NASCAR Betting Guide: Hollywood Casino 400

The NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener in Darlington had it all: lead changes, strategy, contenders, drama, and a surprise winner. It was an absolute delight.

I wouldn't be shocked if we get something similar on Sunday.

The Hollywood Casino 400 in Kansas will be just the fourth race at a 1.5-mile track (excluding Atlanta) this year. The first three -- including one in Kansas -- were all thrilling. Nobody really dominated. Each had multiple guys run out front. Passing was easy. And now, with such high stakes, we know we'll be getting everybody's best effort.

That makes things pretty fun from a betting perspective. The passing note also should impact the way we bet this race.

Qualifying on Saturday isn't going to matter much. Sure, you'd rather start up front than in the back, but if you've got speed, it doesn't really matter where you begin.

This impacts my thoughts on Ross Chastain. He's +1200 at FanDuel Sportsbook (7.7% implied), and I've got him at 8.4% in my win sims. I could bet him now and be happy. But Chastain tends to qualify poorly, which leads to his odds lengthening. They probably shouldn't do that much.

At Vegas, Chastain qualified 18th but led 83 laps, had a 4th-place average running position, and finished 3rd. In Charlotte, he qualified 22nd but led 153 laps. Qualifying pace isn't an indicator of race pace for him.

I'm very likely to bet Chastain this week. I'm just going to hold off until after qualifying in hopes of getting a longer number.

So, which drivers am I looking to bet now before cars get on the track on Saturday? Here are my favorites based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook for the Hollywood Casino 400.

Erik Jones to Win (+5000)

(UPDATE: Jones has since lengthened to +10000 to win. I think this is an overreaction to a wonky practice to him. My model has his win odds at 2.2%, still above +5000, much less the new odds of +10000. He's still worth a look if you want exposure to a longshot.)

This is not an overreaction to Erik Jones' surprise win last week. Rather, I think it's an underreaction on the part of the sportsbooks.

There is some overlap between Darlington and Kansas. Both allow you to run multiple grooves, require speed, and have at least some element of tire falloff. You shouldn't completely ignore what happened last week.

Even if you want to, Jones has had speed at other relevant tracks. Specifically, his car was humming in both Pocono and Michigan. Those are also very different tracks, but both require huge top-end speed to compete. Jones proved he could do that in both spots.

Jones' first Kansas race was nothing to write home about, but none of that was his fault. He had good speed in practice and finished the first stage in 8th despite starting 22nd. But during the second stage, his right-rear tire got stuck on the car, and the team had to saw it off. Jones lost a bunch of laps and couldn't make up that ground.

He had speed there, and he has now had race-winning upside in Fontana, Pocono, Michigan and Darlington. Even if none of those tracks are direct comps, that giddy-up matters.

My model has Jones' win odds at 4.3%. That might be too high, but that's a lotta wiggle room above his 2.0% implied odds. I'm going back to the well and riding with him once again.

Joey Logano to Finish Top 10 (-110)

(UPDATE: Logano has since shortened to -310 in this market, so the value is long gone.)

Once again, my model is showing value on Joey Logano to win this race (6.6% versus 4.8% implied at +2000). I disagree and am unwilling to bet him there.

But in the top-10 market, you can count me in.

The reason I'm skeptical of a Logano win is that he hasn't had that kind of upside on this track type this year. His speed was underwhelming in Michigan, where his fourth-place finish was largely the product of good strategy. I don't think he can top the Toyotas this week.

The strategy aspect matters, though: even when Logano's car isn't up to snuff, his team can get him into the top 10.

The "multiple paths to a good finish" pitch is why my model likes Logano in this market. He's 58.6% to finish top 10 for me, up from 52.4% implied. Even if I'm skeptical of his upside, I'm more than willing to bet him in a market where he has multiple paths to cashing.

Michael McDowell to Finish Top 10 (+650)

(UPDATE: McDowell has since lengthened to +850 in this market. His speed on Saturday was relatively in line with expectations, so my model has his top-10 odds at 18.5%, up from the 10.5% implied at the new number.)

A lot of the same thought process for Logano applies to Michael McDowell. Even when they haven't had speed this year, they've found a way to get the job done.

Overall this year, the Cup Series has run 10 races at non-drafting ovals longer than a mile. Those are places that require speed, the one thing McDowell's team is most likely to lack.

Despite this, McDowell has already notched four top-10s in this sample. One of them was at a 1.5-mile track in Charlotte, where he benefitted from chaos but also qualified inside the top 10.

When you think about McDowell's team, it feels overzealous to put his top-10 odds at 22.4%, which is where my model has him. But the results are there, and we've seen it over a large enough sample where we should probably stop doubting him.

And even if my model is overselling him, the gap between 22.4% and 13.3% implied at +650 is big. So I'm going back to McDowell this week, even if I am still skeptical of the raw speed under the hood.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Chris Buescher to Finish Top 10 (+320)

Typically, when drivers qualify inside their top 10, their top-10 odds get jacked to hell. Chris Buescher's didn't, and I think he's a value here.

Buescher was fast in practice, too. He ranked sixth in single-lap speed and fifth in five-lap average. He then backed that up by qualifying 10th.

You'd think that would drive Buescher's top-10 odds down, but it hasn't. His implied odds are just 23.8%, and I've got him at 30.8%. Buescher was fast here in the spring, too, before issues, so I'll happily take this route to exposure on Sunday.