NASCAR Betting Guide: Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
Martinsville is a unique beast on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit for a couple of reasons.
First, it's just a weird configuration. It's the shape of a paperclip with tight turns and negligible banking. The configuration makes it a slow track, one of only two where the pole speed last year was under 100 miles per hour. This keeps us from having many other relevant tracks from which we can pull data.
Second, despite being so slow, you don't see many random winners pop up.
Since NASCAR debuted its Car of Tomorrow in 2007, there have been 36 races at the track. In those 36 races, only four drivers who have never won a Cup Series championship have reached victory lane, and three of those four finished second at least once in the Cup Series standings. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win in 2014 is the only exception. Sometimes, you can see surprise winners on short tracks, but Martinsville doesn't roll that way.
This is something we should account for in betting. At places like Bristol, we can afford to take some longshots on drivers who may be able to fluke their way into a win. At Martinsville, the odds of that happening are lower, meaning we may want to relegate those drivers we like to matchup and group bets rather than outrights.
With that in mind, let's dig into the numbers at FanDuel Sportsbook as of Wednesday morning to see where we can find some value.
Joey Logano (+1200)
At some point, I'll stop shoving Joey Logano directly into your face. But hey, he's already got two wins this year, and his odds are still longer than they should be. So your reprieve isn't coming yet.
Logano is the top driver in my betting model for the race, bringing a tasty blend of current form and track history. In 2020, he is yet to record an average running position worse than 12th, and he has led double-digit laps in 6 of 10 races. He has been in contention almost every week.
That includes both the races using the lower-downforce rules package that will be in place on Wednesday. The first was in Phoenix, where Logano got his second win of the season and had a sixth-place average running position. The second was in Bristol. There, Logano had a seventh-place average running position and was leading with three laps left when this happened.
Bristol is nothing like Martinsville, but Phoenix is the only other track on the schedule so far that is short and flat like Martinsville. Logano's win there is encouraging.
As mentioned, Logano has a good track record in Martinsville, as well. He won the fall 2018 race (leading 309 laps in the process) and has had a top-eight average running position four of the past five races. You may be tired of the Logano recommendations, but he has been good to us thus far. We might as well ride it until he gives us a reason not to.
Kevin Harvick (+1200)
How you view Kevin Harvick depends on how much weight you put on track history. As mentioned in this week's data dump, I'm putting more weight in it this week than I usually do, and Harvick's not an elite driver at Martinsville. But it seems like his odds are overreacting to that.
In 37 career races at Martinsville, Harvick has just one win and five top-fives. That win came in 2011, which is far enough back where we shouldn't count it as being a mark in his favor. He also hasn't led a lap at this track since the 2016 spring race, so we can't even blame this dry spell on bad luck.
But it's not as if Harvick is worthless here, either. He has five straight top-10s at the track, including a pair of top-fives, and he has had a top-seven average running position twice in that stretch. That's not the record of someone who needs to get a bump down due to track history.
From a form perspective, nobody can really touch Harvick. He has two wins and six top-fives in 10 races, and he has had a top-three average running position a whopping four times. One of those races was in Phoenix, which -- again -- is our best parallel to Martinsville thus far.
Logano and Harvick are first and third in my model, respectively, and you can get both at 12/1. It could be because I'm still not putting enough weight on track history, but either way, this seems like a good shot to buy against the books and bet either or both.
Kurt Busch (+2300)
Kurt Busch is a two-time winner in Martinsville, but like Harvick, none of those wins have been recent. In fact, he hasn't even had a top-five since his 2014 win here. Still, 23/1 may be long enough to draw us in.
Even with no top-fives to his name, Busch has been putting up quality runs here. He has finished sixth in two of the past three races, and he had a top-eight average running position in both of the 2018 races. In the fall race that year, Busch had a fifth-place average running position, the best he has had his entire career at Martinsville.
Busch has shown glimpses of upside in 2020, as well, with three top-fives and a top-seven finish in every race except for one since the end of the COVID-19 layoff. Goodyear is bringing a new tire to the track which could increase tire wear, something that would play perfectly to Busch's strengths. He'll roll off from the ninth position, and Busch is a good place to turn if you want a longer shot than Logano and Harvick.
Chase Elliott to Win Group 1 (+470)
For what I believe is the first time, FanDuel Sportsbook is offering top-10 and group betting for a Cup Series race. Let's take advantage.
In Group 1, we find Kyle Busch (+240), Brad Keselowski (+320), Martin Truex Jr. (+340), Denny Hamlin (+380), and Chase Elliott (+470). If you were to play things straight up, Truex would be the bet because he is the top-ranked driver in my model among this group. But if you put Elliott at the bottom rung, he becomes a clear value.
In the model's eyes, there is a tier of six at the top of charts entering the race. Elliott is one of those six drivers in that upper-echelon, meaning you could legitimately consider him at 10/1 to win the race. This is a really solid number for him, though.
Elliott looks good in the eyes of the model because he blends current form and track history. Hendrick Motorsports has a long history of dominance at this track, and Elliott has played his role in that recently. He was runner-up with a second-place average running position in last year's spring race, and he led 123 laps in the 2017 fall race, which was his age-21 season.
If you've watched races this year, you know Elliott has been in contention almost every week. His average running position has been ninth or better in every non-Daytona race, and it has been seventh or better in four straight. Among the group-betting options available for this week, Elliott's the one who stands out as being the best value.