Kyle Larson was collected by a spinning Christopher Bell on Lap 51, ending both drivers’ chances of winning Monday’s Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. cut a tire in overtime.
These incidents worked out just fine for the sportsbooks.
At BetMGM, Larson accounted for about 65% of the money bet on drivers to win the race, including a $30,000 wager at odds of +250 (the bettor would have profited $75,000 had Larson won), one of two five-figure bets on the No. 5 Chevy written at the book. Larson was the easy betting favorite before Monday’s affair.
Truex’s dominating performance earlier in the day in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race prompted heavy betting action on the No. 19 Toyota. He drew the second-most action at BetMGM, around 12-14% of handle in the outright market, said Seamus Magee, a Sports Trader at the betting shop.
After Truex’s win in the Pinty’s Truck Race, “we saw a flood of money come in on him to win the Cup race,” Magee said. “The money just kept coming in on him.”
Upon that action, Truex’s odds were shortened to +850 (bet $100 to win $850) by the time the green flag dropped, after opening at +2500.
While Bell was the second favorite and took significant money, Larson and Truex were “the only two big losers for the books,” Magee said.
While Larson was effectively done early, the liability on Truex must have caused some heartburn at BetMGM, as the Gibbs driver was strong until his late-race misfortune, leading a race-high 126 laps and winning the first stage. His in-race odds were as skinny as -190 (bet $190 to win $100) at some books.
Race winner Joey Logano closed at 20-1 odds at BetMGM and trailed Bubba Wallace, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney in handle, in addition to Larson, Truex and Bell.
Logano’s victory was also a win for DraftKings Sportsbook, where the No. 22 Ford drew only about 3% of the handle in the outright market, outside of the top 10, and closed at 18-1 odds, according to Johnny Avello, Director of Race and Sportsbook Operations.
Specifically at DraftKings’ Tennessee book, Larson drew the most handle, followed by Bell, Busch, Austin Dillon and Elliott. Truex was the seventh most wagered on driver, Avello said.
Did handle follow the hype?
No matter the sport, numerous factors impact betting handle. The magnitude of the event, where it sits on the sports calendar, the time of day it is scheduled for and the competition it faces are among them.
Plenty of hype surrounded the Food City Dirt Race, the first Cup event on dirt since 1970. But rain forced a postponement until Monday, when the race served as sort of a lead-in to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.
Magee said Bristol handle was slightly better than for an average NASCAR race, which he said is similar to a nationally televised regular-season college basketball game. In addition to the excitement about a race on the dirt, the extra day to wager provided a small boost.
“I think it definitely helped,” Magee said of the race being postponed. “An extra day for it, and it was kind of a precursor to the Elite Eight. For some guys who like betting, it was something to put on before the (basketball games), and you had the Truck race before, which I also think helped the handle.”
Some bettors were hesitant to put too much money on the race, however, because it was so difficult to predict.
“The uniqueness of the dirt is one thing, betting on it is another,” Avello said. “Who has a good handle on dirt? It’s probably a fun race to watch and bet some. I don’t know if it was a race where you could hone in on handicapping like you would another type of race where you have some history on how guys run on certain tracks. This one was a little more difficult to handicap. Let’s face it, the track itself was a little funky, right?”
Turns out, that funkiness was fun to watch, and bettors were inclined to get involved during the race.
“This was one of the better ones in terms of (live) handle,” Magee said. “I think a lot of that was from the buzz on social media that was like, ‘Are you seeing this dirt race? There are wrecks every other lap.’ This looks like one of our better live books.”
NASCAR announced during the race it’s running it back on the Bristol dirt next year, and Magee anticipates even better handle in 2022.
“I am excited to hear they’re going to do it again next year,” he said. “A dirt race at night will sell really well for NASCAR, people will get into it. And as more people are betting on the sport, more people are watching, obviously the handle will go up next year.”
Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.