NASCAR Betting Guide: Saturday's Drydene 311
Occasionally when betting on NASCAR, we can fixate too much on wins. That may sound odd when betting outrights -- given wins are, ya know, kinda the point -- but there are downsides to it.
Dover is a great example of this. This is a track at which Jimmie Johnson (+2000 at FanDuel Sportsbook) has historically dominated, winning a whopping 11 total times in 36 races.
Johnson isn't as competitive now as he was then. But with all those races he won in that time, it meant guys who currently are relevant -- like Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and others -- weren't winning. So if you look at their Dover records, you're going to think this is a mediocre track for them.
This is relevant, too, with Kyle Larson not in the field this weekend as he is the most recent winner at the track. Matt Kenseth (+15000) won here in 2016, but -- like Johnson -- Kenseth is past his peak. Judging a driver's past history at Dover based on wins is going to make it tough to find any palatable options with where the odds sit. But somebody's going to get that checkered flag on Saturday, and it's probably going to be someone with limited wins at Dover in their career.
As such, at least for this week, it's necessary to care a bit less about whether a driver has proven he can seal the deal at this track in the past. Once we do that, who pops up as being a betting value for Saturday's Drydene 311? Let's check it out.
Kevin Harvick (+390)
This is a super short number on Harvick, and he's starting 10th on Saturday. It's understandable if you're a bit skittish to bite. But Harvick's odds are at this mark for a reason.
Harvick leads my model for Saturday, sitting a full tier ahead of the rest of the pack. His rating in my model is the best for any driver in the 2020 season and the second best since the start of last year. Only eight drivers have been projected within a half position of Harvick in either direction; four of them wound up winning their respective race, and two of the non-winners led at least 100 laps. He's in good company.
Although Harvick is starting 10th, that's unlikely to be a huge deterrent to winning. He started 15th for the 2015 playoff race, one in which he needed a win. Harvick was leading already by lap 24, ran out front for 355 of 400 laps, and won the race. He has had an average running position of fourth or better in four straight Dover trips.
It's true that Harvick has just two career wins at Dover, and that's not a high number for someone of his caliber. But as discussed in the open, this is a situation where we need to downplay the number of wins a driver has at the track. Once we do so, it becomes clear that Harvick is a worthwhile bet despite carrying such a short number.
Brad Keselowski (+1400)
As mentioned with Harvick, there's a gap between him and the pack in my model this weekend. After Harvick is a tier of two drivers who are basically even. One is Hamlin (+650), even though he has never won at this track. Hamlin's recent history here is impressive, and with how good he has been this year, you can build a strong case for betting him.
The other guy is Brad Keselowski, who checks in at +1400. That number is longer than it should be.
The closest corollary track to Dover is Bristol, the other high-banked, concrete track on the schedule. There, Keselowski ran out front most of the race and took advantage of a late tangle between Chase Elliott (+600) and Joey Logano (+1800) to get the win. Keselowski has a knack for winning races he doesn't dominate, and there are few better examples than that Bristol run.
We've mentioned this a couple of times this year, but my model doesn't buy into Keselowski often due to his lack of dominance. That makes it more noteworthy to me when he does pop. Saturday will be the fourth time this year he has ranked within the top three of my model; he has won two of those three races and was third in the other. That should be enough to generate interest in Keselowski at second-tier odds.
Kurt Busch (+3500)
Kurt Busch is the opposite of Keselowski. I think the model tends to overrate Busch due to a lack of poor finishes. This week, though, I'm willing to give Busch a sniff and bet him at +3500.
Busch ranks sixth in my model entering the week thanks to a blend of solid form and track history. Busch has had a top-10 average running position in three of the past four Dover races, and he converted two of those into top-five finishes. It also helps that Busch's teammate, Larson, won here last year, meaning the equipment is good enough to run near the front. Part of that was due to Larson's talent, but Busch is no slouch, either.
The big question around Busch is his upside. We know he can get top-10s, but it requires an extra level to get a win. It's a fair concern with Busch and could instead push you toward him at even money for a top-10.
The reason we can back Busch at +3500 is that the times when he does flash upside tend to come at tracks where driver control matters. That's true at Bristol, where Busch won in 2018, and it's true in Dover, as well. Busch probably won't be recommended as an outright often, but Saturday seems like a good race to give him a whirl.
Christopher Bell (+7500)
Several times this year, we've seen drivers get massive odds reductions due to what they've done at tracks in the Xfinity Series. We saw it with Tyler Reddick at Homestead and Kansas, which was smart. We don't seem to be getting that this weekend with Christopher Bell, though, making him an intriguing longshot.
Bell and Cole Custer (+7000) were the two drivers to beat in the Xfinity Series at Dover the past couple of years. The two combined to win three of four races (two for Bell, one for Custer), and they swept the top two spots in the 2018 fall race. Bell and Custer led 199 of 200 laps last spring with Bell eventually notching the win.
We should expect this to be a good track for Bell. He also seems to have the equipment necessary to get a solid finish. Matt DiBenedetto (+5500) finished seventh in Bell's car in the fall Dover race last year, and he nearly won in Bristol that year, too. Bell showed he could live up to that with a ninth-place run in Bristol after starting 35th.
This time, Bell's hole isn't as deep. He'll start 18th, which isn't at the front, but it sure as heck isn't 35th, either. With no Xfinity win bump going Bell's direction, we can afford to put a bit of coin on Bell and see if he can carry that success into the Cup Series.
Chris Buescher to Finish Top 10 (+750)
Historically, Dover has been a bad track for Chris Buescher. His best finish is 18th, and that's one of just two top-20 finishes across eight starts.
But +750 for a top-10 seems way too long.
Buescher has the benefit of starting 12th on Saturday, so he doesn't have to move far to crack the top 10. All other drivers starting in the top 12 spots are +125 or shorter to notch a top-10. The closest person in odds to Buescher is Daniel Suarez (+850), who is in wretched equipment and hasn't finished better than 18th the entire season. Buescher's odds are those of someone who hasn't been competitive in 2020.
You could make that argument about Buescher, but Buescher at least has five top-10s and two top-fives this year, one of which came last week. He's not in a back-marker car, but his odds would make you think he is.
This is the best equipment Buescher has ever had at Dover, so his track history matters less. He could very well continue his history of poor finishes at the track. But when you're getting +750 just for him to do something he's done five times already this year, and he has favorable track position from the jump, Buescher to finish top 10 may be one of the best value bets on the board for Saturday.