NASCAR Betting Guide: Toyota Owners 400

At long last, the betting markets are reacting to how wild 2022 has been thus far.

Entering last year's spring NASCAR Cup Series race in Richmond, six drivers had odds of +800 or shorter to win at NASCAR odds. The favorite -- Martin Truex Jr. -- was +400.

This year, Chase Elliott is the favorite at +850, one of just two drivers shorter than +1000.

And that's exactly how it should be.

With the Next-Gen car in place, a larger pool of drivers has had a realistic shot at the win. We've already had three first-time winners, and guys like Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez have flirted with adding their names to the list. The odds should be longer on each driver as a result; now, they finally are.

That doesn't mean we're swimming in value in the outright markets. It just means the market is where it should have been all along.

That's why I'll be holding off on most of my bets until after practice and qualifying on Saturday. Richmond is similar to Phoenix in that it is short and flat, but the high degree of tire falloff means drivers who excel in Phoenix don't always run well here. Saturday's on-track time will be the best indicator we've got of who will compete for the win.

There is one bet I like and want to lock in before cars get on track. Let's go through that now, and then we'll circle back and add more once we have extra info.

Alex Bowman to Win (+1700)

Kyle Busch's criticism of Alex Bowman is accurate; Bowman does often win in fluky fashion. He did it last spring at this exact track, too.

But you've gotta be in the right position to capitalize on the chaos. Bowman puts himself there regularly, and it seems the markets are underselling him here.

Across the four non-drafting tracks this year, Bowman's worst average running position is 11th. He has had a top-10 mark three times, including a 10th-place mark at Phoenix, the most similar track to Richmond thus far.

Bowman does the same thing in Richmond. He has had a top-eight average running position in two of the past three races there, including the win in the spring. This isn't a surprise as Bowman tends to run best at heavy tire falloff tracks with wins in Richmond and Fontana (in addition to the middling-falloff characteristics of Chicagoland and Vegas).

Prior to practice and qualifying, Bowman's win odds of 6.6% in my simulations are a percentage point higher than his implied odds of 5.6%. He's one of just two drivers (Joey Logano at +1000 being the other) showing at least a percentage point of value. With Bowman's odds being longer (and Logano's propensity for being overvalued in my simulations), I'll take the discount here and make Bowman the lone outright before on-track activity.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Ryan Blaney to Win (+1300)

(UPDATE: Blaney has since shortened to +850 to win, 10.5% implied odds, meaning the value is now gone.)

Despite winning the pole and showing blazing speed in practice, Ryan Blaney still re-opened at +1300 to win after qualifying. I'll happily take that.

Blaney has historically been awful in Richmond. He has never led a lap here, and his best finish was 10th last fall. It's his worst track.

And those showings have come even when he has shown speed in practice. But Blaney's a much better overall driver now than he was then, and he has had great speed to open 2022.

My model knows how bad Blaney has been at this track. Still, when you plug in Saturday's data, the sims have him winning 9.5% of the time. With his implied odds at 7.1%, I'm happy to take the plunge despite his poor history here.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Kevin Harvick Over Alex Bowman (-112)

(UPDATE: Harvick is now -126 to top Bowman at FanDuel.)

This may feel dumb, given what I felt about Bowman entering the weekend. But Kevin Harvick was much faster in practice, so I'll take Harvick here.

These two guys were close in my model entering the weekend. But Harvick was top-10 in both single-lap speed and five-lap averages in practice, and he qualified seventh. Bowman, meanwhile, qualified 28th and didn't have much juice in practice.

Harvick ran really well in Phoenix, which does have similarities with Richmond. Bowman should be better in the race with how good he is at saving his equipment on tracks like this, but Harvick should be a favorite here rather than having -112 both ways. I'd also consider betting Harvick to podium (+550 at FanDuel).

Post-Qualifying Addition: Erik Jones to Finish Top 10 (+150)

(UPDATE: Jones is now +135 to finish top 10, 42.6% implied odds. This is effectively right on my number, so most of the value here is gone.)

We've seen Erik Jones outperform expectations in a big way this year. He did it again in practice and qualifying Saturday, making this a value bet.

Jones was sixth in single-lap speed, third in five-lap average, and fifth in qualifying. He was mighty impressive.

Jones has struggled on the short, flat tracks with his new team, but we've seen him pop in Richmond previously. He finished top-five here during the 2019 playoffs with Joe Gibbs Racing, though he was later disqualified. My model has him at 42.6% to finish top 10, above his implied odds here at 40.0%.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Martin Truex Jr. to Win (+1000)

With Blaney and Bowman outrights locked in, I wanted to try to avoid this market as only one can hit. But the lingering value on Martin Truex Jr. is too good to pass up.

My model has Truex as the co-favorite at 9.5%, tied with Blaney. That's not much higher than his implied odds of 9.1%.

However, my model has a ton of variance baked in due to the wildness we've seen with the Next-Gen car. You could make a strong case for lowering that volatility now that we have on-track data to examine. In other words, if my model is off on Truex, I'm expecting it to be too low rather than too high.

Truex has dominated at Richmond the past half decade regardless of rules package. I think there's a good chance he returns to that here.