Betting on NASCAR used to be the domain of good 'ol country boys, but the growth of the sport has long since extended beyond the American South. In fact, events held by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing have become the fourth most popular sport in the United States (much to the surprise of the NHL).
If you want to get in on the action, this article should serve as a handy primer for wagering on NASCAR. We'll look at the most common types of bets available from bookmakers, as well as offering tips for bettors who like to dig deep when looking for an advantage.
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Understanding the Chase for the Sprint Cup
Anyone who follows NASCAR will hear constant references to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Before we continue, I want to offer a brief explanation for those who may be new to the NASCAR scene.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the name for the entire season of auto racing, while the Chase for the Sprint Cup determines the overall champion. There are a total of 36 races, and the first 26 are considered to be the regular season.
After the first 26 races have been completed, 16 drivers (known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Grid) qualify to win the league's top prize, which is determined by the final 10 races of the season. In order to qualify, a driver must rank in the top 15 for race wins after the initial 26 events. The final spot is reserved for the points leader if they've yet to win a race.
The final 10 races are held with a full field of drivers, including those who failed to qualify for the championship. After three races have been completed, the four Chase Grid drivers with the least points are eliminated from contention. This continues every three races, with the remaining drivers having their points reset to a pre-determined amount each time.
The last race of the season is also known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, and four drivers are still in contention at this point. Of these four, the driver with the highest finish is crowned the champion and wins a huge amount of money.
Options for NASCAR Bettors
Before you place your wager, please be aware that most sportsbooks offer a variety of betting options for their customers. The following are the most common for NASCAR events:
- Bets to Win - With these wagers, the bettor is trying to predict which driver will win a specific race. If the driver finishes in any spot other than first, the customer loses their money. These are the hardest to win, but they also offer some of the largest payouts.
In addition to all the favored racers, you may also see a betting option labeled "field." This comprises all drivers not previously mentioned. While it gives bettors several drivers instead of one, they are all huge underdogs.
The majority of bets to win involve a specific NASCAR race. At the beginning of the season, however, most sportsbooks also offer the opportunity for bettors to wager on the eventual winner of the Sprint Cup Championship.
- Top Three Finisher - The bettor gets paid if his chosen driver finishes in the top three of a race. The payout will be the same whether the driver finishes in 1st or 3rd place. The odds are also lower, as the sportsbook is paying for three winners instead of one.
- Head to Head Bets - These wagers pit two drivers against each other, and the bettor must choose who will finish higher. A driver can finish 38th and still win the wager, or he might finish in 2nd place and lose.
- Prop Bets - These are the equivalent of over/under bets for the NASCAR crowd. The sportsbook provides a number, and the bettor must decide if the driver will finish higher or lower than that position.
Types of Wagering Odds
Depending on which sportsbook you choose, you may encounter several different types of odds. This section explains each of them.
- Decimal Odds - This option is expressed by a number followed by a decimal point and two other numbers (2.25, for example). In order to determine your total payout, multiple the amount of your wager by the provided decimal odds. For example, a $100 wager on Tony Stewart at 1.75 would pay $175 (which includes your $100 wager). These odds are common in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe.
- Fractional Odds - Popular in the United Kingdom, this option expresses odds in a fraction form such as 1/4 or 4/1. The best way to explain this is "winnings/wager." For example, if you wager $1 on 4/1 odds, then you'll win $4. If you risk $4 on 1/4 odds, then you'll win $1.
Just remember: the number on the right is the amount you'll wager, while the left number is the amount you'll win. In order to calculate wagers greater than $1, multiply the amount of your bet by the numbers provided on the odds. For example, 6/1 odds mean that a $50 ($50x1)wager pays $300 ($50x6).
- Moneyline Odds - The favorite option for American bookmakers, these odds have a number with either a positive or negative sign in front. If there is no symbol in front, it's the same as a negative symbol being present.
If the number is positive, then it indicates how much money can be won on a $100 wager. For example, betting on Jeff Gordon to finish in the top three of a race at +200 would result in winnings of $200.
A negative number indicates how much the bettor needs to wager in order to win $100. For example, a bettor wagering on Denny Hamlin at -200 needs to bet $200 in order to win $100.
5 Tipes for Betting on NASCAR
If you're looking for an edge on your wagers, take the following five factors into consideration:
- Track History - Does a driver have a history of success on a certain track? If the answer is "yes," then it might be time to place a wager. For example, Kevin Harvick has the best overall finish average at Phoenix International Raceway.
- Pit Stall Location - Qualifying runs determines the order that teams select their pit stall, with the pole winner getting first choice. This is especially important at some tracks, where small pit stalls can lead to accidents and driver delays.
- Happy Hour - This is the term for the final practice run before the start of the race. This can give you an idea of how each driver should perform during the actual race, especially since the weather conditions may be identical.
- Nationwide Series - Held at the same track a day prior to the Sprint Cup races, these events include younger drivers with less experience. Sprint Cup racers are also eligible to compete, and many do in order to get a better feel for the track. While this practice doesn't sit well with some, it does provide bettors with a preview of how a driver may perform on the track the following day.
- Fan Favorites - Prior to the start of a race, a lot of fans may wager money on their favorite driver. This can improve the odds for other drivers, so keep an eye on the odds as they change before the green flag drops.