With the NASCAR Cup Series visiting its fourth road course of the 2021 season, Chase Elliott overtakes teammate Kyle Larson as the betting favorite to win Sunday’s event at Road America. The Jockey Made in America 250 presented by Kwik Trip (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the seventh straight race in which one of these two Hendrick drivers has had the shortest price, Elliott has been the chalk for the three road races during this span.
Elliott, though, is out of form. While he’s been far and away the series’ best road course driver in recent seasons, the No. 9 Chevrolet finished 27th, 12th and 39th the last three Cup races. That explains the lengthening of his odds for this weekend’s race in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, from his prices at the two most recent races on road courses.
Elliott is offered at a market consensus 5/2 (+250, or bet $100 to win $250) to take the checkers in Cheeseland, longer odds than his +200 at Sonoma in June and +180 at the Circuit of The Americas in May.
Second on this week’s oddsboard is Larson, who despite some hiccups at the Pocono doubleheader last weekend, continues to look like the best driver in the field. He has three wins (including Sonoma) and four second-place finishes over the last eight points-paying races. This week, Larson can be had for +350 at a variety of sportsbooks around the country.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch are the only two other drivers listed in single-digit odds in early wagering. Truex (market consensus of 6/1 odds) is excellent on road courses, tallying two wins, a 7.91 average finish and 116.1 average rating in the 11 road course races since 2018. Busch (market consensus of 8/1 odds) frequently runs near the front but is wildly inconsistent on these layouts. He has four top 5s but no wins, an 18.82 average finish and a 94.8 rating over that same 11-race span.
As impressive as Truex’s past performances have been, Elliott is a master of the road course domain. Over those 11 races, Elliott has six wins, a 6.91 average finish and a 125.0 rating. While those numbers easily justify a play at 5/2 odds, it’s up to bettors to weigh them against his recent overall struggles.
Crashing the party
Nine of Sunday’s top 10 favorites are either from the Hendrick, Gibbs or Penske garages. The outlier? AJ Allmendinger, ninth on the betting board at 25/1 odds at BetMGM.
While The Dinger hasn’t been a Cup regular since 2018, Kaulig Racing has been putting him in the No. 16 Chevy for select road course races this season – and with solid returns. Allmendinger finished fifth in Austin and seventh on the Daytona Road Course.
In five road course races since 2018, Allmendinger has a top five and three top 10s, plus a respectable 14.40 average finish and 81.8 rating.
So respected is Allmendinger this week that SuperBook USA in Las Vegas matches him against drivers from each of the top three teams in head-to-head props. Here are those lines as of Thursday afternoon:
Joey Logano -140 vs. Allmendinger +120
Denny Hamlin -130 vs. Allmendinger +110
William Byron -110 vs. Allmendinger -110
Also, Allmendinger is the +220 favorite in a group matchup with Ryan Blaney (+280), Kevin Harvick (+300) and Christopher Bell (+300).
At Barstool Sportsbook, he is +650 to finish in the top three, +300 for top five and -106 for top 10.
RELATED: Active drivers with road course wins
Thoughts from a pro
From a handicapping perspective, road courses are relatively easy to figure out and therefore tough for bettors to beat. While that may sound counterintuitive, such predictability means the odds are usually sharp, making it more difficult to find an edge.
Zack White gambles professionally and counts NASCAR as one of his sports, but road course races are among those he stays away from.
“Historically, I just haven’t had good results (on road course races),” White said. “I feel like it’s easier for the bookmakers to get it right when they’re hanging the lines. Drivers are either good at road courses or they’re not, or they either have good equipment or they don’t. So it’s easier for them to price. Also, I just need a need a week off every now and then, and it feels like the easiest ones to take.”
For those of us who just have to get some action down, the suggestion is to target drivers with high levels of skill.
“Some tracks I call skill tracks. Anytime you’ve got to do shifting or breaking or turns that are more than just a wide one and two, three and four, like the D-ovals and stuff, the driver’s skill comes into play,” White added. “Some of the other tracks, you could put anybody in Kyle Larson’s car and send them around Atlanta with a gas pedal all the way to the floor, and they’re going to do pretty well.”
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.