NASCAR Betting Guide: Federated Auto Parts 400
With the NASCAR Cup Series heading to Richmond on Saturday night, one question should be at the forefront of each team's mind:
How do you top Martin Truex Jr?
If you look at the full history at Richmond, that question may seem odd. After all, Kyle Busch (+900 at FanDuel Sportsbook) is a six-time winner here. That's more wins than Truex (+480) has top-fives in his career at the track. So, that might push us toward Busch.
But Truex has been dominating at this track for a while now, and he finally converted it into a sweep of last year's races. He has led 100 or more laps in six of the past seven races; he just didn't get the finishes to show for it until 2019.
This matters for betting, too. Truex's odds are short, tied with Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin at the top of the board. Additionally, Truex will start 14th after a poor finish in Darlington.
Still, he seems to stand out as being an ideal betting option. Let's run through why and then dive into some other outrights to consider at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Martin Truex Jr. (+480)
Truex starting 14th is an annoyance, for sure, but he can still win from there.
To get evidence, we need only go back to 2018. That year, Busch won the spring race after starting 32nd. In the fall, Busch won after officially starting 11th. But he actually dropped to the rear before the race due to unapproved adjustments, meaning he effectively came from all the way in the back each time. This year's rules package is closer to the 2018 races than the ones in 2019. You can make passes here if you're fast enough, and Truex is a lock to be that.
Truex combines his elite track history with top-notch current form. Although he has just one win in 2020, he has eight podium finishes in the past 11 races, and he was fourth in another. Truex could have won last week had he not wrecked with Chase Elliott (+1000) late in the race. The form on Truex is superb even without trips to victory lane.
It also helps that Truex's one win came in Martinsville, one of three races this year on short, flat tracks, similar to Richmond. That catapults Truex to the top of my betting model for the weekend.
Since the start of last year, 13 drivers have had a model rating within half a position of Truex's in either direction. Six of them went on to win the race. Even with Truex being a favorite this weekend, he still grades out as being a value bet.
Brad Keselowski (+900)
Brad Keselowski isn't a great win bet if you decide to pull the trigger on Truex because you're tying up a lot of equity in the top of the odds board. However, some of you will be reluctant to bet Truex because the number is so short, and that's understandable. If you want to dive into the second tier, Keselowski is the top option.
Within my model for this weekend, there are two tiers at the top. The first is Truex and Harvick, who are relatively even. Then there's a slight gap before a second tier. Within that tier are Keselowski and Joey Logano (+800). I wouldn't personally rank those two ahead of Hamlin, but there's a reason the model is high on them.
Specifically, it's because the two Penske Racing drivers have performed well in the high-horsepower package this year. In six such races, the two have combined for more wins (three) than finishes outside the top 10 (two). Nobody has led more laps in this rules package this year than Keselowski, and Logano is third with Hamlin sandwiched in between.
The reason I lean toward Keselowski over Logano is what we saw in New Hampshire. That's the most recent race at a short, flat track, and Keselowski led 184 of 301 laps and out-dueled Hamlin for the win. If you want to lean into the results on similar tracks in 2020, both Keselowski and Logano stand out, but with Keselowski's odds being a hair longer, he's the preferred route between the two.
Jimmie Johnson (+3100)
Jimmie Johnson didn't make the Cup Series playoffs in his final year as a full-time Cup Series driver, and he already has his eyes set on a venture into Indy Car racing next year. But if Johnson's going to finish his historic career with a bang, Richmond could provide the backdrop.
Similar to Keselowski and Logano, Johnson is another driver who has thrived in the high-horsepower races this year. He has a pair of top-fives in six races with two other seventh-place runs. Both the top-fives came at high-banked tracks, but Johnson also led 70 laps and had a sixth-place average running position in Martinsville.
Even in the twilight of his career, Johnson has at least been solid in Richmond. He hasn't finished worse than 12th since 2014. With his performance ticking back up a smidge in 2020, that's good enough where we don't need to write him off.
Because Johnson's not in the playoffs, he has just one focus this weekend: winning. That's a luxury a lot of drivers don't have. Johnson ranks seventh in my model, so if you want a piece of the seven-time champ before he calls it quits, this is a good time to do so.
Clint Bowyer (+3200)
Clint Bowyer doesn't have the freedom to ignore points. He's tied with teammate Aric Almirola (+3500) right on the bubble to advance, so Bowyer's likely to emphasize stage points on Saturday. That's not a plus if you're trying to bet him. But this is a spot where Bowyer figures to run well.
Bowyer's a two-time winner at Richmond. Those wins shouldn't factor in for us because they were so long in the past, but he has been good recently, too. He has four straight top-10s, led 45 laps in 2018, and posted a top-five average running position twice in that span. He knows how to get around this joint.
Because Bowyer has just two top-fives this year, we should question his upside. However, both of those top-fives came in the higher-horsepower package. He was second in Bristol, but more importantly, he finished fifth in Phoenix, another short, flat track. He also had a fifth-place average running position in the first Dover race two weekends ago in this package.
If you want the additional stroll down narrative street, Bowyer may be looking for a job next year. His contract with Stewart-Haas Racing expires at the end of the season, and the free agent market is cooking. Bowyer could certainly add to his allure with a win. The biggest downsides of Bowyer tend to be his ceiling, but with what he has done recently at Richmond and in 2020 in this package, we can justify taking a stab at him at +3200.