Martin Truex Jr. is a deserving favorite heading into Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, but priced at 4/1 odds at multiple sportsbooks, the No. 19 Toyota may be too expensive a proposition for bettors.
Those odds, which can also be expressed as +400 (bet $100 to win $400), translate into a 20% chance of winning the race.
Truex has been stellar this season, sitting in second in the standings and boasting two wins in the first eight races. Those two wins, in fact, have come at Phoenix and Martinsville, tracks handicappers use as comparisons for Richmond.
Truex’s past performances at Richmond have also been excellent. He’s finished second, first, first and third over the last four Cup events on this three-quarter miler, and in the two previous Richmond races before that, he led 121 and 198 laps.
Sharp bettors make their plays based on value. If the odds imply a greater percent chance than a driver truly has, for example, they’ll stay away.
“It’s hard to deny he’s great at Richmond and he’s great at these types of tracks. The question is, is he really a 20-25 percent favorite to win, which is what the betting markets are suggesting,” Blake Phillips, a sharp NASCAR bettor, said of Truex this week.
Ed Salmons, who handles NASCAR oddsmaking at SuperBook USA in Las Vegas, adjusted his original numbers in Truex’s direction. On Monday, he hung Truex and Denny Hamlin both at +450. Upon reflection, he made Truex the sole favorite at +400 and lengthened Hamlin to +500
“I made my spreadsheet, and then I thought about it, and I’m like, ‘Truex has to be the favorite.’ The 9/2 was probably a little bit high, so I just tweaked it a little bit. I went ‘5’ on Hamlin, ‘4’ on Truex and just basically adjusted all of his matchups up about 20 cents.”
For examples of Salmons’ matchup adjustments, Truex went from -110 (bet $110 to win $100) to -130 (bet $130 to win $100) vs. Hamlin, and from -135 to -150 vs. Brad Keselowski.
“He definitely seems like the guy to beat,” Salmons continued, “and it’s funny, because last week (at Martinsville), his car really was nothing special. You saw his track position. But once it turned to nighttime, all of a sudden you could see it come to life around lap 400. He was definitely clicking off the best lap times the rest of the race.”
Most recreational bettors tend to put too much weight on what they saw last, and the public’s anticipated lean to Truex likely factors into his odds being so short.
“(Public bettors) are gonna go heavy on Truex no matter what,” said Phillips. “I think that’s a reason why he’s such a heavy favorite. A little bit of recency bias going on, and the fact that he’s great on short flat tracks and especially Richmond.”
If not Truex, then who?
The suggestion above is not that Truex doesn’t have a great chance to win Sunday – he obviously does –only that at 4/1 odds, he may be overvalued.
The SuperBook oddsboard has five other drivers priced in the single digits, and Salmons gives all of them a shot. As any NASCAR observer may have guessed, these guys all come from one of three garages – Gibbs, Penske or Hendrick.
In addition to Truex and Hamlin, Salmons said, “You can never count out Logano (8/1) and Keselowski (6/1) here. Kyle Larson (7/1) has been fast all year. Martinsville has never really been his thing, and I thought he ran a decent race for him there (finished fifth last weekend). It was a non-mistake race. I would put Chase (Elliott) and Kyle Larson in there and the two Penske guys. I think one those six is your winner.”
Added Phillips, “You’re generally going to see the same guys you expect to see up there. Joey Logano’s gonna be up front, Denny Hamlin’s gonna be up front. I think Kyle Larson is gonna be a guy to watch this week, and William Byron – those are guys who are not favorites to win the race, but I think they have a lot of attributes that are going to favor them.”
Also per the NASCAR.com Power Rankings, where he’s listed No. 5, Byron deserves a look at juicy 20/1 odds. Ryan Blaney ranks No. 6 on NASCAR.com’s list and can be had for 16/1, but Salmons downplays the No. 12 Ford’s chances.
“I’ve followed Blaney at this track for years and for whatever reason, he’s so bad here (24.8 average finish). I read a quote after the race last year, and he said how much time they spent on the Richmond race. Their biggest issue has always been their tire fall off is just so dramatic. So they really worked on it to try to run different early in a run or whatever, and the same thing happened again.”
Blaney’s best finish at Richmond is 17th in the 2019 Fall race.
“I don’t know why he can’t drive Richmond. On TV, it doesn’t look like a real technical track, but obviously there’s something there. I mean, he’s just never been competitive here, let alone winning.”
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.