First off, I must admit that I come from northern climes so I am not a natural auto-racing fan. However, working for a sportsbook requires you to learn about the sport (especially NASCAR in the North American market), so when Gambling Online Magazine asked me to put together something on the topic, I jumped at the chance. I will also admit that the fact that just recently seeing the NASCAR 3D IMAX movie was a huge influence as well. If you are a NASCAR fan, this is a must see. If you aren’t a fan, it is still a fantastic movie and you will at last understand why 75 million people consider NASCAR their favorite sport!
In the grand scheme of things, NASCAR is still just a small part of our business, but over the last couple of years I have seen betting on NASCAR grow at a pace faster than betting on major sports like the NBA or the NFL. In the summer, when there is no football or basketball, sports like NASCAR, tennis, and golf become an important source of business to books, so there is no better time to cover the subject.
As with golf, betting on NASCAR used to be almost exclusively on who would win the overall event. However, wagering on the odds to win has become a distant second to wagering on which of two competitors will have the better head-to-head results. Books typically offer match-ups based on drivers (and their cars and teams, of course) of similar skill, and will offer anywhere from a dozen to 50 match-ups on a race.
Picking the winner of a race is difficult, but the payoff is high. For example, Mark Martin might be 25/1 to win the entire race, and hitting that would be a nice payoff, but remember there are 42 other drivers in the race!
Picking the winner of a head-to-head match-up is much easier, but the payoff is much smaller as well. For example, Mark Martin (lets say he is 25/1 to win the race) might be matched up against Jeff Burton (20/1 to win the race) for wagering purposes. For such a match-up Martin only has to beat Burton. He could finish 42nd and still the bet could be a winner! In a case like this the line might be Martin +120 and Burton -140, so your $100 on Martin only pays $120 if he beats Burton. If Martin wins the race, you would still only get the $120 instead of the $2500 it would pay if you had picked him to win the race.
Now I want to look at some of the things that you need to consider when handicapping a race. There are really just two major factors: recent performance, and past history for the given track.
Recent performance is just what it sounds like. How has this driver done over the last three, five or ten races? Look for consistent strong finishes, which show that the driver and his crew are in synch. These teams are always in the hunt near the end of the race and that will give you a chance to win every week. Also look for consistent improvement. A driver that finished 32nd, 23rd, 15th, 8th and 5th respectively over the last five races is likely someone you want to keep an eye on over the next couple of races.
Track histories are probably even more important and not used enough by bettors, in my opinion. Just like golf courses, or baseball stadiums, there are different tracks. There are pure ovals, D-ovals (which have only one real straightaway), super speedways (where speeds can get so fast that for safety reasons restrictor plates are placed on the carburetors to physically slow the cars down) and road courses (which requires cars to turn in both directions as well as way more braking and thus a slightly different set of skills from traditional NASCAR tracks).
Each driver will have a certain type of track they are better at, and many will have a particular track or two where they are outstanding, as the length, speed, slope of the turns, etc all just seem to fit their particular skill set the best. Ideally, when you are betting, you will be able to find a few drivers who do very well at the current track and that have also been running well in recent weeks.
Once you have your drivers picked, you have to decide whether you want to bet on the entire race or on the match-ups or both. If you prefer match-ups, check through the list to see if there are any situations where your chosen drivers may be up against opponents who are big names, but are running cold or on a track they struggle on. These situations will bring you the best value for your dollar.
If you prefer to bet the odds to win, there are a couple of ways to bet. One is to simply pick one driver and put your money down. Another is to pick a few drivers and stagger your bet sizes to make sure you profit a similar amount if any of your picks win. For example, lets say you like three drivers and their odds are 5/1, 15/1 and 25/1. You could bet 8 units at 5/1, 3 units at 15/1 and 2 units at 25/1 and then you would win 35, 35 or 39 units respectively.
If you have never bet NASCAR before, be sure to check out NASCAR.com as the website contains a lot of great information. Hopefully, you will be getting checks after the checkered flag waves.
The enjoyment of your wagering experience with us is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns, or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bodog experience.
Good luck with your wagers!
Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino
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