting mid-range options you could check out here. Erik Jones (+2800) traditionally runs well at Darlington, and William Byron (+3200) was a threat there and has been strong at both Las Vegas and Charlotte. You could give either of those drivers a sniff. But it's also worthwhile to check out someone on the opposite end of the age spectrum in Clint Bowyer.
Bowyer is a driver who tends to have his best runs when things get slick. He has back-to-back top-five finishes and top-eight average running positions in Atlanta, and he had a top-nine mark in both Darlington races this year, as well. Bowyer even won the opening two stages of the second Darlington race before getting into trouble late.
Outside of his prowess when the car starts to slide, the other advantage in Bowyer over Jones and Byron is his starting position. Bowyer moved his team up into the top 12 in owner points with a runner-up finish last week, which allowed him to draw the fifth starting spot for Sunday's race. Jones will start 14th, and Byron will start 20th. With how long this race is, Jones and Byron will have time to move up through the field, so they're not afterthoughts by any means. But it's just one more factor to nudge us toward betting Bowyer over the other two.
Austin Dillon (+7500)
(UPDATE: Dillon has since shortened to +5000.)
Of the top 16 drivers in my model, 15 of them have odds of 50/1 or shorter, and only two are longer than 32/1. The guy at 50/1 is Aric Almirola, who will start second, and you could give him consideration. The other driver is Austin Dillon, who is 13th in my model (one spot ahead of Almirola) and grades out as easily the best longshot in the field.
Dillon has been overshadowed by his teammate, Tyler Reddick (+5000), early in the season, and it's for a good reason. Reddick has been awesome in his rookie campaign. But Dillon's performance is noteworthy, too.
Specifically, Dillon had monster speed in Charlotte with a top-nine average running position in both races. Only two other drivers had a top-10 mark in both races, and those guys are Elliott and Logano. Dillon's average running position in Las Vegas was 13th, but he capitalized on calamity in the closing laps to finish fourth.
This puts Dillon on the map for all markets. At DraftKings Sportsbook, he's +200 for a top-10 finish, and he's +325 to win in a not-so-tough group bet. But if you're just looking for a longshot to win the race and bankroll some steak dinners, Dillon stands out most.