Driver match-ups are more popular than ever

May 8, 2001 9:25 AM

The NASCAR driver match-up business has been the biggest boon to the Las Vegas sports book scene since auto racing has been offered. Due to the handle, some racing sports books have modified its format to better increase its handle throughout the week.

"What we’ve seen is the majority of our match-up wagering done after qualifying," said Sunset Station race and sports book director Fred Crespi. "Our goal is to see some action before and after qualifying on the same level. So we have instituted two totally separate sets of 10 match-ups, one released on Monday, four days before qualifying, and the other immediately following."

The idea behind Crespi’s new scheme is sure to have NASCAR bettors think early and not wait for qualifying.

"Rarely do we ever change a line based on qualifying," he said. "Usually we let the money change the lines unless one of the short tracks are involved. However, we want to maximize our potential on the match-ups, and if our bettors know they won’t get the same match-ups following qualifying, they’ll be more inclined to take a side earlier," Crespi says.

Auto racing betting continues to grow.

"This has become big business for us," Crespi said. "It may be hard for some to realize, but on Sunday’s, the race is always our biggest decision of the day due to all of our odds to win and match-ups. When you’re talking about playoffs with the NHL and NBA, and now Major League Baseball, it’s amazing the interest that has been created.

"If you would have told me four years ago that on Sunday’s in May, a NASCAR race would be the key to winning or losing for a day, I’d say you were crazy," he said.

Network rankings support the betting boom as well. NASCAR Winston Cup races have beaten every sports competitor on the season in ratings since the February pre-season opener in Daytona.

NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series gets off the second of their third week on the season this week before next week’s All-Star race in Charlotte.

Busch Series: The Busch Series rolls into New Hampshire Saturday. The media buzz surrounding this race will coincide with the on going undisclosure by NASCAR to reveal what we already know about the Dale Earnhardt death at Daytona. Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin both died last season at New Hampshire during practice runs.

The New Hampshire investigation was swift and final when the promising stars passed last season, but when NASCAR’s biggest star passed away in their biggest race, NASCAR felt the need to hide. Whether it was to show intent that it was doing something investigation-wise or whether they had no answers for the millions of fans that needed to know, NASCAR has done far more to create something in a situation they wanted to soften.

The actual race should be a good one this Saturday. Jimmy Spencer (6-1) is flying high in the series after his big win last week in Richmond. Last year’s winner, Tim Fedewa (35-1), has struggled much in this season with his new team. Teammates Jeff Green (3-1) and Jason Keller (7-1) finished second and third in last year’s event. For Green, it was his second year in a row that he has finished second.

Other Cup regulars scheduled to join Spencer during their off-week include Steve Park (10-1), Mike Skinner (10-1), Kenny Wallace (18-1), and of course Kevin Harvick (7-2), who intends on running every Busch and Cup race which would be a first in NASCAR history if he were to do so.

Craftsman Truck Series: Two other Winston Cup stars will be racing in this weekend’s inaugural Craftsman Truck Series race at Darlington Saturday. Ken Schrader (12-1) and Bobby Hamilton (4-1) will be spending their off week at a track they know well. Schrader has 33 races to his credit on the track while Hamilton has 20. The only Truck series regular with any experience on the track is race favorite Ted Musgrave (3-1) who has run 18 races on the track. Musgrave won for the third time on the season last week in St. Louis. Look for points leader Scott Riggs (6-1) to battle Hamilton and Musgrave for the win.

Indy 500 update: Early wagering for May 27th’s Indianapolis 500 show the public is all over Arie Luyendyk at 15-1 and Al Unser Jr at 14-1 at Station Casinos. The field bet at 4-1 may look to be an exciting wagering proposition if some of the rumors become truth. Tony Stewart and Jimmy Vasser are rumored to be close to a deal with Chip Ganassi to drive two of his three cars entered in the race.

Vasser drove for Ganassi last season at Indy and could have won if Juan Montoya wasn’t his teammate.

Stewart would be attempting to be the only driver to compete in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day twice.

If the rumors are true, current Ganassi driver Nicolas Minnasian (35-1) would be the odd man out at Indy for the Target team.