Unlike last week at Dover when there was very little movement, this week the vast majority of drivers saw their odds change from Monday to Saturday. Mostly these came in the form of slight adjustments and do not seem to indicate much about the amount of money that exchanged hands.
Aero-restricted superspeedways are entirely unpredictable. Formulas used by bettors to handicap individual drivers break down quickly, especially in light of the new race weekend protocols that have eliminated practice and qualification. All one has to go on this week is a driver’s record at the track, which is skewed heavily by accidents and the whim of the draft.One driver with a notable change among the top 10 was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and his numbers are interesting. Opening at +2500 (25/1), he was quickly adjusted to +2000 by Wednesday and stayed there through the weekend. It would appear some smart money jumped on the initial odds in light of Stenhouse’s reputation on the plate tracks. There are two ways to approach racing on a plate track. Drivers can either drop to the back and try to find a safe place to run, or they can charge aggressively to the front and hope to be in front of any ‘Big One’ crashes that erupt. Stenhouse is one of the most aggressive drivers in the field on this track type. That often creates controversy. Stenhouse has a knack for triggering incidents that he manages to escape. Even at 20/1 Stenhouse is an attractive bet this week.
There are two ways to approach racing on a plate track. Drivers can either drop to the back and try to find a safe place to run, or they can charge aggressively to the front and hope to be in front of any ‘Big One’ crashes that erupt. Stenhouse is one of the most aggressive drivers in the field on this track type. That often creates controversy. Stenhouse has a knack for triggering incidents that he manages to escape. Even at 20/1 Stenhouse is an attractive bet this week.
Denny Hamlin started the week favored at +650 and adjusted slightly to +600. While it is difficult to argue against his status after posting back-to-back Daytona 500 wins, Hamlin has not been the same in the second Daytona race in recent seasons. Since he finished 17th in the summer 2016 race, he has not cracked the top 20 under the lights. In fact, his last two attempts were worse than 25th. Approach him with caution for the Coke Zero 400.
Kevin Harvick retained his rank of second on the odds sheet with a movement of +1000 to +900. As with Hamlin, he deserves his ranking because of the momentum he brings to the track. He finished fifth in the Daytona 500 this February and was 10th at Talladega. But those are not typical results: In the past three seasons, Harvick has scored only one other top-15 on this track type and his average finish at Daytona since the beginning of 2017 is 23.5. Avoid Harvick.
Notably all three Team Penske drivers have almost identical odds of +1100 or +1200 and are ranked third or fifth. This suggests the bookmakers believe they will run together near the front of the pack, which is precisely what they tend to do until one of them gets shuffled out of the draft. Joey Logano (+1100) has one victory and four more top-fives in the past three seasons on this course type. Ryan Blaney (+1200) has two plate wins and a second in his last three attempts. They deserve some attention in the Coke Zero 400.
Brad Keselowski (+1100) has not been nearly as successful in recent seasons. He won the 2017 Alabama 500 with some blocking help from Logano, but has not cracked the top 10 on a plate track since. His last 10 attempts have produced an average finish of 27.2.
How difficult is it to handicap plate races? In this week’s head-to-head contest at the Draft Kings sportsbook, no driver has positive odds and nearly every single matchup shows identical odds or very small variations between the two contestants. The widest margin among two drivers comes is a head-to-head battle between Harvick at -129 and Keselowski -104. We suspect the difference-maker in this will be who drives away from the inevitable crash scene first.
The “Best Finish in Group” prop bets this week provide more interest. The favorites Hamlin and Harvick have been placed in two different groups, so there is an opportunity to fade them.
Hamlin (+160) goes up against Logano (+255), Blaney (+290), and Keselowski (+290). Avoid Kez and place a few bucks on Blaney since he has a greater upside than Logano.
Harvick (+170) goes up against Kyle Busch (+245), Chase Elliott (+245), and Aric Almirola (+350). Given the desperation associated with Busch and a lack of patience by Elliott on plate tracks, the most attractive bet here is for the underdog Almirola.
Group D is another exciting matchup that is made up of bubble drivers. Jimmie Johnson (+195), Erik Jones (+240), William Byron (+270), and Matt DiBenedetto (+270) are all vying for the two spots remaining in the Round of 16. That Jones boy won this race in 2018 and is capable of doing so again.
The odds this week for any driver to win both stages and the race have been raised slightly to +700. Last week, some bettors converted this prop bet (at +650) into cash in both races at Dover as Hamlin swept Race 1 and Harvick swept Race 2. Do not expect lightning to strike the same place three times.
Harvick is favored to win Stage 1 of the Coke Zero 400 at +550. Hamlin is favored to win Stage 2 at +800, but there are some interesting wagers deeper in the rankings. Stenhouse is listed at +3500 for Stage 1 and +2000 for Stage 2. Given his propensity to escape danger, he is worthy of a couple of modest bets.
The bubble boys need points to help their cause of making the playoffs, so it might be beneficial to spread a little money around on them to win a stage. Jimmie Johnson is listed at +2000 to win Stage 1 and 2.
Byron is +2000 to win Stage 1 and +2500 in Stage 2. Erik Jones is +3300 for Stage 1 and +2200 for Stage 2. Matt DiBenedetto is +2800 in both Stage 1 and 2.
If you believe the Coke Zero 400 will result in a chaotic race filled with accidents, the current odds for the winner to start 20th or worse is +300.
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