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Sunday‘s GEICO 500 from Talladega Superspeedway resulted in solid betting handle for sportsbooks across the country. In fact, it was the most wagered-on NASCAR race at BetMGM since the marquee season opener.
“Best handle we had on NASCAR since Daytona,” BetMGM Sports Trader Seamus Magee told NASCAR.com on Monday morning.
Added Ed Salmons, vice president of risk management at SuperBook USA in Las Vegas, “It was a good handle race, really a lot of write.”
DraftKings also saw good handle on Sunday‘s race, although the write didn‘t quite match what the company booked for Talladega last April. Johnny Avello, Director of Race and Sportsbook Operations at DraftKings, attributed the dip to the demand built up in the betting market during the 2020 lockdown.
“I was looking at the numbers compared to last year. It wrote about the same amount of tickets; the handle was down a little, probably didn‘t take quite as many bigger bets,” Avello said. “But remember last year‘s Talladega was emerging from the no-sports syndrome. We had nothing, so people were just looking for something to wager on. I think that‘s why last year‘s did a little better.”
Keselowski win a mixed bag for the books
While Brad Keselowski‘s victory was a good result for BetMGM and DraftKings, it marked a loss for the SuperBook.
Of the 25 bets the SuperBook wrote on the No. 2 Ford, two larger ones came from a casino regular.
“One of our house guys, who loves to bet NASCAR — he‘ll bet four or five guys in a race — he bet $800 (on Keselowski) at 14/1, and he bet $500 at 12/1,” Salmons said.
Keselowski, who accounted for about 7% of both handle and tickets at BetMGM, was a winner for the book in the outright market, according to Magee.
At DraftKings, Keselowski was about fifth in handle. “We did pretty well there,” Avello said.
The last-lap mishap by Matt DiBenedetto, whose move to the high side opened a passing lane for Keselowski, saved BetMGM from paying out some big winners. DiBenedetto was bet from 65/1 opening odds to 30/1, the largest move of any driver on the board.
“He caught some late steam,” said Magee.
Everyone in on Hamlin
Denny Hamlin, who‘s been on the cusp of victory virtually every week this season and was the clear favorite at Talladega, topped the list of drivers who drew the most action to win Sunday.
At BetMGM, Hamlin drew about 20% of the handle and 15% of the tickets, leading both categories, and saw his odds shorten from a +650 opener (bet $100 to win $650) to +600 by the time the green flag dropped. One player made a $12,000 bet on Hamlin to win.
“The public was all over Hamlin,” Magee said. “Hamlin was the big name in our book this weekend.”
He was followed by Joey Logano (11% of handle, 10% of tickets), whose dramatic wreck ended his day early, and Chase Elliott (7% of handle, 8% of tickets).
The story was similar at the SuperBook, where Hamlin led the ticket count with 32 wagers to win. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second with 28 bets, and then Keselowski with 25 and Logano with 23.
Hamlin‘s chances essentially came to an end when a skirmish at the end of Stage 2 took him off the lead lap.
A handful of drivers who had a shot in overtime caused the SuperBook a bit of a sweat.
“There were a few guys we didn‘t need,” Salmons said. “We didn‘t need (Erik) Jones, (William) Byron, who wound up second, and Keselowski. We were good on DiBenedetto and (Ryan) Blaney. (Kevin) Harvick we were good on.”
Looking ahead to Kansas Speedway next weekend, Logano won the most recent race there, and Hamlin won the two before that. The guess here is that again, both drivers will be priced among the favorites and see heavy interest from NASCAR bettors.
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.