Auto Racing Betting: Spin Your Wheels & Get On Right Track

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 9:29 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 9:29 PM UTC

Betting on auto racing has grown in recent years with more fans, more ways to watch the races and more sportsbooks posting numbers for individual events, season championships, and creative props.

Individual Race (Futures) Bets

In NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCar and the other major motor sports, the most common bet is on the winner of a given race. Like in horse racing, how to bet on auto racing involves trying to pick the winner of (usually) the coming weekend’s race, although with the bigger races like the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500, sportsbooks often post futures odds weeks or months out.

And like in horse racing, Luck with a capital “L” is often a big reason the winner wins and everyone else from 2nd place back “loses,” as remaining fuel levels, tire conditions, accidents and frequent race stops and starts make it harder to cross the finish line first, especially in NASCAR, with the open-wheel F1 circuit much more predictable and the usual suspects seemingly on the podium every race (Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas).

But unlike horse racing, there are usually 2 to 3 times as many entrants in a given race and there are no "place" or "show" opportunities or monster payouts or real exotics, although markets like Top 3, Top 5, Top 10 and Bottom 10 Finish have emerged, although less popular than the simple, just pick-the-winner individual race futures bet with many likely picking with their heart in a market really tough for the players. And there aren’t lines of bettors in colorful clothing getting actual printed tickets — some at the actual track where the races are taking place — while auto racing betting is done sporadically at sportsbooks in person with many betting the sport(s) online.

Futures odds often feature all drivers in a given auto race, but often you will see a catch-all ”Field” category that wraps all of the other entrants without odds into one grouping. Most “Field” bets actually end up in fields, as landfill.

2018 Daytona 500 Futures Odds

Here’s an example of a NASCAR futures sheet from a brick-and-mortar sportsbook (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). Offshore sportsbooks offer their odds online, usually in their Motor Racing menu with shops like 5Dimes and Bovada offering up a more extensive menu with Xfinity, MotoGP, NHRA often harder to find, although 5Dimes offers the two former.

In the 2018 Daytona 500 in February, Austin Dillon was the longshot winner of “The Great American Race,” and, as you can see with his big 50/1 odds, a $20 wager would have cashed in a cool $1,000 (5 x $20=) with Daytona 500 bragging rights forever. And, like with all winning futures bets, the gambler would get his or her initial $20 back for a total $1,020 payday.

Season Championship Winner (Futures) Bets

There is always one cumulative points championship winner for the various seasons in NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, Xfinity, MotoGP, NHRA (its four classes), the Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series. A futures bet in these markets lasts the entire season and, again, is one where the recreational sports gambler will usually bet with his or her heart while the serious bettor will look for an angle or possibly even a perceived obscene price. Here is a sample futures bet odds sheet for the 2018 (Monster Energy) NASCAR Cup Series season from the world-famous SuperBook.

As of Aug. 1, the NASCAR point leader was Las Vegas native Kyle Busch (591), so should he win the title, those betting with the current (high) odds of 5/1 would get a better payday than those backing Busch at his opening odds of 9/2 (4.5-to-1) with a theoretical $20 wager paying $100 (5 x $10=) should he end up winning the NASCAR points championship.

The fluctuation within this NASCAR futures market is much more betworthy than in F1 (sample in-season futures odds above; Aug 1, 2018), where British icon Hamilton seems to have a lock on the championship these years, with more randomness in the finishing orders — the nature of F1 from the starting grid to the tighter tracks making passing way more difficult than in NASCAR — and with many drivers winning individual races over a season. Here are all of the major champions from 2017:

2017 Auto Racing (Points) Champions

NASCAR Cup Series: Martin Truex Jr.
Formula One: Lewis Hamilton
IndyCar: Josef Newgarden
Truck Series: Christopher Bell
NHRA (Top Fuel Dragster): Brittany Force
NHRA (Funny Car): Robert Hight
NHRA (Pro Stock): Bo Butner
NHRA (Pro Stock Motorcycle): Eddie Krawiec
MotoGP: Marc Márquez
NASCAR Xfinity Series: William Byron [R]

Head-to-Head Drivers Race Matchups

Probably the smartest approach if you think you have a good angle is to study the races and tendencies by drivers at certain tracks. In the head-to-head drivers matchups, two specific drivers in a race are matched up and assigned prices. For example, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano were pitted against each other in the 2018 Daytona 500 by the oddsmakers at SuperBook, with both opening at -110, meaning a bettor would have to bet $11 to win $10, or $110 to win $100.

In the actual race, Harvick finished in 31st place while Logano ended up in 4th place, meaning that Logano (11/10) won this matchup, simply determined by who ends up finishing ahead of the other. Like the proverbial tortoise always finished ahead of the hare. Like the Road Runner always ended up finishing ahead of Wile E. Coyote in the end. Always-always. Like, 1/500 odds always.

A good example of this came in the Indianapolis 500 and a pick from yours truly fading Danica Patrick in her last run at The Brickyard, backing Ed Jones (+125, 5Dimes). The crawl on my sadistic HDTV slowly showed a 30th-place finish for Patrick in the 33-car race and all seemed glorious for a second until Jones’ name came creeping by next in 31st place, proving The Devil himself is into auto racing (or that it’s not good to bet on emotions or a fade for fading’s sake). Hey, you win some and you lose more. This is life. The last time life was easy was never.

Group Drivers Race Matchups (Speed Row Bets)

Rarer than the others, this grouping of four drivers (in this sample below) lets bettors choose one from a smaller pool, providing a much better shot to win than an individual race bet or a season-long (points championship) winner driver futures bet.

Looking the sample from the “Group A” for the Daytona 500 from SuperBook — oddsmakers often arrange these groupings by perceived competition levels — Denny Hamlin (3rd place, +265) edged out Logano (4th place), with Harvick in 31st and Brad Keselowski in 32nd both eliminated by accident, a word that auto racing futures bettors loathe unless they are fading a driver

Top 3 (Podium), Top 5, Top 10 Finish Race Props Bets

This type of bet allows the gambler to choose a driver and collect should that racer finish often within the Top 3, Top 5 or Top 10 positions in the race with corresponding odds. Easier to win than the single-shot individual race winner bets where the driver must win the race for the bettor to get paid.

A sample result from the 2018 German Grand Prix above shows steep odds on eventual race-winner Hamilton (-1,000 = 1/10 odds = bet $10 to win just $1) and a bet probably not even worth the while, while a Top 10 finish props bet on semi-longshot Brendon Hartley (7/1) would have been wise with Hartley finishing in 7th place, meaning a bettor in that theoretical would have won 7x his or her wager amount and would also get his or her wager amount back ($10 on Hartley: 7 x $10 =70 win + $10 wager amount returned).


Individual Race Props Bets

This very specific type of wagering is probably more popular offshore than in Las Vegas with few having the manpower to make the odds and weekly handles too small to justify offering some of the more unique props bets, although with the bigger iconic races like Daytona and the Indy 500, operators will have larger betting menus knowing the eyeballs will be there for those marquee weekends. Here are some sample prop bets in auto racing:

  • Which Driver will win the Pole Position?

  • Which Driver will lead the Most Laps?

  • Who will be the Winning Manufacturer?

  • What will the Winning Car Number be? (Odd/Even)

  • What will the Average Speed of Race be? (Over/Under)

  • How many Yellow Flags will there be? (Over/Under)

These types of bets usually have higher juice (vigorish) than the outright race winner or the head-to-head matchups and would be best approached employing a very specific angle the bettor has researched or believes in to back at the betting windows.


NASCAR Individual Race Live Betting

This relatively new type of wagering incorporates the new technologies and constantly updated odds and lets gamblers online get in at any time, subject of course to the numbers and drivers posted by the sportsbook and within context of how many laps may be left in the specific event and what (current) positions the drivers are in and is usually only seen in the big races like the Daytona 500 or the Indianapolis 500.

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2018 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Pick: Kevin Harvick +230 (5Dimes)

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