Hendrick Motorsports, led by Kyle Larson, seemed to have put some distance between itself and the rest of the Cup Series field with a stretch of six straight wins and seven in eight races from mid-May through early July. The betting market followed the Hendrick trend, as Larson rose to the top of championship oddsboards while tallying three straight victories.
But while Larson and teammate Chase Elliott own the two shortest prices to win the 2021 Cup title at a variety of sportsbooks, including NASCAR partners Barstool Sportsbook and WynnBET, the NASCAR Playoffs set up more favorably for Joe Gibbs Racing, thus presenting futures value on drivers from that garage.
On the seven playoff tracks that have already hosted a Cup Series race this season, Denny Hamlin’s 6.3 average running position leads the series, followed closely by Martin Truex Jr.’s 6.7, per data compiled by Jim Sannes, a DFS and betting analyst with numberFire. Elliott and Larson trail significantly in this stat, at 11.4 and 13.3, respectively.
Backing out Talladega, where running position isn’t as highly valued by quantitative analysts, Hamlin (4.0) and Truex (5.2) are still first and second in average running position, respectively, while Larson (8.8) and Elliott (10.3) well behind the Gibbs teammates.
“It’s clear JGR is putting a heavy emphasis on playoff-specific tracks,” Sannes said in a direct message with NASCAR.com.
Shopping around the betting marketplace, one can find Hamlin offered at enticing 9/1 odds on FanDuel Sportsbook’s futures board, and Truex available at a fat 10/1.
Sannes likes Truex at that price. “I’m pretty into that, given how well he has run at short, flat tracks with playoff representation,” Sannes said.
All three of Truex’s wins this season, in fact, have come on playoff tracks: Darlington, Martinsville and Phoenix, where the NASCAR Cup Series Championship will be held. He’s also got a fifth-place finish at Richmond and a pair of sixths at Las Vegas and Kansas, in addition to an outlying 31st at Talladega.
While Sannes’ projection of a 6.6% chance for Truex to win the championship race at Phoenix does not suggest value at 10/1 odds, the fact that a driver does not necessarily need to win that race to claim the title muddies the analysis.
Sannes added, “The data is underselling him …. and getting additional races at Richmond and Martinsville before then will likely make the sims view him much more favorably (at Phoenix).”
Considering Hamlin’s aforementioned running position stats and his lead in the standings, why lean toward the No. 19 over the No. 11?
‘The reason I’d bet Truex instead of going Hamlin is playoff points,” Sannes said. ‘He’s got 19 thus far (Hamlin has 5 in the bank off of stage wins), and there are still two road courses left in the regular season for him to potentially beef that up. It’s just hard to deny his combo of performance on playoff tracks and playoff points already in the bank.”
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.