NASCAR betting: Harvick poised to break through at Michigan

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·4 min read
NASCAR betting: Harvick poised to break through at Michigan
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Kevin Harvick is winless so far this season, but with the Cup Series heading to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday‘s FireKeepers Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the No. 4 Ford is getting plenty of respect from the betting market. Adjusted from 10/1 to 9/1 odds at Barstool Sportsbook, Harvick is priced shorter than all but four drivers — Kyle Larson (+275), Kyle Busch (8/1), Chase Elliott (8/1) and Martin Truex Jr. (8/1).

Harvick‘s season has so far fallen short of the standards he‘s set for himself during his illustrious NASCAR career, but on tracks that employ the 550-horsepower, high-downforce package, he‘s run consistently near the front, finishing in the top 10 in six out of those eight races.

Couple those performances with his sheer dominance on the 2-mile Michigan oval, and Harvick is firmly in the mix for a victory this weekend. He‘s won three races in a row at the track, including both ends of last year‘s doubleheader, and has four wins, a second and seventh over the last six. His average driver rating is 137.4, easily tops in the field, and he‘s led an astounding 35.7 percent of laps over that stretch.

At enticing prices on odds boards around the country, the Stewart-Haas racer is on the radar of professional sports bettor Zack White.

“You‘ve got to take a look at that Kevin Harvick number this week, 9/1, 10/1,” White told NASCAR.com. “He absolutely dominated — Stewart-Haas, in general, dominated — the Michigan races last year. Of course, it was a little bit different scenario with COVID and the doubleheader weekend, (but it‘s the) same equipment and all that stuff. (I am) certainly taking a hard look at that number.”

Harvick, though, can clinch a playoff spot on points this weekend and therefore could be incentivized to follow a conservative strategy. But for the same reasons Michigan is one of White‘s favorite courses to handicap — wide track, low attrition, large pit boxes, “hard for the drivers to screw up” — he believes Harvick will be aggressive going for the checkers.

“If you have a car that’s capable of winning a race like Michigan, you’re probably going to be out front,” White said. “It‘s not a difficult track to avoid trouble on in general. So I think if he’s capable, he’s going to go for the victory and lock himself in that way. But (Harvick‘s potential conservative approach) is an interesting angle to think about — he could cruise around in 20th and clinch.”

A tale of two Kyles

Throw out the randomness that ensued on the Indianapolis road course last week and crashing out of Loudon three races back, and Kyle Busch is in fine form, tallying seven top-five finishes since Memorial Day Weekend in Charlotte. Moreover, in the eight races on 550-hp tracks, Busch has two wins, two seconds, two thirds, a fifth- and a 10th-place finish.

With Larson priced as the clear favorite, however, the betting market isn‘t buying the notion gaining in popularity that the gap between the Kyles is closing. Neither is White.

“I just don’t see it,” White said. “I think the odds are priced pretty much correctly this week.”

Looking for longshots

Former NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan, a Las Vegas native who grew up around the casino business and hosts a show about Cup betting on VSiN, doesn‘t wager on NASCAR himself but offered up a few picks ahead of Michigan.

In addition to the chalky Larson, Gaughan likes another Hendrick driver, William Bryon (14/1 at Barstool), and Richard Childress Racing‘s Tyler Reddick (40/1).

“I am laser-focused on those guys right there,” Gaughan told NASCAR.com. “…. The (550-hp) package they’re running has been Hendrick dominant, Chevrolet dominant this year.”

(Check out our full Q&A with Brendan next week!)

The more widely available 30/1 on Reddick suggests “the market has kind of caught up to” the No. 8, White said, but at 40/1, “there might be some value there.”

Over the last five races on 550-hp tracks, Reddick has finished sixth, ninth, 11th, ninth, and seventh.

Joey Logano, meanwhile, has an excellent recent history at Michigan — five top 10s, including a win and a pair of top fives over the last six races here, leading 22.22 percent of laps and posting a 107.5 rating during that stretch. But the No. 22 hasn‘t been much of a factor of late, and his season-long performance on the high-downforce tracks doesn‘t inspire the confidence to fire away, even at 14/1. His average finish is a distant 14.875 in the eight races using this package.

“When you’re looking at the 550 package, these downforce tracks, he just hasn’t had a lot of luck this year,” White said. “… So even though he’s had some historical luck at this track, or decent results, I think the oddsmakers are looking at ‘what have you done for me lately?‘ And that’s not anything too great at these types of tracks this year from Logano.”

Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.