Three weeks ago at Dover International Speedway, they took the top four finishing spots. The next week at Circuit of The Americas, they finished one-two. At Charlotte Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend, they took first, second, fourth and fifth.
Short track, road course, intermediate track – it hasn’t mattered. Regardless of the layout or racing package, Hendrick Motorsports drivers have asserted their dominance over the rest of the Cup Series field, and it’s something we should probably get used to.
“I think it’s sustainable. I don’t think it’s just a three-race run,” said sharp NASCAR bettor Blake Phillips. “There’s been a lot of signs pointing to Hendrick having a dominant season, and it’s happening. They’ve had the speed, they’ve had the runs.”
That sentiment is consistent with the championship futures pricing at Las Vegas-based SuperBook USA, where Hendrick’s Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are listed as the top two favorites to hoist the Cup in November. Larson boasts the shortest odds at 9/2 (+450, or bet $100 to win $450), followed by Elliott at 6/1 (+600). William Bryon and Alex Bowman are also getting respect in the futures market, offered at 12/1 and 14/1, respectively, after both opening the season at long odds of 30/1.
Ed Salmons, vice president of risk management at the SuperBook, pointed to this past Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 as a prime example of the garage’s superiority.
In addition to Larson’s wins in Charlotte and Las Vegas, “there was so many races he dominated that he didn’t win,” Salmons said. “Chase was all over the place in these races (early in this season); he’s finally now putting it together. If it wasn’t for Larson, he would have been the dominant winner (in Charlotte). It seemed like (Byron) was faster than Kyle, but he just couldn’t figure out how to pass them. Bowman had (a shock issue), and he ran fifth. So yeah, I think that says how fast these guys have been.”
Elliott is the easy early favorite to win Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, eyeing his second straight road course victory after finishing first two weeks ago in Austin. The SuperBook opened the No. 9 at 9/4 odds (+225) and he now sits at 2/1 odds. He’s followed by Martin Truex Jr. – who won the two most recent races here (2018, 2019) – at 5/1. Larson and Kyle Busch are next on the oddsboard, priced at 7/1 apiece, while oddsmakers give Denny Hamlin a reasonable shot at 10/1 odds.
The betting market, in other words, expects Hendrick drivers to be occupying many of the top spots once again.
“This season, we have an unusual mix of different formats, track sizes, track types, and Hendrick’s been good at all of them so far,” said Phillips. “They’ve been good at the short tracks and, and they’ve been good at the mile-and-a-halfs, and of course you’ve got really great road course guys, like Chase Elliott. It’s hard to count them out for any track. …. They’ve had speed across the board. I don’t think they’re unbeatable by any means, but I think that we should expect to see all four of those cars up there in the top 10, top 15 for the foreseeable future. And you’re at least gonna see one or two of those guys in the top three pretty much every race.”
This is NASCAR, though, so of course there will be some ebbs and flows throughout the season.
“NASCAR is just such a sport of change,” said Salmons. “…. You’re going to get into some different tracks, like Pocono, which is more just straight horsepower, and usually that changes some things. The Hendrick cars are really good on these turning tracks. …. I’m interested to see how they do at Pocono because they haven’t really run all that well there. But the way they’re running this year, it’s hard to tell they’re not going to do it again, just because every week now it’s just complete domination.”
And under the current playoff format, the oddsmaker anticipates the top drivers being around at the end with a chance to claim the championship. After accounting for bonus points for wins and stage wins, Larson, for example, figures to advance with little trouble.
“Kyle Larson should probably just start each of the three (first-round playoff) races, run a lap and go home,” Salmons said. “That’s how many points he’s going to be up. He’s guaranteed to move through. And even in the second round, it’s not going to take much for him to move through. It’s such a low bar to cross to get the good guys to at least the final eight. …. It’s just hard to think that between Larson and Elliott, that those two guys aren’t going to have (a chance at the title).”
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.