NASCAR may have lost some popularity at the track, but it’s still the most popular auto racing sport in North America. This guide will walk you through the betting markets available for NASCAR plus I’m going to outline the steps I take when handicapping a race. But first, take a look at the best online sportsbooks for you to place your NASCAR bets:
List of NASCAR Betting Markets
- Outright Winner – Pick a Driver to Win the Race
Example: Kevin Harvick to Win 800 (8/1)
While this is the most widely wagered on NASCAR market it isn’t the easiest in terms of turning a positive ROI. Simply pick a driver to win a race, sounds easy right? Well it isn’t. I bet on who’ll win the race each week, but I make most of my money with other markets.
- Top 3 Finish – Pick a Driver to Finish in the Top 3 (T3)
Example: Kevin Harvick to Finish T3 200 (2/1)
Betting on a driver to finish a race inside of the top 3 is easier than picking him/her to win, but the odds reflect that. If I’m confident that a long shot has a chance to win a race then I’ll often bet them to finish T3, as it balances the risk vs. reward as best as possible.
- Match-Up Bets – Your Driver Must Outperform the Rest of the Group
Example: Jimmie Johnson 200 / Kevin Harvick 300 / Kyle Busch 300 / Jeff Gordon 600
The match-up markets are where the real money turns over in NASCAR betting. With this type of bet the sportsbook will group two or more (Up to five in most cases) drivers together and the handicapper has to pick which driver will finish in the best position.
Some sportsbooks post odds on qualifying match-ups, which are determined during the qualifying run. The driver that qualifies the best will win the bet. Make sure you check to see if you’re betting on a qualifying match-up or race match-up before placing the bet.
- Finishing Position – Will a Driver Finish Over or Under X Position
Example: Greg Biffle Over 9.5 Place ( 100) vs. Greg Biffle Under 9.5 Place (-120)
The odds on this market are typically sharp and tougher to beat than match-up markets in my opinion. However, this bet still has its place. If I like an outside long shot to contend I’ll often look at this wager rather than worry about my pick having to win or finish T3.
- Pod Betting – Which Manufacturer Will Win the Race
Example: Chevrolet 100 / Toyota 200 / Ford 340
I’m a fan of this bet, as the payout odds are reasonable and the bet isn’t overly difficult to win. Can’t narrow your picks down to one driver? Why not bet on which manufacturer will win the race? This bet is great for casual fans also looking for action on a race.
- Prop Bets – Qualifying & Race Markets
Example: Over 6.5 Caution Flags (-110) vs. Under 6.5 Caution Flags (-110)
There aren’t too many NASCAR prop bets available, but there tend to be a handful at the very least for the big races. Have a hunch how many caution flags there will be in a race or want to bet on a driver to win pole position? That’s what prop bets are for.
- Futures Bets – Season Long Wagers
Example: Dale Earnhardt Jr to Win the Sprint Cup Title 1000 (10/1)
Want to bet on a driver to win the Sprint Cup title or Nationwide Series title before the season starts? Futures aren’t graded until the end of the season. You can bet on various season long props as well such as the over/under on how many races a driver will win.
How to Handicap a NASCAR Race
Blindly betting on a driver to win a race won’t get you very far. There are a number of great statistical resources on the internet that will assist you with handicapping a NASCAR race, but two of my favorites are DriverAverages.com and Jayski.com.
I like to use Jayski for compiling data on qualifying and practice session times. DriverAverages tracks a number of statistics including results from every race. You can also view stats such as average finish position, recent team performance and much more.
The first step to handicapping a NASCAR race is to know the type of track that the drivers will be racing. In NASCAR there are four types of tracks including super speedways, short tracks, intermediate tracks and road races.
There are two super speedway tracks (Daytona & Talladega) where drivers are required to use restrictor plates, which restricts the speed of the cars and makes the races completely up for grabs. Intermediate tracks are the most popular type of track in NASCAR.
Once you begin to learn which drivers excel on specific track types you’ll have a better chance at winning your bets. You also need to look up past performances on the specific track that a race is on along with past performances on the type of track.
Often a few drivers stand out from the field on certain tracks. This isn’t enough to be successful at NASCAR though. You also need to analyze recent performances to determine whether the team has tuned in their cars or whether they’ve been struggling.
Look at Jimmie Johnson this year (2014) for instance. He still hasn’t won a race and we’re past the All-Star Race. Lastly, you need to check out the qualifying/practice times each week before a race and spend some time listening to media reports from drivers.
Is a driver criticizing his car for not performing well? Is a team talking about major changes to their set-up that they feel will allow them to perform better? A lot of this information will be useful, but make sure you weed out emotions from facts in media reports.
Even when the NASCAR season is over you can’t stop following the sport. Most years there are major changes being made to the cars that you need to stay up to date with, as certain teams will tune in their cars quickly while other teams will struggle.
While betting on a driver to win a race at 10/1 looks enticing, you should spend most of your time handicapping match-up markets, as that’s where the real money turns over in this sport. The payout odds aren’t great, but there are tons of betting opportunities.
You may have 10 match-up bets on a single race one week and your chances of making money on those is much better than trying to predict who will win the race each week. So much can happen in a NASCAR race that can take a driver out of contention.
Since anything can happen to a driver in a race it’s important not to load up too heavily on a single driver. Try to spread your bets around, so that if one of your selections gets into an accident or has car failure you can still earn a profit on the race.