With NASCAR likely the first sport to resume, betting is likely to be at an all-time high. Sports bettors are looking for something to bet on even if it’s not their usual game of choice. For those who have never bet on NASCAR, it’s not much different than any other type of racing.
The following is from the second edition update of my second book, Sports Betting Basics, which was released on Amazon April 30, 2020.
How to Bet NASCAR and Other Auto Races
One thing you can say about auto-racing fans is they’re extremely loyal and passionate. This hasn’t escaped the sportsbooks’ notice, and nearly every sportsbook now posts a variety of wagers on all NASCAR events, along with Formula 1 and IndyCar. With NASCAR the most popular in the U.S., you can typically expect to find more NASCAR-related betting opportunities than you will for Formula 1 and IndyCar.
The most popular NASCAR wager is simply trying to pick the winner of the race. That isn’t necessarily an easy task, since 43 cars enter Sprint Cup races. Different sportsbooks have their own policies regarding NASCAR races. Some list odds for each entrant, while others post them on roughly half the drivers and lump the remaining ones into the “field,” which gets you a number of drivers; if any one of them happens to win, you win your bet. The trade-off is that the drivers in the field are given the least chance of winning.
Odds on the race winners are usually listed in money-line format, so you can expect to see something resembling:
Jimmie Johnson +600
Kyle Busch +700
Matt Kenseth +1000
Kyle Larson +3000
Most of the time, the favorite in a NASCAR race exceeds odds of +400, so the payouts aren’t bad, but given the number of contenders in each race, picking the winner is a tough task.
Head-to-head matchups are another popular bet. The sportsbooks put up a number of different pairings and you wager on the driver you believe will finish higher. It makes no difference if your pick wins the race or finishes 28th, just as long as he places higher than the other driver in the match-up.
Sportsbooks try to make the pairings fairly equal, meaning you’re unlikely to see one of the race favorites matched-up with a driver lumped into the field category. The one negative aspect of these wagers is that sportsbooks frequently use a 30-cent line, so the odds on two drivers who are thought to be evenly matched will be -115 for each driver.
There’s also the top-three wager, NASCAR’s version of a show bet in horse racing, where you win your wager if your driver finishes in one of the top three positions. These bets pay out quite a bit less than betting on one driver to win, as the sportsbooks now have to pay off wagers on three different drivers instead of one. The odds on finishing in the top three would look like this:
Jimmie Johnson +125
Kyle Busch +175
Matt Kenseth +250
Kyle Larson +750
As you can see by comparing these odds with the ones above on the same drivers, the payouts are a good deal less than one-third of the driver’s odds of winning the race and the field bet has been taken out of the equation, which is typically the case. The relatively low payouts tend to make these a poor proposition, as many times the favorites are plagued by car troubles or are taken out of the race due to a crash and they won’t be finishing in the top three.
More sportsbooks post a few proposition-type wagers on each race, where you can bet on such things as the winning car having an odd or even number, the winning car having a number over or under a particular number, the winning car manufacturer and more. The bigger races tend to have more props, such as the number of cautions, the number of race leaders, and the like.
Odds on winning the Sprint Cup championship are available before the season begins, as well as throughout the season. After each race is completed, the odds are typically adjusted to factor in the results of the latest race.
Other Racing Series
After NASCAR, the next two big series you’ll typically find odds listed for are IndyCar and Formula 1. The bigger races, the Indianapolis 500 in IndyCar and the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula 1, have more betting options than a typical race on the schedule, in which you’ll find odds to win the race and possibly only one or two other wagers.
Sportsbook usually list odds on winning the season championship for both IndyCar and Formula 1 series usually throughout the season, again updated after each race to reflect the latest results.
The target audience of an individual sportsbook often influences the number of different racing series. Sportsbooks that cater to European bettors typically accept bets on more different series than one focused on the American market. The online sportsbook 5 Dimes not only offers wagers on the three series listed above, but also includes Formula E, World Rally, and Speedway motorcycle racing.
European sportsbooks, which do not accept wagers from United States-based bettors, are known for offering odds on even more series and big races, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.