NASCAR Betting Guide: M&M's Fan Appreciation 400

Erik Jones is a longshot to win at Pocono but has some key data in his favor. Just how aggressive can we be in betting Jones for the M&M's Fan Appreciation 400?

I'm not typically a longshot guy.

I don't like living on bets that have a 2% chance of winning. Those lose 98% of the time, and it can lead to a super rocky road.

That's especially true at a track like Pocono. With the long straightaways, you need serious ponies under the hood to compete. That inherently whittles down the field and makes longshots bad bets.

This week is an exception.

In looking at FanDuel Sportsbook's betting odds for Pocono, one longshot stands out as being undervalued by the market. He might be someone who loses more than 97% of the time, but his actual odds are better than his implied odds. And the gap is big enough for me to bite.

Let's dig into that driver now and outline other bets that stand out prior to practice for the M&M's Fan Appreciation 400.

Erik Jones to Win (+8500); Jones to Podium (+3100); Jones to Finish Top 10 (+370)

(UPDATE: Jones has since shortened to +3800, +850, and +140, respectively. My model views all of those odds as being appropriate, so if you haven't bet Jones yet, I'd hold off on diving in now.)

We're going to bet the board on Erik Jones this week. This isn't to give us wiggle room if he doesn't win; he's just a value in all three markets.

Before we dig into the markets, let's discuss why my model likes Jones. It's for a couple of reasons.

First, Jones was fast in Fontana this year and could have won the race. He had a fourth-place average running position there. Fontana features heavy tire falloff, so it's a very different track, but it's similar in that it requires a great engine to hang. Jones had that.

We've seen that with RCR-aligned teams (like Petty/GMS) in the past. Bubba Wallace had some great runs at Indianapolis and Michigan in his time with Petty, Austin Dillon was runner-up in Fontana this year, and Daniel Hemric's best runs with RCR in the Cup Series came at Fontana and Pocono.

Second, when Jones has been in competitive equipment, he has torched Pocono. He finished top-five in five of eight races with Toyota before moving to Petty/GMS. That's top-tier equipment, but Jones showed at Fontana his stuff is good enough to give him a shot.

That's why I'm buying into what the model is saying.

Starting with the outright, check your available books to see if they're still giving out Jones at +10000. That's where he opened at FanDuel, but he has since shortened to +8500. I'm still showing value there as my model has him at 2.3% to win, almost double his implied odds of 1.2%. So whether it's +10000 or +8500, Jones is a value.

In the non-outrights, I have Jones at 4.8% to podium and 32.1% to finish top 10, up from his implied odds of 3.1% and 21.3%, respectively. That means the top-10 market is where we hold the biggest edge, so if you're going to bet Jones in just one spot, do it there.

For me, I want a chance to take advantage of his upside. This means putting some money in each market with a higher bet size for the less restrictive markets. This way, you can still profit on Jones even if he finishes just inside the top 10 while seeing a great payday should he manage to get the win.

Ross Chastain to Win (+1000)

(UPDATE: Chastain has since lengthened to +1100 to win. However, my model still has him in victory lane more than 10% of the time, so there is value again at the new number. Chastain will start in the back, but if you didn't bet him earlier, I'd still be inclined to snatch him up now as he lengthened more than he should have. Chastain's +430 odds to podium are also longer than they should be.)

Unlike Jones, Ross Chastain has a horrible history at Pocono. He has never finished better than 24th in 6 career Cup Series races. That's misleading, though, and I think it's what's leading to Chastain's being undervalued in the market.

The big thing with Chastain is that he has had just two races at Pocono in competitive equipment, and that matters a lot here. When he has had a decent ride at Pocono in lower series, he got a win here in the Truck Series in 2019, and he was runner-up in the Xfinity Series in 2020. He led nearly one-third of the race in both of those. This is not some magical spot where he's out to lunch.

Chastain had speed at Pocono last year with Chip Ganassi Racing. He led 10 laps in the first race of the double-header but had troubles and finished poorly. In the second race, he started 33rd but picked his way forward and was running in the top five at one point. But another issue ruined his day, and he finished 26th.

Chastain and Trackhouse have speed everywhere they've gone this year. They've got the horsepower to win this race, and my model has Chastain doing so 11.8% of the time. With his implied odds at 9.1%, Chastain is undervalued even at relatively short odds.

Martin Truex Jr. to Win (+1000)

(UPDATE: Truex has since lengthened to +1200 to win. I have Truex at 7.7% to win, exactly in line with his new implied odds. He lost some win equity on Saturday primarily due to the speed that Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, and Chase Elliott showed. You could still bet Truex if you wanted, but I'm not necessarily as high on him as I was before. Similar to Chastain, I am showing slight value on Truex's podium odds at +230.)

We know Joe Gibbs Racing has the horsepower we want here. Martin Truex Jr. brings the prowess on flat tracks.

Truex has led 80-plus laps in 3 separate races this year. Those have been New Hampshire, Nashville, and Richmond. All three are super flat tracks, and that doesn't count when Truex led 42 laps at Gateway.

Truex's recent history at Pocono is simply fine, which might underwhelm you. But he had impressive runs here even when he was with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated and Michael Waltrip Racing, and he got a couple wins with Furniture Row Racing. He can get around this track.

My model has Truex at 10.0% to win, up from 9.1% implied. That means he's the thinnest value of the trio of outrights, so if I were to lop off anybody, it'd be Truex. But I feel good enough about all three of Jones, Chastain, and Truex to place these outrights now and hope things move in our favor once cars are on the track.

Michael McDowell to Win (+950)

(UPDATE: McDowell has since shortened to +340 to finish top 10. My model has his odds at 21.3%, just a smidge below his implied odds of 22.7%. if you can find him at +400 or longer, I'd be fine diving in. I don't see him that long at any of the most popular books, though.)

Front Row Motorsports isn't in the "high-horsepower" bucket, which may make backing Michael McDowell to finish top 10 feel odd. But he has bucked that conception even at this track the past few years.

In the past four Pocono races, McDowell has three top-15 average running positions, and he converted one into a top-10 finish. You don't get that from a guy with +950 odds to finish top 10 often.

McDowell has cashed in on the shortened equipment gap this year with seven top-10s, already setting a career-high. Not included in that mark was when he led 34 laps and had an 11th-place average running position, another non-short flat track that features shifting. He also had a 13th-place average running position at Nashville, which checks that "flat, non-short" box, as well.

I've got McDowell's top-10 odds at 25.0%, up from his implied odds of 9.5%. That's a massive gap, giving my model wiggle room to be overestimating him. With the success McDowell has had this year, I'm willing to put faith in him and trust what the numbers are saying.

Joey Logano Over Alex Bowman (-118)

(UPDATE: Logano has since shortened to -156 in this matchup. Given how non-competitive Ford was on Saturday, I'd avoid betting Logano at the new number if you didn't buy in while it was -118.)

Last year, Alex Bowman won the first race of the double-header at Pocono. That result is misleading, though, and I think it's pushing Bowman too far up the odds board this week.

In that race, Bowman was far from dominant. He had an 11th-place average running position but used a fantastic late-race restart to snag the lead. He held it until just a few laps to go when Kyle Larson passed him. Larson proceeded to blow a tire on the final lap, giving Bowman the win despite not having the best car of the race.

Bowman enters this race in a massive rut. He hasn't had a top-13 average running position since Kansas, a stretch that includes three races on non-drafting ovals longer than a mile in length. There has been some misfortune, but Hendrick Motorsports was just entirely out to lunch at Gateway when Bowman's average running position was 16th.

Logano won that race. In six races at non-drafting ovals longer than a mile in length, Logano has had just one average running position lower than 11th. Form heavily favors him.

Logano doesn't have the best track history at Pocono, and that does matter. But outside of the win, it hasn't necessarily been a stellar track for Bowman, either. With form heavily favoring Logano, I'm more than okay laying -118 on him in this matchup.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Martin Truex Jr. Over Ryan Blaney (-118)

This is primarily a bet on Toyota's speed that they showed on Saturday and a bet against Ford.

All six of the Toyotas in the field qualified within the top 11 spots. Meanwhile, Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher were the only Fords to qualify that high. No Fords were in the top 14 of single-lap speed while all six Toyotas were.

Although my model did ding Truex's outright post-qualifying (as noted above), it still has him well ahead of Blaney. Truex's projected average finish is 8.9 while Blaney is at 12.6. To get that big of a cushion for only -118 feels pretty attractive. Truex has the edge in the relevant form section of my model, as well, so I'll happily take this matchup and get more exposure to Toyota's speed.