NASCAR Betting Guide: All-Star Race
The last time the NASCAR Cup Series ran a race in North Wilkesboro was a year before William Byron -- last week's winner -- was born. It has been a hot second. None of the current Cup Series drivers have run a race there in a Cup car.
Despite that -- and despite this being the sport's All-Star Race -- I think we can model it with decent confidence.
We know the key characteristics of the track: it's short with minimal banking and massive tire falloff. In general, we know which drivers will excel on those track types.
Additionally, the format of the race is straightforward. Outside of a pit crew competition setting the order to Saturday's heat races, everything else is simple. They'll have a heat race to make up ground should the crew make an error, and then the main event is just 200 laps with no inversions or anything funky like that.
Bookmakers, though, seem to be baking in extra uncertainty. And I don't blame them. There are plenty of unknowns here.
Personally, I'd like to take advantage of that modeled uncertainty. It has left a couple of drivers undervalued by my model, and I'd like to add them to my betslip now before cars are on track in case those numbers shorten.
Let's dig into those now, based on FanDuel Sportsbook's NASCAR betting odds, and we can circle back later in the weekend if more value arises.
Kyle Larson to Win (+700)
(UPDATE: Larson has since lengthened to +900 to win after a poor showing in his heat race. Larson's speed was fine, but he finished toward the back, meaning he'll start 16th. My model has him at 10.2% to win now versus 10.0% implied at the new number. That's not a big enough edge for me to bite, especially given I've already got liability at +700.)
As of Wednesday night, one of the biggest values in my model was the aforementioned Byron. He was +1000 at FanDuel, putting his implied odds at 9.1%. I had him at 11.2%, so I was willing to bite.
Someone else apparently was, too, as Byron's odds have since shortened to +750. With implied odds of 11.8%, he's off the menu, at least for the time being.
To make room for Byron's shortening, FanDuel lengthened the odds on two drivers whose tangle last week led to Byron's win: Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain. I show good value in both. We'll touch on Chastain in a second, but let's start with Larson.
Larson's dirt-racing background should translate well to North Wilkesboro. Most of his best tracks in the Cup Series -- Homestead, Darlington, Richmond -- are places that feature massive tire falloff. When things get slick, Larson rises. We'll see that here.
Larson's betting odds have hovered between +450 and +600 the past few weeks. So once you account for the smaller field size this weekend, we're definitely getting him at a discount, meaning the uncertainty is baked into the market.
My model has Larson at 14.2% to win, up from 12.5% implied. There's a chance he could lengthen should something happen in the pit-crew competition, but I don't want to take that risk. I want to lock him in at this price now.
Ross Chastain to Win (+1400)
(UPDATE: Chastain has since lengthened to +2000 to win. Similar to Larson, Chastain will start toward the back. However, he had good speed on the dry tires in his heat; he just got hung on the outside line when they switched to the wets. My model has Chastain at 6.8% to win, up from 4.8% implied. If you didn't add him at +1400, I do think it's reasonable to consider him at the longer number.)
It has been more than a calendar year since Chastain has won a Cup race. He has never won one on a non-drafting oval. So being high on him in the All-Star Race may feel odd.
But he's so consistently at the front that the model has no choice but to love him.
In three races on tracks with huge tire falloff this year -- Fontana, Richmond, and Darlington -- Chastain's average running positions are third, fifth, and fourth, respectively. We saw glimpses of this even when he was with Chip Ganassi Racing as he finished third at Darlington in the fall of 2021, at the time the second-best finish of his career.
You'd think that with Chastain's aggressive driving style, he'd struggle at places with falloff. That just hasn't been the case.
My model has Chastain's win odds at 10.5%, up from 6.7% implied. You could say that his inability to close out wins means we should avoid him. The flip side is that he's flirting with a breakout and could experience positive regression soon. I'm leaning toward the latter, making Chastain a good bet for Sunday night.
Post-Heat Race Addition: Martin Truex Jr. to Win (+1400)
Passing was difficult in the heats last night, so it may be a tough sell to bet a guy starting 12th. But the main event is a much longer race where tire wear will play a bigger role, and I think that makes Martin Truex Jr. viable at +1400.
Truex had good speed in Friday's practice session. He ranked second in five-lap average speed. He fell off in longer segments, though that may have been due to a poor lap in the 10-lap segment; his 15-lap average was only a hair worse than his 10-lap average, indicating the dip wasn't due to burning his tires off.
This track also would seem to suit Truex. He tends to run well at both Richmond and Darlington, tracks with big tire falloff, the key characteristic of North Wilkesboro.
Even though they're starting further back, all the Toyotas had speed Friday, and I think they'll have speed tonight, too. Truex is the biggest value of the bunch, sitting with 10.8% win odds in my model versus 6.7% implied.
Post-Heat Race Addition: Ross Chastain Over Chase Elliott (+112)
If you have a Chastain outright, you may not want to add to your financial exposure to him, and that's fully understandable. But this bet is a value for me, and it's one I'd be willing to add even with a Chastain outright in hand, personally.
Chastain and Chase Elliott will both start in the back half of the field with Elliott in 13th and Chastain 18th. Elliott was in the weaker of the two heat races but still had just the seventh-best 10-lap average in that heat.
Elliott's heat took place on the wet tires, which they won't use tonight. But he also struggled in practice, ranking 23rd in 5-lap average and 25th in 15-lap average. That means he was behind a good number of cars that will race in the Open tonight. Chastain was 21st and 8th, respectively, in those two splits.
My model has Chastain pretty comfortably ahead of Elliott even with the deeper starting position. So you'll have to play this one however you're comfortable, depending on what exposure you have to Chastain already, but in a vacuum, this is a good bet to me.