NASCAR

NASCAR Betting Guide: NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Denny Hamlin is still searching for his first NASCAR Cup Series championship despite a Hall-of-Fame career. Should we bet him to finally break through Sunday in Phoenix?

A couple of factors are pushing me toward keeping my betting card light this week before Friday's practice session for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship in Phoenix.

1. There are some key unknowns this week.

2. Value is tough with the championship contenders juiced to kingdom come.

3. FanDuel Sportsbook hasn't moved odds too drastically following previous practice sessions this year.

That final point is key. Typically, the incentive to bet before practice is to get ahead of market reactions to practice. If a driver is fast in practice, you're likely getting him at a much worse number. This year, that hasn't seemed to be the case as much. I still may get a worse number, but the penalty won't be all that large, and I'll be able to have more confidence in the bet.

As such, I'm going to start out betting slowly. Then we'll add as we get more data going into the weekend.

Lucky for us, we can find some value on one of the championship contenders.

Denny Hamlin to Win the Race (+450)

In the seven previous championship races, a driver in the championship four has won every time. Not only may they get extra wiggle room on the track, but they're also in the championship for a reason: they're fast.

FanDuel knows this and has pushed odds low for the championship four across the board. I just don't think they went low enough on Denny Hamlin.

I tried to keep motivation out of my simulations for this week. After all, every driver still wants a trophy and a check, especially with extra eyeballs on the event. As such, I played things pretty straight with the championship four.

Despite that, Hamlin still topped the field, winning 18.3% of the time. That's a smidge better than his implied odds at 18.2%.

That's not a huge value, but again, this isn't accounting for motivation. Once you bake that in, I'm fully comfortable betting Hamlin at this number.

Hamlin has been out front constantly on tracks like this. His 5.2 aggregate average running position on short, flat tracks is 2.3 spots better than the second-best mark, which belongs to his teammate, Martin Truex Jr. Hamlin's 885 laps led on shorter tracks this year is 356 more than Chase Elliott in second. Hamlin just hasn't cashed those into wins.

Hamlin has sealed the deal in the playoffs, though, winning twice in nine races, including one in a race using this same rules package. This is the one spot where I want to get ahead of what we see in Friday's practice as it's hard to see Hamlin's number getting any longer than this.

Post-Practice Addition: Christopher Bell to Podium (+850)

I am so, so very tempted to bet Christopher Bell to win this gosh darn race. My numbers absolutely adore him, and he was fast in practice on Friday.

It's just tough to get there with Bell not being eligible for the championship, further complicated by the fact that two of his teammates are in contention. As such, I'll settle for the podium odds at +850.

When I say my numbers adore Bell, I mean it. They put his win odds at 8.3%, lightyears beyond his implied odds of 2.6% at +3800. If this were a normal race, I'd sprint to the window to claim that. Obviously, the number is inflated by the fact he's not in the championship, but it's very possible this is over-accounting for motivation.

But because I'm a coward, I'll take this route instead. And Bell has done this already this year, finishing on the podium in two of four non-Martinsville races on short, flat tracks, and finishing just off it in fourth in another. He's an absolute beast on this track type.

Truthfully, I'll be kicking myself if Bell wins and I chickened out of betting his outright. But this does feel like the right path under the circumstances. So I'll lock in Bell here and still get at least a taste if he lives up to his potential yet again.