Bettors’ paradise: A favorite over 10-1

Jul 18, 2006 7:01 AM

A Funny thing happened last time the Cup Series visited Pocono Raceway. Someone higher than 10-1 odds won a race.

All season, I heard long time bettors speak in disdain about how they just can’t maneuver the way they used to because the odds are so low on the top drivers. What irks them most is that those drivers win every week.

Six weeks ago in the first Pocono race, Denny Hamlin absolutely dominated the field. His opening odds were 25-1. After the practice sessions and qualifying, Hamlin still had some value at 15 to 1. He is the highest longshot to win this season.

Prior to Hamlin, the longest odds for an eventual winner went to Kevin Harvick (15-1) at Phoenix. Harvick did drop to 8-1 there after practice sessions. Since Hamlin, the title goes to Jeff Gordon at Chicago. Gordon opened 12-1 for that race and was raised up to 20-1 because no one was betting. Few wanted Gordon because he showed nothing in practice and had never won at Chicago over his distinguished career.

That’s where the "supply meets demand" comes into play. Right now, the demand is for the top drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Greg Biffle. They will be 7 or 8 -1 every week and the public will still bet them. How much will it take for Joe Public to bet on Ryan Newman? Lately, the answer is around 40-1.

With no upsets happening in the world of Cup racing and the public knowing it, the market price for some of these poor running drivers must go way through the roof. The bookmakers know these drivers basically have no shot of winning because of how the season has gone. The bettor is thinking maybe this is the time where the tide turns and an easy score can be had due to the state of the market’.

It has been amusing to watch the season take shape and see how the curve has dramatically changed. Generally, the bookmaker wants about a 34 percent theoretic hold on a 30 driver field in the Odds To Win index. To get to that level, much maneuvering has to be done when the top is heavy with 4 or 5 favorites. Much like the grading curve we remember from school, the odds of several drivers will have to be raised dramatically because of the favorites destroying the 34 goal.

I liked the days when I could have a wager on a 50-1 driver and feel that there was a legitimate shot at winning the bet. That wasn’t too long ago either, but long enough to where single car teams still ran semi-successfully.

As for Pocono

This week at Pocono Raceway, it will be much of the same as we saw six weeks ago. The result of Hamlin winning again may not be the same, but the top 10 finishers are likely to be nearly the same. Over the last two years, 45 percent of the drivers that finished in the Top 10 in the first Pocono race were in the top 10 the next time.

Here is what the top 10 looked like then at their odds this week(in parenthesis):


Pocono 500, June 11

1. Denny Hamlin (11-1)

2. Kurt Busch (12-1)

3. Tony Stewart (10-1)

4. Brian Vickers (14-1)

5. Matt Kenseth (12-1)

6. Greg Biffle (11-1)

7. Kasey Kahne (12-1)

8. Scott Riggs (30-1)

9. Jeff Burton (15-1)

10. Jimmie Johnson (10-1)


If you’ll notice, all of the above had odds at 10 -1 or higher; Not one driver has odds at single digits. The reason is because some of the perennial longer shots at other tracks are considered one of the favorites to win this week.

Brian Vickers is generally in the 30-1 range, but will be considered a legitimate driver to win this week, just like Burton and Hamlin. Drivers that are at the top week to week can be offered at a generous price because their chances of winning are much tougher.

After notching his first Cup Series win in the June 11 Pocono race, Denny Hamlin could make it a season sweep. He has momentum thanks to a sixth last week. Since winning at Pocono. Hamlin has remained consistent with finishes of 12 at Michigan and Sonoma, 17 at Daytona, and 14th Chicagoland.

Look for him to have another strong run this week. His main competition will be from teammate Tony Stewart. The car Hamlin had was so overly impressive, that it is hard to go against anyone else in this race.

Keep a close eye on who does well here looking ahead to the upcoming Brickyard 400. The tracks use nearly identical setups.

Busch hits Martinsville

Eight Cup drivers will race in two places in two days this weekend. They’ll be a part of their regularly-scheduled Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday and a bit of NASCAR Busch Series history at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday.

The Busch event is the first at Martinsville since October 1994 when Kenny Wallace won. Biffle, Carl Edwards, J.J. Yeley, Reed Sorenson, Clint Bowyer, Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are scheduled for "double duty" this weekend. Also planning to compete is the Master of Martinsville, Darrell Waltrip, who will drive brother Michael Waltrip’s car.

Chase is on for 10th

For the first time in 15 weeks, the reigning Cup champion has tumbled from the top 10. Tony Stewart’s 38th-place finish this past Sunday dropped him four spots in the standings to 11th. Beginning with this week’s race, Stewart has six more to re-enter the top 10 and ensure himself a berth in the Chase. He trails 10th-place Greg Biffle by 11 points.

Sitting right behind Stewart is his Gibbs teammate, Hamlin, just seven points behind. Edwards is 13th, climbing one spot in the standings following a second-place finish last week. He won the June 2005 event at Pocono and finished fourth last year. He trails Hamlin by 128 points and Biffle by 146.

Las Vegan Kurt Busch is 14th, trailing Biffle by 206 and Edwards by 60. He’s done a decent job in the car, but the team has to get better on the cookie cutter tracks.