Joey Logano’s Daytona 500 victory paid out at 12-to-1 odds and most sports books fared very well just because it wasn’t Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jimmie Johnson winning.
The 500 is the biggest crap shoot of the year and most bettors fared poorly just as they usually do in restrictor-plate races.
The Sprint Cup series travels to Atlanta’s 1.5-mile track this week where value is usually shifted back to the bettors. Instead of 35 drivers having a chance to win, there are only about 15 with a legitimate shot. This year is a little different because of the new rules package that will see horsepower cut down from 850 to 725 as well as the rear spoiler shortened from eight to six inches.
As much of a crap shoot as Daytona was coming in, the cars were exactly the same as what was run last season so it wasn’t hard to forecast Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing would be the ones to beat. They solidified that notion during practices, but still lost to Logano.
This week is much tougher because of less horsepower and down force. The cars figure to run looser, which may benefit a few drivers, but we still don’t know because there was no open testing in January to figure this new car out.
The only testing that occurred happened with a few drivers in closed Goodyear tire testing. Most crew chiefs will be going off of notes from those sessions run by a teammate and will be coming in cold with little idea of how they’ll fare this weekend.
To get every team better acclimated to the new cars, NASCAR has scheduled five hours of testing on Thursday, then they’ll start their regular race weekend schedule with practice and qualifying Friday and the final two practices Saturday.
So from an odds-making and bettors’ standpoint, you have to be careful here. The bookmaker can just lower odds on several drivers and wait to see what happens with testing.
Regardless of the changes, the big-money teams like Hendrick, Gibbs and Penske Racing all figure to be fast right off the hauler, but there is still that hint of uncertainty compared to other 1.5-mile tracks over the past three seasons.
For the bettor, there is almost no reason to wager because you could get stuck with a driver that doesn’t perform well in Thursday’s test.
The best bet scenario for wagering this week is to wait until at least seeing Thursday’s practice times. There is really nothing you can go off of that makes any bet a good one prior to then. Several of the drivers haven’t even been able to drive the cars with the new rules package and Thursday will be their first go-around.
Here’s the NASCAR betting strategy I’ll follow each week. First, you start off with your core group of drivers based on track history. This list can be anywhere from 15 to 20 drivers based on how they’ve done in recent history, the last five years and the past 10.
Certain drivers like certain tracks and over the long haul, it’s easy to identify who the best are. After that, you’ll look at current form.
This week, we only have one race and Daytona doesn’t apply in any way to Atlanta. The only nugget from last week that can be found is someone like Logano could go all out for wins with no regret since he’s already made the Chase.
Past history and current form are two pieces of information that are the foundation to set weekly NASCAR odds, but it also applies to betting. I would then forecast practices based on similar past practices and come out with an early rating on each driver. After seeing the practices and start position, I would upgrade or downgrade each driver and finally have a finished product ready for action.
This week in Atlanta, there is only half of the equation in play. The remainder won’t be known until Thursday with even more solid information gained Saturday as crew chiefs do the final tuning and set-up of the car we’ll see race Sunday.
There’s only half of the equation in, so why bet now? You’ll probably have a better chance of winning a bet by just taking red or black in roulette. Isn’t that why we all wager, because we think we have some type of advantage over the odds?
My advice this week is to slow play it and see what the books do. If they make a mistake after Thursday’s all-telling practice, then you should bet the drivers who shine that weren’t updated enough.
The most likely of candidates are likely to be good again with the new rules package, but who knows? We didn’t see a Gibbs car win on any 1.5-mile track while Brad Keselowski and Logano combined to win five of the 11. Kevin Harvick dominated on 1.5-miles last season even though he won only one of them.
Kasey Kahne’s only win of 2014 came at Atlanta, which gave him three there for his career. Jeff Gordon also makes his final start at Atlanta, a track he made his Cup debut at in 1992. He’ll be going for his sixth career Atlanta win.
One driver I know I’ll be rooting for will be Brendan Gaughan driving the No. 62 Chevy, who is now Las Vegas’ only representative in the Cup Series with both Kyle and Kurt Busch out. Gaughan’s last Atlanta appearance in the Cup Series was in 2004 when he finished 18th.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].