The betting on the NASCAR races this weekend will be the most action Las Vegas sports books will see on auto racing this year.
The books will also offer the most betting options, but don’t expect to see the same amount of betting propositions like we saw last month for the Super Bowl, or the same type of handle that helped generate a state record $98 million.
Most sports books offered over 250 different Super Bowl props. This weekend, we’ll see an average of about 30 per property for Sunday’s race.
The big difference between pro football and NASCAR, besides the obvious, is that football and betting have gone hand-in-hand since the NFL began, and prospered because of it. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might think otherwise, but the truth is NASCAR is where Goodell thinks the NFL is in regards to betting – a small part of the overall experience and not defined by it.
Betting on NASCAR has been a relatively new revelation that was spurred on by the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when the first Cup race came to town in 1998. The sport was already wildly popular without betting, and was at a peak growth period in their history.
All the sports books wanted to do was offer a few things bettors might want to bet; a driver vs. driver matchup, who will have the best finish. And, of course, there were odds to win on the event.
Sports books took notice of the volume on that initial race won by Mark Martin and figured there was a market for NASCAR in the sports books. Most began offering odds on a weekly basis.
The weekly handle without the race in town plummeted, but what it did was help get the majority of books out there to at least pay attention to it. If you offer odds on something, you shouldn’t have the majority of your betting public being smarter than you, so books followed it.
Some books went directly to those visitors who followed NASCAR intensely and asked them about the type of other betting options they might like to see offered. That’s when props like how many cautions, lap leaders, or lead changes would occur began to be offered. The books also had a wealth of NASCAR knowledge available at their fingertips with this fairly new thing called the Internet.
It was about that time in 1999 when sports books were going wild with raising the bar on Super Bowl props, with each property trying to better the other by offering the most, and also by being the most creative.
A few places figured, “Why not take NASCAR up a notch?” They also had stats and there was plenty of demand for it with a captive crowd lodging for the weekend.
It wasn’t long before things like winning manufacturer, winning car owner or car number was offered. Then there was over-under finish by some of the top drivers, driver to qualify last; just about anything offered on a NASCAR results sheet was being offered.
At the time, it may have been too much to throw at the out of town visitors who had just figured out how to bet odds to win. But soon, it slowly evolved into one of the more unique experiences about Las Vegas that made the sin city race one of the most popular on the circuit.
Who wouldn’t want to kill five birds with one stone: family is happy, a vacation, drinking, gambling and watching NASCAR. There’s no place better than Las Vegas and that tradition has carried on to this weekend’s race with a slightly more betting educated crowd than we started with, and we thank you for continuing to come back.
Kobalt Tools 400: Even though Phoenix and Las Vegas have two vastly different tracks, I think we can look at what happened last Sunday at Phoenix and help pave the way for your betting thoughts just because we’re all still trying to figure out the new Gen-6 car.
We can look back a little at some Las Vegas history, use some of the 1.5-mile high-banked results from last season and even use the pre-season Charlotte test session, but the best advice may be to look at what we saw at Phoenix. We should see the same drivers that ran well there, run well Sunday in Las Vegas.
That means we can eliminate about 25 drivers from contention and focus on about 18, one of which isn’t going to be Danica Patrick. Sorry guys and gals, but she is going to struggle on every track other than plate races.
On the down-force tracks, the cream rises to the top. Only the top financed teams and the top drivers will have a chance to win on Sunday. The one exception might be Las Vegan Kurt Busch in the No. 78 car. Busch looked outstanding last week driving for a low budget single car team.
If we examine Las Vegas history, you’ll see there have never been any surprises. The past winner’s have been the best of the best in the series who were clicking at the time, and that shouldn’t change Sunday.
So who is clicking right now? Obviously, we don’t have a lot of data to go on, but the best starting point would be Jimmie Johnson, a driver who has won in Las Vegas four times. His 6-to-1 odds may seem short, but he looked terrific Sunday at Phoenix and he has all the large financial backing from car owner Rick Hendrick, not to mention one of the best crew and best crew chief in the business.
We can also take a look at all of Johnson’s teammates like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. All three should have good cars Sunday and reap the benefits of Mr. Hendrick’s deep pockets.
Next in line would be the Joe Gibbs cars. Watching Denny Hamlin have to make an engine change Saturday during practice after two of the Gibbs engines faltered at Daytona should make bettors weary, but man, these guys are fast. The combination of Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch is second only to the Hendrick drivers. Kenseth is a two-time Las Vegas winner and Kyle Busch won in 2009.
Last week we saw the Fords come on strong with Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. For Edwards, his win at Phoenix ended a 70 race winless streak. His last win was in Las Vegas in 2011. Edwards also won in 2008. Needless to say, Edwards likes this track and it appears that the new Gen-6 car is going to be good for him.
Let’s look for a three-way battle for the win between Johnson, Kenseth and Edwards, a Chevy, Toyota, and Ford. For now, I’ll go with the deep pockets and side with Johnson. Good luck everyone and have a great time at the races.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow him on Twitter @MicahRoberts7. Contact Micah at [email protected].