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There are only 36 points-paying races on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule. With such limited opportunities to bet, it can be hard to refrain from playing multiple drivers every weekend.
However, we should only make bets when we project a positive expected value.
Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 is one of those weekends where it’s hard to find winning value. I’m not projecting a lot of value in the market, for two reasons.
First, favorites typically win at Richmond, which means we need to limit our exposure to longer shots. If we choose a driver with long odds, he needs to be a driver who has shown plenty of upside on a team with winning capabilities.
The list of winners since 2013 — while NASCAR has used the Gen-6 car — is a who’s who of NASCAR stars:
• 2013: Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards
• 2014: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski
• 2015: Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth
• 2016: Edwards, Denny Hamlin
• 2017: Logano, Kyle Larson
• 2018: Kyle Busch, Ky. Busch
• 2019: Martin Truex Jr.
Only twice has a driver representing a team other than Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing or Team Penske taken the checkered flag. Those instances were Kevin Harvick in 2013 during his final year at Richard Childress Racing and Kyle Larson for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2017.
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Second, it’s hard to bet this weekend’s race favorites since they are priced quite well across the market. That makes it hard to find enough value to feel confident a bet within this group will return long-term value.
Don’t shut things down completely however. There is still potential for things to change. If a driver’s car fails post-qualifying inspection, he will be sent to the rear of the field for the start of the race. Very often, the market will overreact to this news, and more value can be found. Additionally, there is definitely head-to-head value for Saturday night’s race.
As of right now, because the favorites are priced quite accurately, I have only one longer play. But stay tuned for updates to this article as inspection results come in.
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Kyle Larson +2750 to Win
Larson is on a 73-race winless streak since his most recent win in the Cup Series in 2017. That win, as mentioned earlier, came in the second Richmond race in which Larson led 53 laps en route to his fifth-career win.
That win isn’t his only strong performance at Richmond. He also has a second-place finish in the 2016 fall edition of the race, and four top-seven finishes in his last six Richmond starts. Going back 10 races, Larson has finished inside the top 12 seven times. Overall, since his last Cup Series win, Larson has eight runner-up finishes. It’s clear he puts himself in position to win quite frequently.
Practice was also encouraging for the 27-year-old driver. He placed inside the top 12 in every consecutive lap category in final practice. More importantly, in the cooler opening practice session, Larson was either first or second over 10, 15, 20 and 25 consecutive laps.
That shows Larson had elite speed when track temperatures were cooler, and second-tier speed when track temperatures were warmer. I like looking at the early session when temperatures were a bit cooler because the race will be held at night which should more closely resemble the opening practice conditions.
Larson has the upside to win. The combination of strong track history and elite opening practice speed means he’s valuable down to +2000.