Kurt Busch’s victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway last Sunday marked the first time since the season-opening Daytona 500 that a team outside NASCAR’s “Big 3” took the checkers in a Cup Series race. It broke a streak of 19 races won by a driver from either Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske.
The win by the driver of the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet got us thinking: With 15 races remaining on the 2021 Cup schedule, how many more victories are in store for the non-“Big 3?” And if a sportsbook were to offer such a prop bet, what would the over/under be?
We put that question, plus a few others looking ahead to the rest of the 2021 season, to oddsmaker Ed Salmons and quantitative NASCAR analyst Jim Sannes.
To be clear, these are mock props and not available for wagering at any legal sportsbook that we know of. Nevertheless, they make for fun discussion.
Prop: Over/under number of wins for drivers not from Hendrick, Gibbs or Penske teams in season’s final 15 races
Salmons, who handles NASCAR duties at SuperBook USA in Las Vegas, guesses we’ll see just one more victory from a driver outside the “Big 3” teams. If he were to book it, he’d hang the over/under at either 0.5 wins with heavy vig on the “over,” or 1.5 wins juiced to the “under.”
Sannes, who counts NASCAR among the sports he covers from a betting and DFS perspective at numberFire, would love the plus-money on “over” 1.5, as he projects 2.5 more wins for the non-“Big 3.”
(In fairness, Salmons’ numbers were off the top of his head. We were fortunate to have caught Sannes during the MLB All-Star break, when he had time to run quick simulations. Salmons’ lines are typically not so soft.)
‘The main reason for (projecting 2.5 wins) is there’s Daytona and Talladega left,” Sannes said. “Obviously, (Denny) Hamlin’s a guy you’re going to be turning to for both of those, but you have Ricky Stenhouse (Jr.), you’ve got Aric Almirola, you’ve got some pretty prominent names who have a good shot at winning there. I have the odds of a non-‘Big 3’ team at 33% for both of those races. … Having both Daytona and Talladega remaining on the schedule really does beef that number up.”
Salmons also stressed the randomness of restrictor-plate races is a major influence on how he would price this prop.
Prop: Over/under number of races won by Kyle Larson in the season’s final 15 races
Kyle Larson won three points races in a row earlier this season, has a series-best four victories on the year and is projected to be the points leader heading into the playoffs. But while he remains the favorite to win the Cup championship, his week-to-week dominance has eroded. In fact, he’s the just the fourth betting choice, at 7-1 odds, for Sunday’s race in New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Salmons ballparked 2.5 more wins for the No. 5 Chevrolet the rest of the way. Sannes’ number is 3.5, although he’d pass on betting Salmons the “over.”
The schedule doesn’t set up well for Larson, according to Sannes. There are only three races remaining on mile-and-a-half tracks, where Larson is strongest, and much of his success with the 750-horsepower package has come on road courses and concrete tracks.
“Michigan, he should be awesome at, and he’s been good at road courses, but the 750 package, outside of Dover and Nashville, hasn’t been that great,” Sannes said. “I view Dover and Nashville separately because they’re concrete, and when I was back testing my model, it did seem like concrete played a role. Larson’s obviously great at Bristol (also concrete) and Dover, but it’s not going to directly translate to me projecting his win odds super high at places like New Hampshire, Richmond or Phoenix, and Martinsville is one of his worst tracks.”
Sannes shook some more salt on his projection of 3.5.
“It’s mostly schedule, but it’s sort of tough to win in the Cup Series, so if you gave me 2.5, I would stay away from it personally,” he said.
RELATED: 2021 Cup Series schedule
Prop: Will Kevin Harvick win a race this season?
Kevin Harvick won nine times last season and amassed 21 victories in the three-year span from 2018-20. But he has yet to win in 2021, and per Salmons, the No. 4 Ford is an underdog to win at all this year.
Our oddsmaker estimated the “no” side of the “Will Harvick win a race” prop as a -130 or -140 favorite, meaning the “yes” would pay in the +110 to +120 range.
At that pricing, the “yes” would be of interest to Sannes, who projects a win total of 0.819 for Harvick and odds of him winning at least one race around 57%, which would make the “yes” odds about -132.
“That’s under the assumption that the upward trajectory doesn’t accelerate,” Sannes said. “And I wouldn’t expect it to. Midseason, it’s hard to make a lot of improvements.”
Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 represents one of Harvick’s better chances to get off the schneid, per Sannes.
“They were a lot faster in Nashville than they’ve been all year,” he said, “and that does influence things for me in New Hampshire.”
Salmons opened Harvick at 16-1 odds to win Sunday.
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.