How NASCAR's newfound parity impacts Coca-Cola 600 betting

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·4 min read
How NASCAR's newfound parity impacts Coca-Cola 600 betting
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The parity NASCAR is achieving with the advent of the Next Gen car is reflected in the betting market, as bettors are seeing more evenly dispersed pricing on the oddsboards. Sunday‘s Coca-Cola 600 exemplifies this trend.

Kyle Larson resides at his familiar spot atop the betting board, priced at a consensus +550 odds to take the checkers at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch (+700) and Chase Elliott (+750) follow, and then there‘s a cluster of drivers offered in +1000 to +2000 range.

“Especially with this race, the (sports)books still aren’t eager to take a strong position,” Blake Phillips, a sharp NASCAR bettor, told NASCAR.com. “You’ve got Larson, Kyle Bush and Chase Elliott as strong favorites out front, but then everyone else in that top-10, -15 segment, they‘re all rated fairly similarly.”

Only two drivers with odds of +1000 or greater have won races this year, including the Clash at the Coliseum and last week‘s All-Star Race, Phillips points out.

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Jim Sannes, a quantitative betting and fantasy analyst at numberFire, runs simulations before every Cup race to determine each driver‘s win probability. His model supports the notion of parity.

“The Next Gen car has definitely made things more level this year,” Sannes said in a direct message. “Entering last year’s 600, I had Kyle Larson at 17.5% to win. This year, he’s at 12.5%, the only driver I have with double-digit win (chances).”

That 12.5% translates to odds of +700, meaning the +550 does not represent value, per Sannes‘ sims.

“There are 10 drivers in my model with at least 5% win odds versus eight last year, as well,” he said. “The biggest thing, for me, is that (the parity dynamic) has increased the pool of drivers who can realistically win without chaos, which I’d assume was a big part of the goal with the car.”

How the distance impacts handicapping

Sunday‘s 600-miler, of course, is the longest race on the Cup circuit. To Phillips, distance is a key factor in handicapping the event, and it may help bettors separate drivers in this new era of parity.

“Big time,” Phillps said, “this is an endurance race, so I think the stuff you’re gonna look at here is who’s got long-run speed and also who has the ability to run a long race without making mistakes.

“So the concept of parity might not always work the way people might expect. In a race like the Coke 600, I expect to see more of the established teams and the experienced drivers running up front, because it’s one thing to be really fast and show up at various races throughout the season, and it’s another thing to be able to finish 600 miles running up front with no mistakes.”

The distance‘s impact, though, can cut both ways, Sannes notes.

“It could decrease variance because it gives strong cars more time to recover from issues. Conversely, a longer race gives more time for equipment or tire issues,” he said. “So I handicap it pretty much straight-up under the assumption those two effects largely cancel each other out.”

OK, so where‘s the value?

Sannes‘ model implies a slight overvaluation of the favorite Larson. Phillips — while he doesn‘t anticipate having a position on the No. 5 in the outright market and approaches most races wanting to find value beyond the Hendrick Motorsports driver — said, “it‘s always tough to say that Larson is overvalued.”

The drivers in the Coca-Cola 600 field are mostly fairly priced, Phillips believes, making value difficult to find. He points to Joey Logano (available for +2000) and Christopher Bell (+2500) as potential value plays.

Sannes‘ model also shows value on Logano, even at a shorter +1800, but he‘s “hesitant to bet on a Ford (despite Ryan Blaney’s win last week) until I see some giddy-up in practice.”

Despite the trend toward parity, Hendrick Motorsports remains the class of the Cup Series, winning five of the 13 points races and occupying four of the top nine spots in the standing. There has been some movement on the No. 24 car in early Coke 600 betting action, as William Byron‘s odds have been adjusted from +1200 to +1000 at FanDuel Sportsbook.

“I’m still showing a bit of value at that number because my model has him at 9.7% versus 9.1% implied (by 10-to-1 odds).” Sannes said. “But with the value decreasing, the guy I feel best about relative to his odds is Ross Chastain. I have him at 8.4% versus 7.1% implied at +1300.”

Marcus DiNitto is Senior News Editor at Gaming Today. He has been covering sports business for 24 years and sports betting for 11. NASCAR is among the many sports Marcus enjoys betting but often loses on. Follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.

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