How to bet on NASCAR

  • “You win some, lose some, and wreck some” – Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

  • Introduction

Before you can successfully bet on NASCAR, it’s important to understand the days leading up to a race and how they can affect the event itself. Most sportsbooks post their NASCAR odds at the beginning of the week. After the lines initially open, the Sprint Cup Series teams qualify and run multiple practice sessions.

During these practices, drivers and teams get their cars ready for qualifying and fine-tuned for the race. Because practice and qualifying is so important, sportsbooks take their NASCAR odds off the board before qualifying and repost their updated odds on race day.

Qualifying

Qualifying runs are important to sports bettors because they have a real effect on the upcoming race. Starting position can be important, but it is relative to each racetrack. Some tracks that only have one groove of racing, like Bristol Motor Speedway or Martinsville Speedway, make track position crucial because it is hard for drivers to pass other racecars. The groove is the line on the racetrack cars run to be fast. Therefore, one-groove racetracks bottle cars up, while multiple groove tracks allow drivers to make passes much more easily. Having a good starting position at one-groove racetracks means drivers don’t have to overwork their cars to make passes and can “save their stuff” for later in the race. On the other hand, races run at the larger racetracks, like Michigan International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, put less of an emphasis on starting position because there is so much room for the faster cars to make clean passes.

Pit stall selections are also based on qualifying and are just as important as where a driver starts a race. The driver who wins the pole gets to pick his pit stall first, then the second place qualifier picks his stall and so on. This is significant because each racetrack has some pit stalls that are better than others. Most pole winning teams select the very last pit stall at the end of pit road. That is advantageous because their drivers won’t have any cars pitting in front of them and can drive straight off as soon the jack is dropped and their service is complete. There are also a couple of stalls at each racetrack that have an opening behind or in front of them. These allow drivers to pull into or out of their stalls more quickly, which leads to faster stops and real time on the racetrack.

Just like starting position, having a good pit stall is more important at some racetracks than at others. Martinsville is notorious for pit road accidents because the stalls are so small and there is very little room to maneuver. Pocono Raceway has a very wide pit road, which lessens the likelihood that accidents will occur.

Before placing any NASCAR bets, be sure to do research on the racetrack itself. Sometimes the public will overvalue starting position and give good prices on drivers starting towards the back. Knowing this while the Sprint Cup Series is racing at one of the larger racetracks, where passing is relatively easy and pit road is wide, can be a huge advantage.

Practice

Sprint Cup teams get multiple practice sessions each week and their speeds, including fastest laps and best average speeds, are posted for the public. These sessions are usually broadcast on Speed Channel for those who are interested in watching. During these sessions, there are interviews with drivers and crew chiefs who can provide valuable information about their racecars for viewers.

When looking at practice speeds, pay particular attention to final practice, which is also called Happy Hour. This is the final chance for teams to dial in their cars for race day and gives the best indication of who should be good and who might struggle. Final practice is not only important because it is the last chance for Sprint Cup teams to make sure their cars are handling well, but it is often the practice session run closest to actual green flag conditions on race day. Weather has a very significant role on how fast a car will be during a race and setting up the car for certain conditions can make all of the difference. As track temperatures drop, the tires get more grip and the cars actually run faster lap times. Conversely, as temperature rises, the tires gets hotter and slicker and cars begin sliding around the racetrack. As a result, pay attention to when the actual practice sessions take place and which session’s weather conditions most closely resemble green flag conditions.

After qualifying and practices are over, the odds are set and posted on race day.

There are three main types of bets that you will see at most sportsbooks.

Race Winners

Placing race winner bets is simply putting money on one driver to win that weekend’s race. These bets are the hardest to win but have the highest payouts. Even so, selecting race winners consistently enough to be profitable is difficult. When preparing to place a bet, you will most likely see a list of drivers similar to the following:

Jeff Burton +2500 Jeff Gordon +800 Jimmie Johnson +400 Joey Logano +7500 Juan Pablo Montoya +5000 Kasey Kahne +2000

In this example, a winning $50 bet on Jeff Burton will payout $1250. There is also an option to make a “Field” bet when selecting a race winner. The Field includes every driver that does not have individual odds for that weekend’s race and will usually be composed of big longshots.

Driver Matchups

These are head to head matchups between two drivers for the current race and look similar to money-line baseball bets. It doesn’t matter where your driver finishes, as long as it is higher than the other driver against whom he is competing. These bets are very unique because it is possible to to win a bet with a driver who finishes 42nd and lose a bet with a driver who finishes 2nd. Matchups are similar to other types of sports bets because popular drivers often accumulate “soft money.”

Jimmie Johnson -170

Kyle Busch +135

Here, it takes a $170 bet on Jimmie Johnson to win $100, while a winning $100 bet placed on Kyle Busch will payout $135.

Props

Prop are NASCAR’s version of over/under bets. The sportsbook will set the line and you bet on whether a specific driver will finish higher or lower than that number.

Carl Edwards – Finishing Position – Over 11.5 (+105)
Under 11.5 (-135)

In this example, betting the under means Carl Edwards will finish 11th or better, while the over is 12th or worse.