The heaviest early action on Sunday’s All-Star Race (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) has come in on exactly the driver one would have expected, as Kyle Larson leads the handle booked at BetMGM.
Larson heads into All-Star Weekend on a two-race win streak and finished second in the three races prior to that run. By luck of the draw, the No. 5 Chevrolet will start on the pole Sunday.
Larson is priced as the clear betting favorite, offered at 3/1 odds at BetMGM as of Friday morning. He’s followed on the odds board by Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott (both 7/1), then Kyle Busch (8/1) and Denny Hamlin (10/1).
Elliott, Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, is second in early handle at BetMGM, also predictable based on the garage’s recent dominance. Busch is third, followed by Ryan Blaney (12/1) in fourth, with Hamlin rounding out the top five, per an email from BetMGM traders to NASCAR.com.
Larson hasn’t been particularly impressive at Texas Motor Speedway, but none of his 13 starts at the track (19.8 average finish) have been in Hendrick equipment. He’s been extraordinary in his new ride, and bettors are willing to take a short price on his continued success.
Over the six races at Texas since 2018, Kevin Harvick leads the way with a 5.5 average finish, a 116.0 rating and 22.47% laps led. Struggling with speed in his Stewart-Haas Ford this season, though, Harvick is priced at 14/1 odds and doesn’t feel like a compelling bet Sunday.
While Busch’s Texas record is also excellent over the last six races there (6.67 average finish, 114.5 rating, 15.0% laps led), the All-Star Race’s funky format and unfamiliar competition package throw wrenches into the handicapping process.
In terms of format, there will be six segments over the 100 laps, with all or part of the field inverted after certain segments. Equipment-wise, teams bring a 510-horsepower engine to Texas this weekend, not the 550-hp package typically used on 1.5-mile tracks. The 510-hp package was last used for the 2018 All-Star Race in Charlotte.
Do sharp bettors play the All-Star Race?
Some professional NASCAR bettors stay away from this event, believing it’s difficult to find an edge due to the unique format. The lack of data on the 510-hp package makes quantitative analysis all the more difficult.
A respected pro who goes by the handle “Abnormally Dist” on Twitter, doesn’t seem interested in playing Sunday and issues what can be interpreted as a note of caution to recreational bettors and DFS players about the advice they may be heeding this week.
Sharp bettor Blake Phillips, though, says he’s “always involved in the All-Star Race. I love the All-Star Race, it’s a lot of fun.
As for his handicapping approach for Sunday, Phillips said, “I treat it like I would any other race, but it’s always been important to look into what changes they’re making to the All-Star Race. What kind of gimmicks are they going to introduce? Are teams going to use it as an opportunity to try out some new stuff or go out on a limb a little bit.”
With $1 million going to the winner of the All-Star Race, we’re likely to see these drivers go all out, unlike, say, the NBA All-Star Game, where the lack of defensive effort is obvious.
“It’s a little wilder than normal, and it’s always a fun spectacle, added Phillips. “And it always makes it more interesting with some action on it.”
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.