Odds adjustments before Bristol Dirt Race vary between sportsbooks

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Marcus DiNitto
·4 min read
Odds adjustments before Bristol Dirt Race vary between sportsbooks
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Denny Hamlin has made a significant move up odds boards ahead of the Food City Dirt Race since opening betting numbers were posted last week. Hamlin, who was third fastest in Friday‘s second practice session and fourth in the first session, saw his odds to win the race tighten to 14/1 at BetMGM from a 25/1 opener. A similar adjustment was made at SuperBook USA, which moved the price on the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Toyota from 30/1 to 16/1.

With the Cup Series racing on the dirt for the first time since 1970, the expectation was for oddsmakers to move their numbers after seeing how drivers performed on the unfamiliar Bristol surface at practice on Friday, as well as in the four qualifying races and the Camping World Trucks race on Saturday. Saturday‘s events were rained out, however, leaving plenty of guesswork for bookmakers and bettors.

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There has been some inconsistency in terms of how books have adjusted their odds over these past few days. Martin Truex Jr., for example, moved in different directions at BetMGM and the SuperBook, lengthened from 25/1 to 30/1 at the former and shortened from 30/1 to 14/1 at the latter, after a solid sixth-place showing in the second practice session Friday.

Similarly, Alex Bowman, who was fastest in Friday‘s first practice session and second in the second session, was shortened from 25/1 to 18/1 at the SuperBook but stretched from 20/1 to 25/1 at BetMGM. Chase Elliott, who ran sixth and seventh at practice, went from 11/1 to 14/1 at BetMGM and from 20/1 to 16/1 at the SuperBook.

BetMGM, a NASCAR partner, is one of four sportsbooks operating legally in Tennessee. DraftKings, FanDuel and William Hill are the others.

While experienced dirt racer Kyle Larson will start in the back of the 39-car field because his No. 5 Hendrick team is changing engines, he remains the clear favorite to win, listed at +250 at BetMGM. The SuperBook lengthened Larson‘s odds to +350, still the shortest price on the board.

NASCAR‘s decision to schedule a Cup race on the dirt has created plenty of uncertainty around the betting market, as no one is sure how these teams will perform on the surface. Mike Marlar and Stewart Friesen, both making their Cup debuts, were initially given respect by oddsmakers, largely due to the drivers‘ past performances on dirt. But neither driver impressed in Friday‘s practice, and both have seen their odds grow longer.

Still, while adjusted from 12/1 to 14/1 at BetMGM, Friesen is behind just four drivers on the book‘s odds board.

SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons told NASCAR.com last week that while he was impressed with Marlar‘s performance in the 2019 Trucks race on the Eldora Speedway dirt, he is skeptical about the No. 66 MBM Motorsports equipment Marlar is in this week. That skepticism proved justified with Marlar running near the back of both practice sessions, and Salmons adjusted his numbers accordingly.

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Marlar‘s odds to win doubled from 30/1 to 60/1 at the SuperBook, and in a matchup prop against Ryan Newman, Marlar went from a -135 favorite (bet $135 to win $100) to a +130 underdog (bet $100 to win $130). That large a price adjustment is rare and exemplifies the weight some bookmakers are giving to the small sample provided by Friday‘s practice.

We stress consistently in this space the importance of line shopping, the process of checking odds across various sportsbooks to find the best possible price for your wagers. The concept is exemplified this week with the Ryan Blaney vs. Kyle Busch matchup prop. On Saturday at the SuperBook, Busch was priced as the +130 underdog in the prop; at DraftKings, Blaney is a -121 favorite. This creates a potential can‘t-lose situation for bettors. If you bet $100 to win $130 on Busch, and $121 to win $100 on Blaney, you would cash $9 if Busch finishes ahead of Blaney and break even if Blaney wins the prop. In betting parlance, this is known as a “scalp”.

MORE: Tips to be a smarter bettor

And with four legal sports betting operations in Tennessee, NASCAR fans who live in the state or are visiting for the Bristol race have ample opportunity to line shop.

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.