NASCAR Betting Guide: Cup Series Championship Race

Jim Sannes
Jim Sannes@JimSannes
NASCAR Betting Guide: Cup Series Championship Race

With the NASCAR Cup Series' Championship Race comes a couple of key tweaks that should impact how we bet the race. Let's run through those now.

First, although 36 drivers are entered, a non-championship driver has never won the Championship Race since NASCAR switched to the single-race format. I thought we could see a shift in that with the beginning of the Next-Gen era last year, but Joey Logano won both there.

Second, that means we'll want to be skeptical of betting outrights on non-championship drivers. Some guys will look like great values in FanDuel Sportsbook's NASCAR betting odds, but they're out there for a reason. They tend to give the Championship Four space, so proceed with caution when you see odds that are longer than usual.

Third, we have a bunch of routes for betting on the Championship Four. You can bet them in via their NASCAR Championship odds or to win the race, but FanDuel also has the four bunched together via a group bet. It's best to check all three routes before placing your bet.

With no top-10 markets currently posted at FanDuel, we're going to start things off with just that group as I do think there's a good value there. Then we can circle back later should any more value arise.

Christopher Bell to Win Group 1 (+400)

This is really just a situation where the price is too good to pass up. Christopher Bell is +300 to win the Cup Series Championship, but he's +400 to win this group against the same competitors. Sign me up.

Typically, I like to lean entirely on my model to decide where I want to go. And my model favors both Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson for this race. It's why I bet Blaney +280 to win the championship earlier this week.

But Blaney's +250 to win the championship at FanDuel and +260 to win this group. At 27.8% implied odds, it's not as enticing of a proposition.

Bell's implied odds here, on the other hand, are 20.0%. And that's for a driver who has historically crushed short, flat tracks.

In 13 Next-Gen-era races on short, flat tracks, Bell has two wins and a runner-up. This year in Phoenix, he had a fifth-place average running position. He also had a better average running position than both Larson and William Byron last week in Martinsville.

That's a very different track, but we've seen Hendrick Motorsports struggle on this track type of late. Across the past three races in that bucket (New Hampshire, Richmond, and Martinsville), they've combined just just one top-five and two top-10s. For whatever reason, they just haven't had the pace in that span.

That doesn't mean they're non-factors here, especially with Larson having had three weeks to focus exclusively on this track. It does, though, boost Bell's standing, and he's viewed as a true underdog at this mark.

Thus, I think Bell is a value, and it's a big enough spot where I'll buy in. If you can eventually get Blaney back around the +280 mark in either this group or in the championship market, then I'd pounce there. But at current odds, Bell in this group is the best route to betting this championship race.

Mid-Week Addition: Chase Elliott to Finish Top 10 (+150)

Now that top-10 markets are up at FanDuel, we can add a bit to the card. And it does allow us to hedge a bit should Hendrick re-discover their speed on short, flat tracks.

Chase Elliott is part of that camp, and the struggles have applied to him. His last top-10 on a short, flat track came in the first Martinsville race, more than 25 races ago.

But he hasn't been totally out to lunch. Elliott did have a top-10 average running position in Richmond; he just wound up finishing 13th.

If I run my sims straight, Elliott's top-10 odds are 52.7%, well above his implied odds of 40.0%.

Just as a sanity check, I fixed my sims to assume that all four championship drivers finish in the top 10. This, of course, is overselling it; Elliott was in the Championship Four last year and finished 28th. But it can ensure my sims aren't too high on Elliott just because they're not playing up the narrative enough.

When doing that, I still have Elliott's top-10 odds at 44.5%, above the necessary mark here. So even when I assume the worst case scenario, Elliott is still a value. I'm more than happy to add him with that being the case, giving me exposure to Hendrick should they find the right setup.

Mid-Week Addition: Alex Bowman to Finish Top 10 (+450)

Having Elliott as my Hendrick hedge is nice; adding Alex Bowman as further insurance is nicer.

Similar to Elliott, let's view things with Bowman both straight and with the assumption the Championship Four are all in the top 10. Straight up, my model has Bowman's top-10 odds at 34.7%. When I lock in the Championship Four, that number goes down to 28.8%, which is still above the 18.2% implied odds. Bingo.

Although Bowman wasn't as fast as his teammates in the spring, he did still crank out a top-10. He was ninth in that one. That is one of just two career top-10s for Bowman at his home track, but he has consistently been right outside that mark.

This isn't a great track for Bowman, and his form isn't great now, either. This number is just too long for a driver on a superpower team for us to ignore.

Have a driver you want to bet for Sunday's race? Check out FanDuel Sportsbook's latest NASCAR betting odds for a full rundown of options.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.