Weather throws off Indianapolis betting opportunities

By Jeff Cogliandro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

NASCAR storms into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday for the regular-season finale. This is the final chance for drivers who are outside the playoffs. It will take a win for drivers such as Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez and several others to make the playoffs.

In a relatively short span, (since 1994), Indianapolis has a history of producing winners who were not considered favorites on the odds board. Victories from Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman are just two drivers who paid the handicappers well by winning at the Brickyard. The race this weekend could play out in a similar fashion as there is a strong chance of rain on Sunday. As we have discussed several times this season, forecasted rain rightfully dampens our handicapping faith and the predictability of a race.

Under normal conditions, and even with a short history, Indianapolis offers some of the more compelling analytics of any track on the circuit. Below are some of the statistics that can help guide our wagering decisions. Again, with bad weather approaching and the strong possibility that qualifying will be rained out, it limits what can be usefully extracted from previous races.

* Over 45% of the races have been won from a top 4 starting spot at Indianapolis

* Only the top 4 starting spots have yielded multiple winners

* 62.5% of the winners have come from a top 10 starting position

* Only 3 winners out of 24 races have started outside the top 20, with 27th being the deepest starting spot for any winner.

* Ford’s last win at Indy came in 1999

As mentioned above there is the chance that qualifying will be rained out and if the drivers would line up according to owners points. Under these circumstances the pole winner would be Kyle Busch, followed by Kevin Harvick. Here is a detailed look at the drivers that are expected to contend for the win this Sunday at the Brickyard.

Kyle Busch (plus 150): Absolutely no chance this should be bet. Even with the possibility that Busch lands on the pole due to rain, the odds are simply far too short to make this type of wager. He deserves to be the favorite, but he is extremely overpriced currently.

Kevin Harvick (3-1): Despite having only one win, Harvick has the been the mark of consistency as he has the highest average finish (9.4) of any driver at the Brickyard. Additionally, he has eleven top 10 finish at Indy which is the best of any active driver this weekend.

Martin Truex Jr. (4-1): Announcing this week that Furniture Row racing will disband after this season has rightfully sent shockwaves through the NASCAR series. Although this has not been the best track for Truex and his team, it would not be a surprise to see them perform well this weekend in the face of adversity. Current odds are shallow for a driver who has never won at Indy and has posted only one top 5 finish in his career.

Kyle Larson (7-1): With three top 10 finishes in his young career at Indy, Larson will try to get his first win at the Brickyard. There is no doubt that he has shown the type of speed needed to win over the last several weeks. At his current odds, Larson meets value if he is to start the race in the top 5.

Brad Keselowski (10-1): Last week’s winner will go for two in a row at Indianapolis. With an average finish of 12th, Keselowski will have his work cut out for him as he tries to improve his playoff positioning. Keselowski has yet to win at Indy and has only one career top 5 finish there.

Joey Logano (15-1): Current odds on Logano are at the threshold of value as the we enter the race weekend. However, with rain eliminating most or all of the track activity on Saturday it makes wagering on Logano a bit more appealing. As mentioned, starting in the top 4 is conducive to winning at Indy, but under current rules Logano would line up in a decent 5th position if qualifying is washed away.

Ryan Blaney (15-1): Indianapolis has not been a track of success for Blaney in his young career. He has 2 DNFs at Indy and has not had a finish in the top 10 as of yet. Under current rules Blaney would line up in the 9th position if qualifying is set by owner points.

Chase Elliott (20-1): Like Blaney, Elliott has not had much success at Indy. While there is no doubt along with the other Hendrick cars, Elliott has run better but would lack the benefit of starting in the top 10 under current rules. At 20-1, Elliott appears to be on track with his true value.

Denny Hamlin (20-1): Perhaps somewhat undervalued this weekend is Hamlin. He has 4 top 5 finishes at Indy and has displayed consistent finishes throughout his career. Under owners points rules, Hamlin would line up in the 10th position.

Erik Jones (20-1): With only 1 start to his credit at Indy, Jones is poised to post a quality finish. However, under current rules he would be set to line up 13th, which could be just a little too deep to endorse the current odds.

Kurt Busch (26-1): With Truex now having to drop to the rear, Busch will line up in the 3rd position to start the race. While he has not been overly successful at Indy, the current odds do provide value to make him a viable wager to win. 

Ryan Newman (100-1): The viable longshot to get the win should the race take on a strategic imbalance. There is no doubt that Newman has the mentality to get the win at a track where he has won before. Needing a win to propel himself into the playoffs, Newman is a good choice at current value to spring such an upset. However, if qualifying is rained out, Newman would line up just inside the top 20 which will make his trek to the front quite difficult.

As of now, due to the massive set of unknowns there are no match-up plays. If we get more clarity on the weather there could be a play or two added. We have a season record of 50-29 in driver matchups and there should be no reason to make a frivolous wager when there is no weekend data to build off of.

The only drivers who make the cut from a race winner perspective are Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. This is based on odds value in relation to their likely starting position.

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