NASCAR Betting Guide: Toyota/Save Mart 350
More often than not, I feel as though track history is overvalued in NASCAR betting markets.
Betting on track history requires relying on a small sample. The Cup Series runs each track -- at most -- twice per year, and that's simply just not a lot to draw from.
But people do look at that data, and it will influence bets, thus influencing betting markets, as well. It leads to me white-knuckling as I fade a driver who ran well at the upcoming track recently or fearing someone duplicates their previous futility as I bet on progression.
Not this week.
Prior to practice and qualifying, I'm above market on four drivers. Among those drivers:
- One won this race last year
- Another finished on the podium
- Another finished 11th but has long odds for a top 10
- And the final one was runner-up behind Kyle Busch in last year's Truck Series race in Sonoma
For once, I get to bet on guys who have proven at this specific track that they can excel. And, whew, buddy, is that a nice feeling.
Let's dig into who those drivers are and where I'm showing value relative to FanDuel Sportsbook's NASCAR betting odds for Sonoma.
Daniel Suarez to Win (+1600)
(UPDATE: Suarez has since lengthened to +2200 to win. Suarez lacked pace in practice but did still qualify ninth. My model has lowered him to 5.5% to win (from 6.9% pre-practice), but that is above the implied odds of 4.3%. Even with the market shifting against this bet, I do still think Suarez is a fine outright consideration.)
Last year in Sonoma, Daniel Suarez likely didn't have the best car in the field. That seemed to belong to either Chase Elliott or Kyle Larson, who prioritized stage points over a race win, which hurt them toward the finish.
But Suarez had a car strong enough to eventually get the lead, hold it, and run away with the final stage to get his first career win. Even if he was a bit lucky, +1600 feels too long for his return trip.
That win for Suarez was one of three top-five finishes he had on road courses last year. This year at the Circuit of the Americas, he finished just 27th but did have a 7th-place average running position prior to chaos at the end. Being high on Suarez at a road course doesn't require solely leaning on last year's victory.
Prior to practice and qualifying, my model has Suarez at 6.9% to win, up from 5.9% implied. It's not the biggest edge in the world, by any means, but when you look at what he did last year, it's value I think we can feel good about.
Michael McDowell to Win (+4000); McDowell to Finish Top 10 (+155)
(UPDATE: McDowell has since shortened to +1400 to win, and top-10 markets haven't yet re-opened. My model still shows value on McDowell at +1400 because it was weirdly high on him before practice, and he ranked fifth in single-lap speed and third in five-lap average. McDowell then qualified third, as well. Obviously, it would have been ideal to bet him while he was still a longshot, but the model, at least, still thinks +1400 is a fine bet.)
Unlike Suarez, Michael McDowell doesn't have a road-course win to exhibit his upside. But he did finish third behind Suarez last year, and the market seems fully convinced he's incapable of winning.
I do think that's a defensible position. That podium last year is McDowell's lone top-five finish on a road course in his career. So questioning his upside is valid and fair.
But it's also important to remember that most of those races are irrelevant. McDowell has never driven for a top team, so before the Next-Gen era, he was at a serious disadvantage.
Since the Cup Series started running the Next-Gen cars last year, bridging that equipment gap, McDowell has had a top-10 average running position in 5 of 7 races, including a pair of top-5 marks. Even if he hasn't finished in the top five, he has been in close proximity.
McDowell was more middling at COTA this year, finishing 12th with a 15th-place average running position. But that was also a down race for him last year, and he still went out and finished third at Sonoma.
My model has McDowell at 4.8% to win, up from 2.4% implied. I think the model's too high on him in that regard. It does, though, mean we have a lot of wiggle room to be too high on McDowell and still have him above the market.
As for the top-10 bet, McDowell is at 47.5% for me there versus 39.2% implied. If you are skeptical of the upside, I'd just lock that bet in and feel great about it. But personally, I am willing to ride with the upside and put a bit on McDowell to win, as well, given how often he has been at the front in these races since the start of last year.
Austin Dillon to Finish Top 10 (+650)
(UPDATE: FanDuel hasn't re-opened T10 markets, but in case they do, my model has Dillon's top-10 odds up to 31.4% post-qualifying, translating to a breakeven price of +218.)
Austin Dillon's first full-time Cup Series season was in 2014. It took him until last year at COTA to finally notch his first-ever top 10 at a road course.
But it's clear he has been working on his craft on road courses, and he has shown steady improvement in the Next-Gen era. I think this number leans too heavily on the old data.
In seven Next-Gen races on road courses, Dillon has two top-10s, adding another at Charlotte last year on top of the one at COTA. He was also 11th at Sonoma last year, just shy of clearing this hurdle. He had a 14th-place average running position in that race, too, so it wasn't some fluke that he finished well.
My model has Dillon in the top 10 20.3% of the time, up from 13.3% implied. I don't think he's a threat for an upside market like McDowell, but he has shown that finishes in the back half of the top 10 are fully possible right now.
Zane Smith to Finish Top 10 (+800)
(UPDATE: FanDuel hasn't re-opened T10 markets, but in case they do, my model has Smith's top-10 odds down to 8.7% post-qualifying, translating to a breakeven price of +1049.)
McDowell's teammate this weekend will be Zane Smith, once again supplanting Todd Gilliland in the 38 car. McDowell has proven this team can push for top-10s, and I think we should be high on Smith's talent.
As referenced before, Smith is the guy who finished runner-up behind Kyle Busch in last year's Truck Series race at Sonoma. But he actually beat Busch at COTA this year, winning his second consecutive race at the track. In four road-course Truck Series races since the start of 2022, Smith's worst finish is second.
We also shouldn't attribute all of Front Row Motorsports' success on road courses to McDowell. Gilliland, himself, has a pair of top-10 runs since the start of last year. Both of them were situations where he benefited from chaos, something you don't expect as much of at Sonoma, but it's clear this is a competitive ride on this track type.
Smith's most recent race in the Cup Series was a 10th-place finish at Charlotte. This will be his seventh race in a Next-Gen car, so he should be more comfortable now than he was at the beginning of the year. My model has him at 14.3% to finish top 10, up from 11.1% implied. He was as long as +1200 at other books yesterday, so be sure to shop around, but even at +800, Smith is a good enough value to justify betting him before practice.
Post-Qualifying Addition: Ross Chastain to Win (+2800)
With how underwhelming Ross Chastain's form has been, I really wanted to pump the brakes and keep him off my betslips for a while.
But with his odds stretched to +2800 post-qualifying, I think I have to go back once again.
Chastain had decent speed on Saturday. He was 12th in single-lap speed and sixth in five-lap average. He qualified 15th, meaning he'll have a lot of work ahead of him. But Kyle Larson shortened to +400 after qualifying on the same row as Chastain, so it does seem to be a bit of an overreaction.
My model has Chastain at 5.2% to win, up from 3.4% implied. He hasn't done a lot to inspire confidence recently, but that's a nice edge that I feel obliged to take.