Brad Keselowski
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Bookmakers, bettors discuss how to grade Brad Keselowski’s departure from Team Penske

Since announcing on July 20 he is leaving Team Penske after the 2021 NASCAR season to join Roush Fenway Racing as a driver and minority owner, Brad Keselowski’s on-track performance has fallen off. His third-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 18 is his last in the top five, he has been 24th or worse three times in the seven most recent races and led just 27 total laps during this span.

Despite an excellent history at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Keselowski is priced as a 14-1 longshot on oddsboards throughout the betting market to win Sunday’s South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

RELATED: NASCAR BetCenter | Odds for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas

Over the seven Las Vegas races since 2018, Keselowski’s 4.86 average finish leads the Cup Series, per DriverAverages.com, and he has a win, four top fives and a 102.7 rating to boot. His second-place finish here this past spring came after winning the Stage 1 and finishing second in Stage 2.

His lame duck status with Penske, though, has bookmakers and bettors wondering if he’s a driver to fade not only this weekend but also for the rest of the season.

“There’s always a question when these guys are leaving to go to another team,” said Ed Salmons, vice president of risk management at SuperBook USA. “You always hear, ‘Well, he’s not getting the good stuff now.'”

Salmons, whose NASCAR numbers tend to influence the market, says the dynamic of a driver’s departure factors into his oddsmaking.

“Definitely,” he said. “You look at track history, you look at how they’re running, you look at what you think people are gonna bet, and you kind of go from there and settle on a price. It’s all baked into the number.”

Count Jim Sannes, a quantitative NASCAR analyst at numberFire, among bettors who won’t be invested in the No. 2 Ford on Sunday.

Michigan International Speedway is the only oval the circuit has visited since New Hampshire to employ the 550-horsepower, high-downforce package that will be used in Las Vegas (per Salmons, Michigan is not a useful comparison to Vegas). So most of the races that have been run since Keselowski’s announcement are not included in Sannes’ model. That means the model does not take into account Keselowski’s recent dip.

Sannes said he would have considered downgrading Keselowski had his simulations overrated him by not factoring in his impending departure from Penske. But even without adjustments, the sims give Kes just a 3.5% chance to win Sunday; 14-1 odds imply a 6.67% chance.

Had his sims not met the smell test, Sannes said in a direct message: “I’d basically treat Keselowski as if he’s not in the 2 car anymore because — at least to me — he’s effectively not. And even if the sims still showed value in him, I’d simply ignore it and not bet him. I’m not touching him right now.”

Zack White, though, a professional sports bettor who specializes in NASCAR, is not making a downward adjustment on Keselowski.

“Maybe if he wasn’t racing for a championship or (was) leaving on bad terms. Or if the team was folding,” White said in a text message. “Everyone still wants to win in this case, so no change for me.”

And even if Penske resources are being deployed more heavily to Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, Salmons isn’t counting Keselowski out, either. Salmons puts Kes in the rare company of drivers who can steal a race when he’s not in the best car, pointing to last year’s Coca-Cola 600 as an example.

“(Chase) Elliott had the race won and (William) Byron got a flat, and they decided to pit (Elliott) from the lead when no one else pitted,” Salmons said. “Keselowski just drove around two laps and won the race that he had zero business winning.”

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.