Tips for Betting on NASCAR

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series kicks off its 2014 schedule this Sunday afternoon with its biggest event of the year, the Daytona 500. It’s often referred to as the “Great American Race,” and every driver dreams of taking the checkered flag in this event to help jump start their quest for that season’s Sprint Cup title. For anyone interested in wagering on NASCAR, the following are a few simple betting tips to keep in mind while handicapping the field for Sunday’s race.

Bet on the Favorites

There were 52 drivers that earned points in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series last season. The number of drivers that competed in all 36 point races drops to 28, and there were just 16 drivers on that list that actually won a Sprint Cup point race last year.

This is not horse racing where longshots come out of nowhere to upset the field, and it is not the NFL where on any given Sunday anyone can win. NASCAR may have a full field of 30-plus drivers in any one race, but in reality there are only about four or five contenders that have a legitimate shot at winning that event. Anyone who follows NASCAR on a regular basis remembers Trevor Bayne’s thrilling victory as a huge longshot in the 2011 Daytona 500, but this is still a sport where it pays to go chalk. The return on investment may be slim, but it is still better than no return at all.

Winners Win

Going back to last season’s final Sprint Cup point standings you would find that the top four drivers won 58.3 percent of the point races. Matt Kenseth led the way with seven checkered flags, and Jimmie Johnson was second with six. Kenseth just so happened to win the Daytona 500 in 2009 and 2012, and Johnson has made his way to the winner’s circle in this event two times as well (2006 and 2013).

Going hand-in-hand with betting on favorites is the strategy of betting on favorites that know how to win races. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a great driver and coming off a fifth-place finish in last season’s point standings, but he has posted just one Sprint Cup point race victory in his last four seasons. He is the type of driver you want to wager on to finish in the Top 3 if you can get odds on that bet. This would have especially been the case last season when you consider that Junior finished third or better in seven races starting with a second-place finish in the Daytona 500.

History Does Tend to Repeat Itself

One of the best tools to handicap Sprint Cup racing is assessing a driver’s previous performance at each race track in the series. They are all different in nature, so familiarity can often lead to predictability. If a particular driver has torn things up over the years at a certain venue, the chances are pretty good that he will have continued success in future races at that same track.

Current form at a certain track also factors into this equation. Johnson is by far the sport’s best driver with six Sprint Cup Championships, including last season’s title. If you look back at his performance at Daytona over the years, he has eight Top-5 finishes in 24 Sprint Cup races and an average finishing position of 17.5, which are not the greatest numbers in the world. However, he is riding a two-race winning streak at Daytona after sweeping both events at this track in 2013.

Shop your Odds

Just about every major sportsbook will post odds for each week’s Sprint Cup race, and while they will probably be pretty similar as far as the list of top contenders to win the race, the odds for each driver on that list will tend to vary somewhat.

The best betting strategy is to first break down each race to come up with the driver that you have to most confidence in to win that week and then shop his odds among your favorite books to get the best possible value for your pick.

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