Sports Betting 101: Tips for betting NASCAR

May 19, 2020 12:31 AM

When it comes to betting on sports, the "Power Five" of the NFL, NBA, college football, college basketball and MLB get the majority of the action and attention. But if you want to become a well-rounded and successful sports bettor, you need to diversify your portfolio and branch out to other sports. By doing so, you open yourself up to more opportunities to maximize your edge and build your bankroll. 

One sport that often gets overlooked but has grown in popularity in recent years is NASCAR.

The National Association for Stock Car Racing was founded in 1948 by Bill France Sr. Its origins date to the Prohibition years of the 1920s when whiskey bootleggers used small, fast cars to evade law enforcement. The NASCAR Cup Series is the most elite and most popular level of race car driving, featuring legendary stars of the past like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.

In order to bet on NASCAR, you first need to learn the rules of the road.

Bet Types

The most popular bet type in NASCAR is the race winner, also known as the outright winner. You are simply betting on which driver will come in first. Race winner bets are the toughest to win, but also offer the biggest rewards. For example, the favorite to win a race might be Kevin Harvick at + 700. This means if you risk $100 on Harvick and he wins the race, you win $700 plus you get the $100 you risked back. Betting on longer shots in the 15/1 or 25/1 range can offer great value because there is a lot of unpredictability in NASCAR. There could be accidents, crashes or mechanical failures, leading to upset opportunities. 

The second-most popular bet type is driver matchups. Here you are betting on which driver will finish higher in a head-to-head matchup. For example, Jimmie Johnson might be a -130 favorite against Joey Logan + 110. If you bet Johnson he doesn't need to win the race outright, he just has to finish ahead of Logano in the standings. Matchup bets have sneaky sharp value and a lot of wiseguys target them over race winner bets. Instead of choosing who will win among 40 drivers, you just have to choose between two. They have smaller payouts but are much easier to win. 

Another NASCAR bet type is the group bet. The oddsmakers will list a group of four of five drivers and you pick which driver will finish ahead of the rest. 

You also have you props bets. This would include top 3s or top 5s. Instead of betting on a driver to win the race, he would just need to finish in the top 3 or top 5. It can be a smart bet and save you from a bad beat if a driver is leading the entire race but then is lapped in heartbreaking fashion at the very end. 

More props include over/under positions bets. For example, Kyle Larson might have an O/U of 12.5. You could then bet on whether he will finish in 12th place or better or 13th place or worse. Another popular prop bet is betting on the manufacturer of the winning car. You might see odds such as Ford + 200, Chevy + 250 and Toyota + 300. This can be a profitable prop bet if you do your research and find a few favorites who all drive the same car. 

Finally, you have your futures bets. Here you are betting on which driver will win the season-long Cup Championship. Similar to Super Bowl odds, they will change throughout the year based on how the drivers are performing. If you are patient enough to sit on a bet for several months, you can use futures to pad your bankroll, either by winning a futures bet or setting yourself up for a hedging opportunity down the road. 

Do Your Homework

To win at NASCAR betting, you can't just wake up on the day of a race and hope to pick a winner. If you really want to be successful, you need to pay attention the entire week leading up to the race. All week, the drivers will run practice races. Make sure you watch the practice sessions. They are typically televised and you can pick up great intel from listening to the commentators and hearing from the drivers and their crew chiefs. You can also get actionable data such as average speeds and post positions. 

Always pay attention to the final practice session before the race, which is popularly referred to as "Happy Hour." If a car drives well and the driver is confident in his final tune-up, that's a great sign that they are prepared for race day. You can also track odds movement from the beginning of the week up until race day. Look for longer shot drivers who see their odds increase. That could be a sure sign of sharp money in their favor.

Betting Tips

First off, make sure you have access to multiple sportsbooks when betting NASCAR, or any sport for that matter. The odds can vary and you want to make sure you shop for the best line. One book might have Alex Bowman at + 1500 to win the race while another has + 1700. Also, NASCAR is still considered a niche sport so some books might have certain prop bets while others may not.

Second, know the drivers and the race tracks. Momentum is key and drivers who have consistently placed in the top 10 in their last five or so races are a good pick to lean on. Also, tracks have different lengths and configurations. Some drivers perform better at longer tracks compared to shorter tracks, or vice versa. Specifically, look for drivers who have performed well at certain tracks in the past. 

Also, while the driver is the most important figure, coming from a good organization is also critical. There are 17 different NASCAR teams. Lean on drivers from strong and successful teams like Joe Gibbs Racing or Hendrick Motorsports. Coming from a top-notch team is like coming from an elite trainer or owner in horse racing. Successful bloodlines breed future winners. 

Lastly, watch a lot of races. The more races you watch, the more you pick up the sport, learn the intricacies and keep your finger on the pulse of the action. It's the best way to learn the drivers and the tracks. Also, search out NASCAR betting pros. Pick their brains and be a sponge. Find a betting mentor. 

Resources

No matter the sport, bettors are only as good as the data and insight they lean on. For reliable data and driver ratings, check out NASCAR.com and Racing-Reference.info. Also be sure to read our analysis in VSiN's Point Spread Weekly led by NASCAR expert Steve Makinen and check out the VSiN Gone Racin' show with Brendan Gaughan and Jeff Motley.

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