NASCAR Betting Guide: Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400
Last weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series double-header at Pocono was all about Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.
The drivers swept the top two spots in both races, swapping who wound up in victory lane. They used a combination of strategy and speed to blow the doors off the rest of the field.
This week in Indianapolis, they're going to be the ones to beat, and the betting odds reflect that.
Indianapolis is another big, fast, and flat track, just like Pocono. One of the turns in Pocono was even modeled after the turns in Indianapolis. So if drivers were fast in Pocono, you can reasonably expect them to run up front again on Sunday.
As a result, both Harvick and Hamlin are +450 to win at FanDuel Sportsbook, and nobody else is shorter than 6/1. It's a fittingly short number. The question is whether anybody can rival Harvick and Hamlin for the top spot this time around.
Thankfully, Indianapolis is a high-variance track with 25.0% of the entrants over the past three races failing to finish due to crashes, many of them drivers who would have otherwise contended. That allows us to look outside of Harvick and Hamlin and try to nail down some outrights for the race.
Which drivers could realistically push Harvick and Hamlin for the win? Let's check it out.
Ryan Blaney (+1100)
My model for Sunday's race has a tier of three drivers at the top who are well clear of the rest of the pack. Not shockingly, Harvick and Hamlin are in that group, with Hamlin holding a slight edge over Harvick.
The other driver, though, is Ryan Blaney. He's even a smidge ahead of those two as the top-ranked driver for the week.
The model dates back to last year, and in that time, this is the best that Blaney has ever graded out. Of the 36 drivers projected within half a position of Blaney in either direction, 10 have gone on to win (27.8%), and 19 (52.8%) got top-five finishes. I wouldn't personally rank Blaney ahead of Harvick and Hamlin straight up, but with Blaney's odds down at 11/1, I don't have to.
Blaney has never finished better than seventh in Indianapolis, but as always, finishes can be deceiving. He led 19 laps here last year and had a fourth-place average running position, one of three straight top-10 average running positions for him at the track. Blaney has already shortened from 13/1 at open, so if you want to get in on him at this number, it would be wise to do so quickly.
Martin Truex Jr. (+1300)
Indianapolis is not a good track for Martin Truex Jr. In 15 career starts, he has just three top-10s and one top-five, and he has three straight finishes of 27th or worse. Track history matters, so it's fair to be a bit down on him entering the weekend.
This number may be a bit of an overreaction, though.
The big reason is that Indianapolis is a track the Cup Series goes to just once per year. This gives us an inherently small sample to look at. That's even more impactful for Truex, who didn't experience true success at this level until 2015. Our sample on Truex at this track in competitive equipment is just five races, meaning we have to be careful how much we read into what he has done here in the past.
As mentioned, we can draw plenty of intel from what happened in Pocono, and Truex was solid there. He had a top-10 average running position in both races, the only driver to accomplish that other than Harvick and Hamlin. He'll have the speed necessary to compete.
When we've seen a driver run well at a similar track within the same season, that should overpower the driver's history at a specific track, especially when it's a spot the circuit visits just once per season. That's the case with Truex, so taking a bite at 13/1 seems to be the optimal move.
Alex Bowman (+3500)
The Chevrolets were -- quite frankly -- terrible last weekend in Pocono. On Saturday, they didn't lead a single lap, and none of them finished in the top 10. Sunday looked a bit better, though, opening the door for us to buy low on someone like Alex Bowman.
Bowman was one of the drivers who perked up in that race, working his way forward from a 27th-place starting position to finish ninth. He had been running decently well on Saturday, too -- he got points in both stages and was the highest-running Chevy in the second -- but had an issue late that spoiled the outing.
Bowman's definitely in a funk, with no top-five finishes since the first race back from the COVID-19 layoff. Additionally, his lone two top-fives this year came at tracks with heavy tire wear, and Indianapolis doesn't profile to be that. But Bowman's win was at another big, fast, non-drafting track, showing his car should have some speed on Sunday. With betting markets being so cold on Bowman, we can accept the downsides tied to him and bet him at 35/1.
Aric Almirola (+4200)
Aric Almirola isn't typically someone who shines for betting outrights. Upside is a major question, usually relegating him to top-five and top-10 markets instead.
Recently, though, Almirola has been pushing that ceiling higher, and his betting odds haven't changed much to account for it.
Almirola enters Indianapolis with a string of four straight top-five finishes. Those runs have come on three different track types, showing this isn't just some weird fluke. Importantly, two of those runs were in Pocono, and he even led 61 laps from the pole on Saturday.
The key for Almirola on Sunday is his team at Stewart-Haas Racing. They field cars for Harvick, as well, and SHR has a combined four top-fives in the past two races at Indianapolis. Clint Bowyer has the other two outside of Harvick, but he's 26/1 while Almirola is 42/1. The gap shouldn't be that large. We should take the opportunity to buy into Almirola's recent surge before the window closes.