NASCAR

NASCAR Betting Guide: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard

Christopher Bell was in contention at Watkins Glen before a spin ruined his day. Can he bounce back with another good run on the Indianapolis road course?

At this point in the season, we know what to expect when the NASCAR Cup Series heads to a road course. It's a whole lotta Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson.

Those two have combined to win each of the past four road-course races, and they've swept the top two spots in three of them. It would be boring if the battles the two weren't so entertaining.

Obviously, bookmakers ain't no dummies; they know this. That's why Elliott and Larson are +180 and +280, respectively, to win at FanDuel Sportsbook. They should be there.

The attention on Elliott and Larson, though, has allowed some other drivers to go a bit overlooked, and we can still find favorable betting odds elsewhere in the field.

To start things off this week, we're going to focus on drivers who are undervalued based on what they've done in the first five road-course races this year. Then, we may add some more sprinkles after practice on Saturday or qualifying on Sunday. And, yes, there is still be value to be had.

Where is that value prior to practice and qualifying? A lot of it lies with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell to Win (+1900) or Podium (+500)

The one guy who could have potentially given Elliott and Larson a run for their money last week is the only other guy to win a road course race this year. That's Christopher Bell.

Bell's win on the Daytona road course was a surprise, but he has shown since that it was no fluke. He finished runner-up at Road America last month and was battling for the lead on Sunday when he and Larson got together.

Bell still finished seventh there. If you count that race, Bell has either won or been in contention in three of five road races this year, which does make these numbers enticing.

Right now, my win simulations aren't showing a ton of value in Bell's outright (5.4% in the sims versus 5.0% implied) or podium (16.5% versus 16.7% implied) odds. However, I think they're underselling him a bit due to some rough luck at COTA, so I'm fine still diving in and taking swipes at Bell in both markets.

Denny Hamlin to Win (+1900)

This is one the win simulations do approve. Although Denny Hamlin's implied odds are just 5.0%, I've got him at 9.4% odds to take the checkered flag. That ranks third behind just Elliott and Larson.

It's possible the model is overrating Hamlin, but it's absolutely not for nothing. Since the start of last year, Hamlin has the second-best average finish on road courses, trailing just Elliott. His four top-five finishes are also tied for second behind Elliott. Hamlin ranks third behind Elliott and Larson in aggregate average running position across the five road-course races this year.

That shows Hamlin will at least be in contention. It doesn't, though, show he has the upside to actually snag a win.

Although that's a fair concern, it's baked into this number. You don't typically get guys with a 57.1% top-five rate in a relevant sample at +1900 to win. It's also not as if Hamlin has never done it before. He won at Watkins Glen in 2016 and has three runner-up finishes on road courses in his career.

NASCAR's a funky sport. It's always possible that something could take Elliott and/or Larson out of contention, which would open the door for a third driver to squeak in. Hamlin has shown he can position himself to take advantage of that in the past, allowing us to bet him at this number even while acknowledging that upside is a concern.

Kurt Busch to Podium (+1500)

The "upside" discussion is relevant with Kurt Busch, too. It's why we're not betting him to win at +3500. But +1500 for a podium seems silly.

Busch's last podium on a road course came back in 2015 at Sonoma. It's a 17-race streak that could justify such a long number.

But Busch has been close gobs of times in that 17-race stretch. Busch has finished fourth -- one spot off the podium -- three times. All three have come within the past six road-course races, and they all came on different tracks. Being one spot off isn't enough to say a driver can't get the job done.

Because of his consistency, Busch ranks sixth in my model in projected average running position for Sunday's race. All the drivers in front of him have podium odds of +850 or shorter, nearly half Busch's number. As a result, his 14.2% podium odds rank seventh in the field and run laps around his 6.3% implied odds.

As with Hamlin, it's possible the model is overestimating Busch, but we've got lots of wiggle room to play with here. I think we've seen enough out of Busch to trust the model and bet him at +1500 to finally break his way back onto the podium.

Joey Logano Over Kevin Harvick (-112)

Watkins Glen was unkind to Joey Logano. Although he won the first stage, he later got caught up in a spin with his teammate, had a 15th-place average running position, and finished 22nd.

That one race should not have soured us on him this much.

Since the start of last year, the Cup Series has run seven road-course races. Logano has four top-five finishes in that span; Kevin Harvick has zero. Logano has five top-10s; Harvick has two. Logano has beaten Harvick straight-up in six of those seven races.

So, why just -112? It's likely because Harvick happened to beat Logano last week, the most recent road-course race on the docket.

It's an overreaction. Logano's underpriced here. Bet him with confidence.

Post-Practice Addition: Austin Cindric to Win Group 3 (+240)

I've been looking for a way to get financial exposure to Austin Cindric all week. His outright (+2000) is too short, and FanDuel doesn't have any match bets up.

This seems like a good route for betting him.

The other drivers in Group 3 are Kevin Harvick (+230), Alex Bowman (+240), and Ryan Blaney (+270). None of those drivers have wowed on road courses this year, ranking 18th, 21st, and 9th, respectively, in aggregate average running position across the five races.

Cindric doesn't have the finishes to show for it, but he has had the speed. He led laps early at COTA, and he was leading at Road America before a mechanical failure ended his day. He has upside none of the other three possess right now.

That's why my win simulations have him taking the checkered flag 4.2% of the time, after adding in practice data (where he ranked fifth, the lone driver in this group to sit in the top 10). That's not high enough to best the implied odds on his outright market (4.8%), but it does make him the top guy in this group. You can fully justify betting Cindric outright as 4.2% is not nothing, but for me, this is the preferred route for having exposure to him.