NASCAR Betting Guide: Xfinity Series Hooters 250

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making his lone start of 2020 and just his third since retiring from the Cup Series. Should we bet him as one of the favorites in the Xfinity Series' Hooters 250 at Homestead?

He's baaaaaaaaaack.

For the first time in 2020 and the third time since he retired from the NASCAR Cup Series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+340) is running an Xfinity Series race, this time the Hooters 250 at Homestead. It's the only race he's scheduled to run this year, and he'll make it with no full-time Cup regulars in the field. That'll help things quite a bit.

Additionally, we know Earnhardt's equipment is solid. Daniel Hemric has been driving this car most of the year and logged top-five finishes (including a runner-up) in Charlotte and Atlanta. Two other JR Motorsports drivers -- Justin Allgaier (+470) and Noah Gragson (+850) -- are among the favorites.

Those are the positives for Junior. There are some negatives, though.

The big one is that Earnhardt won't have any practice to round himself back into form, which is especially concerning when he has driven so rarely since his retirement. Earnhardt did finish fifth in Darlington last year, and he led 96 laps the year before that in Richmond, but he was able to log laps on the track before each of those events. He won't have that advantage this time around.

Based on Earnhardt's odds at FanDuel Sportsbook, the implied probability that he wins on Saturday is 22.7%. You can make a case that his actual odds are higher than that, so Earnhardt's not a bad bet if you want to dabble in those waters. It's just not a number I'm looking to hang, personally.

So, before checking out the rest, think for a bit on how you want to view Earnhardt because it is a situation where you truly could go either way. After you do that, here are other drivers to consider with where the odds currently sit.

Noah Gragson (+850)

We've already seen how eager Gragson is to win races, getting into his teammate, Allgaier, to snag a win in Bristol.

I'm not sure if he'd do the same to his boss if it were to come down to that, but Gragson continues to be a good value, regardless.

Gragson is coming off a runner-up finish last week in Atlanta in which he had a fifth-place average running position. He now has a top-five average running position in every race since the end of the COVID-19 layoff, and he has converted that into a win and three top-fives in four races. Gragson just keeps putting himself in position to win races, and he has cashed in on that twice already.

Gragson has been competitive at Homestead both in the Xfinity Series and in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in the past. He finished fourth with a sixth-place average running position last year in the Xfinity finale, and he was third the year before that while leading 34 laps in the Truck Series. We should keep getting in on Gragson as long as he keeps giving himself shots to claim checkered flags.

Austin Cindric (+700)

The closest analog we've had to Homestead so far this year is the second race of the season in Las Vegas. There, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe (+250) were the dominant cars as both had a second-place average running position for the race. Briscoe eventually got the win, which may be allowing us to get Cindric at a respectable number.

Cindric has kept up the speed since then with top-four finishes in Fontana, Darlington, and Charlotte. He finished 16th last week in Atlanta, but he had a top-notch car, leading 68 laps and winning both stages before falling late.

As with Gragson, we've also already seen Cindric prove his mettle at Homestead with top-seven average running positions here each of the past two seasons. He even led 40 laps last year and had a fifth-place average running position. Cindric's going to break through and win on an oval soon, and it could very well be this weekend.

Riley Herbst (+5000)

If we're going to take a swing on a longshot, we should do so with a driver in elite equipment. That's what Riley Herbst has at Joe Gibbs Racing. Now, he just has to convert that into a good finish.

Based on Herbst's finishes this year, he doesn't seem worth our cash. He has just one finish better than ninth, and all three of his top-10s came before the COVID-19 layoff.

The underlying data is a lot more forgiving. He actually has more top-10 average running positions (five) than top-10 finishes, and two of those have come in the four races since racing resumed. One of those good runs was in Las Vegas, and he cashed it in with a ninth-place finish.

If Herbst's odds were shorter, then we could be pickier about his lack of results. But as a longshot in a field where not many drivers have the upside to win, we might as well give him a sniff.