NASCAR Betting Guide: Shriners Children's 500

Jim Sannes
Jim Sannes@JimSannes
NASCAR Betting Guide: Shriners Children's 500

Last week's NASCAR Cup Series race in Las Vegas gave us confirmation that Kyle Larson ain't goin' nowhere.

Even though Chevrolets have the same body as last year (while Ford and Toyota got upgrades), Larson still dominated, leading 181 of 267 laps en route to victory. Others came close, but Larson was the guy to beat.

This week could be different.

Not only is this the first time NASCAR will run its new short track rules package, but Hendrick Motorsports struggled a bit on short, flat tracks in the second half of last year. Larson still finished third in the Championship Race at Phoenix, but they didn't have nearly the same separation from the pack.

In fact, Larson isn't even the favorite by my model to win on Sunday. That crown belongs to Ryan Blaney.

I'm not high enough on Blaney to bet him outright, but pushing Larson down a peg does open up at least some value elsewhere.

Let's dig into which drivers may be undervalued in FanDuel Sportsbook's NASCAR betting odds for Phoenix prior to practice and qualifying.

Shriners Children's 500 Betting Picks

Martin Truex Jr. to Win (+1200)

(UPDATE: Truex has since lengthened to +1400. After qualifying, my model has his win odds at 7.7%, up from 6.7% at his new number. That means Truex is still a value, making him a viable option as long as you are comfortable with the speed he showed Friday and Saturday.)

Even though a Ford leads my win sims, it's Toyota who made headlines in a December test at Phoenix. It pushes me to take the value my model shows on a Toyota even without giving them a big bump up.

That's Martin Truex Jr.

Although Truex had an odd ending to last year, he was still strong on the short, flat tracks. He podiumed in Martinsville, won New Hampshire, and rounded out the year by starting on the front row in the final two races of the year. He had a fifth-place average running position in the season finale despite not being a part of the Championship Four.

The starting position is key for the timing of this bet. A lot of times with Truex, if you want to bet him, you can wait until after qualifying because he doesn't always show speed on Saturdays. But at short, flat tracks, his practice times were much quicker, meaning we actually do have incentive to lock this one in early.

Truex has just one finish better than 15th at Phoenix during the Next-Gen era, but some of that is due to poor luck. My model has him at 8.7% to win, up from 7.7% implied. When you factor in Toyota's potential for improvement, I'm willing to take that edge.

Brad Keselowski to Finish Top 10 (-120)

(UPDATE: Top-10 odds aren't currently posted at FanDuel Sportsbook, though after adding in practice and qualifying data, Keselowski is now 43.3% to finish top 10, according to my model. That would lead to fair odds of +131. I'm not totally out on Keselowski, but he definitely was underwhelming in the opening two days.)

Right now, I'm showing value on Brad Keselowski to win at +2000. But given that FanDuel is higher there on Keselowski than other books, I'd rather take a wait-and-see approach with that market.

The top-10 bet is one I'm fine turning to now.

Last year, Keselowski had just three top-10 finishes in seven races on short, flat tracks. But part of that was due to bad luck. He had a sixth-place average running position in the first Phoenix race before finishing 18th, and in the playoff Martinsville race, he qualified 10th but was caught up in a crash.

Keselowski didn't have very good speed last week, which is a concern here, even as they use a different package. Despite that, his team still improved the car throughout the day, and he was able to rally to finish 13th. He's a veteran capable of getting everything out of his car, giving this ticket a path to cashing even if Keselowski is lacking pace.

My model has Keselowski at 56.2% to finish top 10, up from 54.6% implied. There's risk here, for sure, given last week's speed, but I saw enough out of RFK Racing last year to have faith regardless.

Mid-Week Addition: Brad Keselowski to Win (+2500)

(UPDATE: Keselowski has since lengthened to +3000 to win. After adding in practice data, Keselowski is now 3.8% to win by my model. That is down from where he was earlier in the week, but it's still above his new implied odds of 3.2%. I didn't see enough pace from Keselowski -- or Ford in general -- to endorse Keselowski at the lengthened number, though.)

As mentioned above, I had value on Keselowski to win when he was +2000. Now that he's +2500, I'm willing to pull the trigger.

In the interest of transparency, my model has 6.4% to win. That's a healthy amount above his implied odds of 3.9%. It could mean that I'm just too high on Keselowski.

The other implication of that, though, is that I have some wiggle room. Let's say RFK Racing does struggle from the outset, as discussed was possible above. Even if I downgrade Keselowski a bit, he'd still likely settle in above his new, lengthened odds. We'd need them to be extremely sluggish not to be at least interested.

I understand if you don't want to hop on board with this, given last week's issues and Keselowski's lengthy winless drought. Personally, I think +2500 is long enough to overcome those concerns.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Martin Truex Jr. to Finish Top 5 (+230)

As mentioned above, I do still show value on Truex to win at +1400. But this is my preferred market as things stand now.

The Toyotas were fast on Friday and Saturday. They occupied four of the top five spots in both 5- and 10-lap averages in practice, and they've got four cars in the top six spots on the starting grid. As a manufacturer, it seems like they've got a leg up.

Truex wasn't one of those guys who flashed there. He'll roll off 11th and wasn't in the top 10 in any of the major splits in practice. But as we've seen in the past, practice times aren't as valuable for older drivers as they are for younger ones, and Truex is the oldest full-time driver in the Cup Series.

After weighing practice times along with other relevant data, my model has Truex at 33.6% to finish top five, up from 30.3% implied. That's enough of an edge for me to add this to the card.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Bubba Wallace to Finish Top 5 (+380)

I mentioned in the Truex blurb above that Toyotas were fast in practice, littering the top of the time sheet.

None of them were faster than Bubba Wallace over a 10-lap run.

Wallace led all drivers in that metric and was fourth in five-lap average, as well. He'll start 22nd, but in race trim, Wallace is fast.

Wallace has shown big improvement on short, flat tracks the past few years. He finished third in New Hampshire two years ago, and he finished top 10 in three of seven races on short, flat tracks last year. One of those was the Championship Race in Phoenix, where he had an eighth-place average running position and finished 10th.

With all of that data in a blender, Wallace has 22.5% top-five odds by my model, up from 20.8% implied at +380. I'm good making that leap with how much pace he showed on Friday.

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Which driver stands out to you on Sunday? Check out FanDuel Sportsbook's latest NASCAR betting odds to see the full menu 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.