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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes its way to headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the annual All-Star Race. As has been the case in recent years, there are two races.
First, the Monster Energy Open (6 p.m. ET, FS1) hosts all the drivers not yet eligible for the main event. The winner of each of the three stages of the Open will transfer to the main race. The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race main event goes off at 8 p.m. ET, also on FS1.
There are many ways a driver can become eligible for the All-Star Race, and the format is different from most NASCAR races. I suggest you read this excellent primer that gives all the details before placing any bets.
Charlotte is a 1.5-mile quad-oval that has a fairly old surface. That means its tire wear should be relatively high. However, the cars are running the aero ducts, so this is the first 1.5-mile oval with high tire wear and aero ducts. The other high tire wear tracks were Atlanta (no aero ducts) and Auto Club (2-mile oval), and both were run in the heat of the day, instead of at night.
Kansas was a night race last weekend, and Las Vegas also ran the aero ducts. I’m planning on using data from all 1.5-mile tracks this year in my evaluation of the All-Star Race.
Because this race has a lot of unknowns, we should only pick the very best value bets. Hence, my card will be quite small this weekend. Let’s get to the picks.
RELATED: Race-day betting odds
A quick primer on the odds below: A $100 bet at +700 odds would profit $700, while a $200 wager at -200 odds would pay out $100.
Kevin Harvick +700 to Win
Harvick easily led in green-flag speed at Kansas last weekend — the only night race of the year to date. He was also second in green flag speed at Atlanta, first at Las Vegas, and 13th at Texas, which is the newest surface during a day race — about as far away from Charlotte conditions as you can get.
Also, let’s not forget that he dominated last year’s race, leading 36 laps en route to his second career All-Star win.
Harvick was plenty fast in practice, posting the fastest 10-lap average in first practice, and the third-best average in final practice. He starts third in the main event.
Clint Bowyer +1500 to Win
Bowyer opened at +1400 at the Westgate and went on to win the pole position for the main event. However, a bit of shopping will pay off as Bowyer is currently 15-1 to win at MGM properties.
Bowyer was one of a quintet of Fords to post a 10-lap average over 176 mph in final practice, with everyone else clocking in at least 0.5 mph slower. He’ll have his teammate Harvick starting directly behind him, and it’s a solid bet that one of the two will control the early portion of the race, putting them in prime position to contend for a win late.
Ryan Blaney +2000 to Win, +500 for Top 3 Finish
Blaney has a less-than-stellar record at Charlotte, posting only one top-10 finish in seven career Cup Series starts on the 1.5-mile oval (he did win last year’s race on the Charlotte Roval, but that provides no quantitative value in analyzing 1.5-mile performance).
However, Blaney does have an Xfinity Series win in 2017, and has three top-four finishes in four Xfinity starts. That’s important, because the current rules more closely approximate the Xfinity Series than in the past.
Blaney also lead all drivers in 10-lap speed in final practice. In a short field with only 19 drivers, the 20-1 value to win offered at the DraftKings Sportsbook is too good to pass up.
Blaney starts mid-pack in ninth, which means he’s in an interesting spot to play the strategy game. He and his crew chief could gamble at some point in the race and use an alternate tire or fuel strategy giving us a nice third driver to pair with Harvick and Bowyer who should be on the main, front-runner strategy. It’ll be nice to have drivers on different strategies, so our eggs are in multiple baskets.
Even if Blaney doesn’t use the alternate strategy, he’s still the fastest car in practice and an Xfinity winner at this track.