NASCAR Betting Guide: Go Bowling 235

Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott have dominated recent road course races in the Cup Series. Should we bet one of them at short odds for the series' first stop at the Daytona roval?

For the past two years, nobody has been able to touch Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. when the NASCAR Cup Series has gone to a road course.

In this span, the Cup Series has run six races with right-hand turns. Elliott (+420 at FanDuel Sportsbook) and Truex (+600) have won five of them, and in the other, Truex got wrecked while leading in the final turn. They've swept the top two spots twice and combined to lead 50.5% of the total laps run.

This weekend, though, will be a test of that dominance.

With racing in New York not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Cup Series will instead run the Daytona road course for the first time. With no practice sessions and no qualifying, the first laps drivers turn at the track in these cars will be under green.

What could go wrong?

This leaves us with plenty of uncertainty, and with that being the case, it's harder to bet drivers at numbers as short as Elliott's and Truex's. But even with that being considered, at least one of them still provides some value this weekend.

Let's run through our preferred option between the two powerhouses and then see where else we can turn for quality bets on Sunday based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Martin Truex Jr. (+600)

There are two key differences between Truex and Elliott this weekend.

1. Truex has the longer number with 14.3% implied win odds compared to Elliott's 19.2%.

2. Truex's road-course dominance has been more broadly applicable to each different course the Cup Series runs.

For Elliott, the main outlet for dominance has been at Watkins Glen. Two of his three wins came there, as did 132 of his 170 laps led the past two years. He also won in Charlotte last year, but Sonoma hasn't been as strong of a track for him.

Truex, meanwhile, has won two straight in Sonoma, won in Watkins Glen in 2017 (before finishing runner-up each of the following two years), and would have won the first Charlotte race if not for that aforementioned last-lap wreck. Truex has been a legitimate contender in seven of the past eight road-course races, and we can still get him at +600.

It also doesn't hurt that Truex enters with better form. He has finished third in four straight races and was runner-up two races before that; Elliott's last top five was at Pocono in June. The current form section of my model out-performed the road-course section in two of the three road-course races last year, so overall form does matter, even at these tracks. That allows us to take the discount and bet Truex at +600.

Matt DiBenedetto (+3100)

If we're not going with Truex or Elliott, we likely want to slide down the odds board in order to account for the uncertainty. We can do that without betting drivers with poor road course resumes by going back to Matt DiBenedetto.

Even while driving in lesser equipment last year than he has now, DiBenedetto still managed to post great results on the road courses. He was fourth in Sonoma -- the first top-five of his career -- sixth in Watkins Glen, and 11th in Charlotte. He had a top-14 average running position in all three races, showing that he didn't back his way into these great finishes. He was a legit contender.

As mentioned with Truex, form does matter, and that's another mark in favor of DiBenedetto. He has had a top-nine average running position in five of the past eight races, and he has done that on three different track types. DiBenedetto will start ninth, giving him relatively easy access to the front. As a mid-range bet with quality road-course history, that's enough to justify another swing on DiBenedetto.

Jimmie Johnson (+3500)

The driver who took out Truex in the final turn at Charlotte in 2018 was Jimmie Johnson. The only reason Johnson was able to do so was that he was running second at the time of the crash. That's an endorsement of Johnson entering this weekend.

That near-win isn't Johnson's lone impressive run at a road course in the twilight of his career. He also had a 10th-place average running position in Sonoma in 2018, and he added a top-10 finish last year in Charlotte. Johnson has had a top-15 average running position in all but two road-course races the past decade, so he's consistently running well. That may be enough at such a high-chaos track.

This shouldn't be a major factor in our analysis, but Johnson is one of the few Cup Series drivers with experience on the Daytona road course. He has run the Rolex 24 at Daytona seven times, tied with Michael McDowell (+20000) for most in the field. The cars are wildly different, and the configuration has been altered to slow the cars down, but a little extra exposure can't hurt.

Johnson's on the outside looking in for the playoffs in his final season, but a win would lock him into the field. Starting 11th, Johnson at least has a shot to add one in the win column before he calls it quits at the end of the year.

Christopher Bell to Finish Top 10 (+195)

Because the Xfinity Series runs four road-course races per season rather than the Cup Series' three, we have a good idea of what to expect out of the rookies this weekend. That sample tells us we should check out Christopher Bell.

Initially, road courses were not a strength for Bell. In two Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races at Bowmanville, his finishes were 5th and 26th. He graduated to the Xfinity Series in 2018, and a fifth-place run in Charlotte was his lone top-10 that year.

Last season, though, something clicked. Bell was runner-up behind Austin Cindric in both Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio, and he finally got his first road-course win at Road America the next race. Bell had a top-six average running position in all four road races for the season.

Now, Bell is benefiting from a revamped method for setting the starting order. Thanks to two solid points days in Michigan last week, Bell will start 15th, his third-best starting position of the entire season. Despite those poor starting spots, he has still cranked out five top-10 finishes. With things finally swinging in his favor, and with his road-course prowess on the rise, Bell's a good option if you're looking to bet a top-10 finisher.

Chris Buescher to Finish Top 10 (+320)

In 11 career Cup Series road-course races, Chris Buescher has never had a top-10 finish. So why on earth would we bet him to do so at +320?

There are several reasons. First, equipment matters at road courses, too, and Buescher is in better equipment now than he was then. His teammate, Ryan Newman (+270 for a top-10), was seventh last year in Sonoma, so Roush-Fenway Racing isn't a total dud on this track type.

Second, even in the lesser rides, Buescher had good runs on these tracks. He has been 13th or better three times in that span, and he hasn't finished outside the top 20 since 2016. Buescher had a top-17 average running position in all three road-course races last year.

Third, Buescher proved in the lower series that he was adept at turning right. He won at Mid-Ohio in the Xfinity Series in 2014, was fourth there in 2015, and finished third at Watkins Glen that same year. Before making the leap to the Xfinity Series, Buescher also won at Road America in the ARCA Menards Series in 2013.

Basically, Buescher's better on these tracks than his lack of top-10s would indicate, and he's better positioned to succeed now than he was previously. Buescher will roll off 21st, so he has some ground to make up, but getting him at +320 helps alleviate that concern.