NASCAR

NASCAR Betting Guide: Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway

Joey Logano won on an intermediate track earlier this year and has had good runs on flatter tracks, as well. Could that make him undervalued as the Cup Series races at World Wide Technology Raceway for the first time?

When the NASCAR Cup Series goes to a new track, there's always some degree of uncertainty.

No two tracks are identical. There can be different tire wear, different optimal braking points, and plenty of other factors. We can't know exactly how it'll race until the green flag drops.

For World Wide Technology Raceway in Gateway, though, we've got a really good idea.

Although this is a new track for the Cup Series, the Camping World Truck Series has been racing here since 1998, and the Xfinity Series was here through 2010. We've seen similar enough cars -- and some drivers -- on this track already.

The defining characteristic of Gateway is that it's true to its Midwest location: it's flat as hell. There are only around 10 degrees of banking in both corners, making it one of the flatter track the series will visit this year. Its 1.250-mile length makes it an intermediate track where speed will matter but braking will still be key.

To me, this says it's a blend of a short, flat track and a 1.5-miler. You want guys who can navigate a flatter track but have the horses to hang with the studs, as well. That's an archetype I feel comfortable betting on.

When modeling the track that way, some drivers do emerge as being undervalued by the opening FanDuel Sportsbook betting lines. Let's dive into that now, and then we can circle back after practice and qualifying if any additional value emerges.

Joey Logano to Win (+1600); Logano to Finish Top 10 (-130)

(UPDATE: Logano has since shortened to +1000 to win, though my sims are still showing value even at the re-adjusted mark. Logano's top-10 odds have shortened to -175, and I am also still showing some value there.)

The last time the Cup Series was at an intermediate track, Joey Logano bully-balled his way to a win. But that wasn't a fluke outcome, and he's someone who should run well on a track like this.

The NASCAR Cup Series has raced on three short, flat tracks this year. Logano has had a top-nine average running position in each. He converted that into a runner-up finish in Martinsville. The win he got came in Darlington, which has heavy tire falloff and higher banking, but the length and shape do have crossover with Gateway.

Even with Fords not having a ton of speed recently, Logano has still been competitive. He held on to good track position to finish 4th in the All-Star Race and had a 10th-place average running position in Charlotte. Plus, this should be more of a handling-centric track than a speed one, which lessens the disadvantages the Fords have.

Logano has lacked upside at times, but with the top-two finishes in Martinsville and Darlington, I think he does have it in the right spots. To me, this seems like one such spot, pushing me to take the outright at +1600.

If you can't quite get there, though, Logano's also undervalued in the top-10 market. His implied odds there are 56.5% while I have his odds at 65.0%. That's among the highest marks in the field due to the consistency he brings.

Logano has raced in Gateway just once, back in 2008, a couple of months after his 18th birthday. He finished runner-up to Carl Edwards after leading 42 laps. This isn't factored into my model at all, but it does give me peace of mind in being high on Logano once again.

Christopher Bell Over Tyler Reddick (-112)

(UPDATE: This matchup bet is no longer available at FanDuel. You can find it at DraftKings, though, with Bell at -105. Reddick had very good speed in practice and now grades out very similarly to Bell, so I'd likely hold off on this bet if you haven't yet placed it.)

This bet is based purely on each driver's strengths. Those strengths skew heavily in Christopher Bell's favor this week.

Bell is someone who thrives on short, flat tracks. Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing, Bell has run 10 races on short, flat tracks. He has finished top 10 in 7 of them, and he had a top-10 average running position in 2 of the others. This is a continuation of what Bell did on this track type in the Xfinity Series.

Tyler Reddick, meanwhile, tends to thrive on multi-groove tracks with heavy tire wear. Gateway is unlikely to be that. In that same 10-race sample for Bell, Reddick has just 2 top-10 finishes and 2 top-10 average running positions. Granted, his best run came this year in Phoenix (one of the closest comps to Gateway), but this is not his best track type while it is for Bell.

My model has Bell's projected average running position about 1.7 spots better than Reddick's here, and that's even with some of Reddick's better tracks factored into the numbers. Once I manually bump up Bell for how I think this track will race, I feel very good laying -112 in this matchup.

Post-Practice Addition: Ryan Blaney to Win (+1000)

After practice, the Logano bets are looking good. His main competition seems to be his Team Penske teammates.

Let's hedge a bit and nip that in the bud now.

Ryan Blaney was the only guy to top Logano in any practice split. Blaney was tops in five-lap average and ranked second behind Logano in single-lap and 10-lap speed. With Austin Cindric being third in the latter two categories, we can say that Penske has brought a slick setup to this track.

Blaney was also super fast on the flat tracks earlier in the year, and they've long been a forte of his (outside of Richmond). He very easily could have won Phoenix and seemed to have the dominant car there.

My sims are showing just slight value here (9.5% versus 9.1% implied), but I'm overriding them under the assumption that Blaney will qualify well. I also, anecdotally, think that if my model is off on Blaney, it will be too low. That's why I'm locking this one in now despite just slim value. (UPDATE: Blaney is still +1000 after qualifying fifth. My win sims have upped his odds to 9.9% now, so at +1000, Blaney is confirmed still a value.)

Post-Qualifying Addition: Ross Chastain to Finish Top 10 (-160)

You may not be super enthused about laying -160 the first time the Cup Series goes to a track. But my model is showing decent value on Ross Chastain here.

I've got Chastain at 64.8% to finish top 10 versus 61.5% implied here. The model likes Chastain due to strong runs in Phoenix this year and Nashville last year (runner-up in both) and a solid average running position in Richmond.

Chastain also had strong speed in practice. He was ninth in single-lap speed and fifth in 10-lap average. Chastain doesn't typically make long runs in practice unless he feels really good about his car. It seems like that was the case this week.

Chastain had great runs on short, flat tracks last year and has reached a new baseline of performance this year. I understand not wanting to lay a big number, but value is value, and I buy into what the numbers are saying here.