The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes its return to Pocono Raceway for the second of two races in 2019. Kyle Busch won the season’s first race at the “Tricky Triangle.” Busch, Kyle Larson and William Byron were the only drivers to reach double-digits in both laps led and fastest laps.
Notably, Larson wrecked his car in practice and despite qualifying in 29th, he will start at the rear of the field. Chase Elliott (crash, backup car) and Bubba Wallace (engine change) will also head to the rear after 23rd and 26th place qualifying efforts, respectively.
Every week I build a statistical model for the race. Traditionally, these metrics are the most predictive of Pocono race results during the Gen-6 era (2013-present):
- Pocono driver rating (last eight races)
- Flat track quality pass percentage (last eight races)
- Year-to-date quality pass percentage
- Practice times
- Qualifying position
Using these data points, I’ve found three value bets to win today’s Gander Outdoors 400.
*All odds as of 11:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. A quick explainer on the odds below: A $100 wager on +1200 would profit $1200.
Joey Logano +1200
Logano ranks third in my model behind co-favorites Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, but is currently listed as the sixth-most likely driver to win at the Westgate and seventh-most likely at Caesars properties. Logano’s price is likely dampened by the fact that his track history isn’t stellar, but if we take a deeper dive, he actually has some very strong track history points in his favor.
In the first Pocono race this year, Logano had the fifth-best quality pass percentage, the sixth-best percentage running in the top 15 and finished seventh.
Back in 2014, when the aerodynamic package was most similar to this year’s package, Logano had a third-place finish in the second Pocono race, and had the third-best quality pass percentage and was running up front most of the race until his engine let go on lap 150.
Logano was inside the top five in both five- and 10-lap average in final practice, less than 0.3 mph off the leaders in both metrics. Starting from the second position, Logano should have the all-important track position and a premium pit stall.
Additionally, Logano has two wins in the bag which means his strategy will simply be to race for the win, instead of worrying about accumulating stage points.
There is value on Logano as long as you can get him at +1000 or longer.
Denny Hamlin +1500
MGM is notably slow to adjust its NASCAR odds after practice and qualifying, and they haven’t adjusted Hamlin’s odds from his 15-1 opener despite an incredibly strong showing this weekend. Hamlin was fourth in five-lap average, and second in 10-lap average in final practice.
In the first Pocono race just eight weeks ago, Hamlin had the third-fastest average green-flag speed, behind only Kyle Busch and Erik Jones, before finishing sixth. He also finished fourth and ninth in 2014 under a similar aerodynamic package.
Importantly, Hamlin won at Pocono four times prior to the track’s repave in 2011, including a sweep of the 2006 races when the track surface was in its 12th year after its 1995 repave. The track surface is now nine years old.
To see how egregious the MGM line is, just look at the Westgate SuperBook, where Hamlin is listed at +800. However, seven drivers have shorter odds than Hamlin at MGM.
Between the aerodynamic package, the practice times and the track age, Hamlin shakes out fourth in my statistical model among all drivers. I’d bet him down to +1200.
Kyle Larson +5000
Earlier in the week I bet Larson at +2200 on the heels of his strong showing at the “Tricky Triangle” earlier this year. Larson also finished fifth in the first Pocono race during his rookie campaign in 2014.
However, a crash in practice relegated him to his backup car and only 10 total laps in final practice, pushing his odds down to +5000 at William Hill. He was only 24th in practice, and qualified only 29th, creating the impetus for his plummeting odds.
Since he’s starting in the rear, look for his team to make some strategic moves to get him track position. Strategy plays come with a wider range of outcomes, but since we’re only concerned about the win on this bet, we can discount the additional downside in favor of potential upside from a strategic call.
This is definitely a long-shot bet on an extremely talented driver, but I like a small play here. Larson has won five times in 203 career Cup races, about one in 40. However, Pocono is in the top-third of his tracks if you compare his driver rating year-by-year at each track to his season-long performance.
As such, I like betting him down to +4000.