NASCAR Betting Picks: Goodyear 400

Jim Sannes
Jim Sannes@JimSannes
NASCAR Betting Picks: Goodyear 400

The tiers entering this week's NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington are pretty well-defined.

You've got six drivers at the top who deserve to get the most recognition. They drive for top-level teams and have been in contention at all track types this year.

That's a luxury for us; we know what to expect.

But it's a luxury for the sportsbook, too, and they're not sleeping this week.

FanDuel Sportsbook's NASCAR betting odds for Darlington have the same top six as my model, and none of them grade out as values. Christopher Bell is close at +1000 (8.8% versus 9.1% implied), but unless Bell lengthens, the favorites are a no-fly zone.

It's tough to find value elsewhere, too, because those top six suck up so much win equity. As a result, I'm avoiding outrights with where things stand now. We'll see if that changes after practice and qualifying on Saturday.

As it stands, I think the best value lies in a pair of longershots who have had good runs at Darlington in the past and who are on teams seemingly on the ascent. Let's outline those now, digging into the two drivers my model views as being the most undervalued.

Goodyear 400 Betting Picks

Michael McDowell to Finish Top 5 (+1600); McDowell to Finish Top 10 (+450)

(UPDATE: McDowell is now +1400 to finish top 5 and +420 to finish top 10. My model is higher on him now than it was pre-practice, so I do still have him as a value in both markets. If I were betting one driver at current odds, it'd be McDowell. And, yes, I do have value on him to win at +12000 if you want a true longshot.)

I've got value on Michael McDowell across the board, so we're going with a ladder approach here.

First, let's start with why the model is enthusiastic. McDowell has shown a ton of speed this year, snagging a pair of poles and qualifying inside the top 10 seven times. It's a massive deviation for a team that previously struggled in that arena.

That hasn't always translated to good finishes. But McDowell did convert his 13th-place average running position in Kansas last week into a 10th-place finish, his third top-10 of the year.

The second reason is that McDowell has run well at Darlington in the Next-Gen era. He finished sixth and seventh in the two 2022 races before getting caught up in wrecks both races last year.

McDowell is skilled on tracks with lots of tire falloff. He finished sixth in Richmond last year and was 11th in Bristol this year. Thus, my model has him at 8.9% to finish top five and 25.4% to finish top 10, up from 5.9% and 18.2% implied, respectively.

As we've discussed previously, a ladder approach is where you take your typical bet size and divide it between the bets. You'd put the largest percentage of that one bet size on the top-10 market, allowing yourself to profit should he finish there. Then you put the rest on the top-five, granting upside should McDowell hit his ceiling.

I also have him at 1.2% to win, so if he lengthens longer than his current outright odds of +12000, I'd be willing to bite.

Corey LaJoie to Finish Top 10 (+1200)

(UPDATE: LaJoie has since shortened to +800 to finish top 10. He's no longer a value for me at that price.)

I was on Corey LaJoie in this race last year, and he ran like absolute dog doo. He had a 31st-place average running position in that one en route to a 24th-place finish.

So obviously we want to run it back, right?

Luckily, plenty has changed since then. Spire Motorsports has seemingly gained speed this year. LaJoie ran up front for a good chunk of the Las Vegas race before a late wreck spoiled his 13th-place average running position. We've also seen his teammate, Carson Hocevar, run up front, snagging a top-10 finish in Texas.

That could lead you to consider Hocevar instead, but he's +800 for a top 10. I'm pretty close to that number, but I'm above market on LaJoie.

Part of that is because LaJoie has shown upside here, leading to my interest last year. He turned a 13th-place average running position into a 15th-place finish back in 2021. Thus, my model has LaJoie at 10.3% to finish top 10, up from 7.7% implied.

There are some other longer-shots who are either above or close to their implied odds at FanDuel. That list includes John Hunter Nemechek (+800), Ryan Preece (+1200), and the other Spire car, Zane Smith (+1600). We may be able to add them later on, but for now, LaJoie's my preferred option here.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Christopher Bell to Win (+1400)

Earlier in the week, I mentioned I was close to showing value on Bell.

Thanks to a 12th-place starting position, Bell has lengthened to a point where we can fire away.

Starting position doesn't matter much at Darlington. You can make passes, and single-lap speed isn't a quality indicator with how important tire management is. Thus, a mid-level starting spot doesn't ding Bell in the model.

Bell tends to run well on slick tracks, which makes sense given his dirt background. He won Homestead last year, has a bunch of quality finishes at Richmond, and led 40 laps in Darlington last year.

Bell's best Darlington finish is fifth, so his skills haven't always shown up in the box score. But when you combine his general talent with his great equipment, my model has him at 8.0% to win, up from 6.7% implied. I think that's a big enough gap to justify a look.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Austin Cindric to Finish Top 10 (+650)

Practice isn't always super useful in Darlington due to tire degradation. But having quality multi-lap averages is a decent indicator of speed.

And Austin Cindric was booking yesterday.

During the lone practice session, after you adjust for speed differentials between the two groups, Cindric led the field in both 5- and 10-lap average, and he was second behind Kyle Larson in 15-lap average. Cindric was also second behind Todd Gilliland in 20-, 25-, and 30-lap average.

Gilliland -- justifiably -- shortened to +420 to finish top 10. Cindric, though, has held steady at +650. That makes him a solid value in this market.

Cindric's in absolutely brutal form, so I'd understand if you were hesitant. But the model knows that, and it still has him at 20.6% to finish top 10, up from 13.3% implied. I'm willing to give him a swing here, given how low the market remains despite Saturday's speed.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to Finish Top 10 (+650)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is another former dirt racer who has had success on slick tracks. I think the market's underselling him, as well.

Stenhouse wasn't as fast as Cindric on Saturday, but he was solid. He ranked 15th in 5-lap average and 11th in 10-lap after making adjustment for group speed differentials. He qualified 20th, but again, we can downplay that this week.

Stenhouse has just one career top-10 in Darlington, but it came during the Next-Gen era. He finished eighth in 2022, and then he had an 11th-place average running position in one of the races last year.

The form for Stenhouse is better than his finishes would indicate. He has had speed in Dover and Texas, but issues pushed him down the finishing order. My model has him at 16.1% to finish top 10, up from 13.3% implied.

Post-Qualifying Addition: Kyle Busch Over Brad Keselowski (+126)

Rarely am I above market on Kyle Busch, given his popularity, but today is an exception. I actually have him a smidge undervalued to win (4.96% versus 4.76% implied at +2000), but I think this is the better market to buy in.

Brad Keselowski showed great speed Saturday, qualifying second. Fords, in general, had good long-run speed, as well, and RFK Racing cars have had a ton of success at tracks with lots of tire degradation. I understand why the market is high on Keselowski.

It should be high on Busch, too, though. He was 11th in 5-lap and 6th in 10-lap average after adjusting for group speed differentials. Busch has also had great form in this rules package, posting top-five average running positions in both Texas and Dover recently.

I'm not actively looking to fade Keselowski; I think he has earned this optimism. I just think we should find ways to buy into Busch, and for me, this is the preferred route.

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Which drivers stand out to you for NASCAR's throwback weekend? Check out FanDuel Sportsbook's latest NASCAR betting odds to see the full menu of options at Darlington.

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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.