Kyle Larson
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If you bet the favorite in every NASCAR Cup race this season, this is how you would be faring

The simplest of betting strategies would be resulting in a tidy profit this NASCAR season.

Had you bet $100 on the favorite in every Cup race so far, including the All-Star event, you’d be up $455, a return on investment of 14.67%.

It would have taken some fortitude to get there, of course. You would have been down $700 after the first seven races and -$850 after 13, and you wouldn’t have been in plus-money territory until Kyle Larson cashed at 4-1 odds in the All-Star Race. Then, you would have fallen back into the red after the Firekeepers 400 at Michigan International Speedway last month, emerging back into profitability with Martin Truex Jr.’s win at Richmond Raceway.

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

These types of ebbs and flows are what gambling is all about – some have the stomach for it and enjoy the “sweat,” others not so much.

A bettor following this strategy would have cashed tickets in eight of the 31 races, and only three drivers have delivered as the favorite this season – Larson (four times) and then Chase Elliott and Truex (twice each).

Here’s the season-long tally of this bet-the-favorite strategy. Odds reflect opening prices posted at SuperBook USA in Las Vegas.

Race Favorite Odds W/L Tally Winner Winner’s odds
Daytona Hamlin +800 -100 -100 McDowell +8000
Daytona Road Elliott +200 -100 -200 Bell +8000
Miami Hamlin/Elliott +500 -100 -300 Byron +3000
Las Vegas Harvick +500 -100 -400 Larson +1000
Phoenix Keselowski/Elliott/Harvick +500 -100 -500 Truex +800
Atlanta Truex/Larson/Hamlin +500 -100 -600 Blaney +1800
Bristol dirt Larson +200 -100 -700 Logano +3000
Martinsville Truex +350 350 -350 Truex +350
Richmond Truex/Hamlin +450 -100 -450 Bowman +2000
Talladega Hamlin +1000 -100 -550 Keselowski +1400
Kansas Larson/Hamlin/Truex +500 -100 -650 Kyle Busch +1000
Darlington Larson +350 -100 -750 Truex +600
Dover Truex +350 -100 -850 Bowman +2000
Austin Elliott +180 180 -670 Elliott +180
Charlotte Larson +500 500 -170 Larson +500
Sonoma Elliott +225 -100 -270 Larson +700
All-Star at Texas Larson +400 400 130 Larson +400
Nashville Larson +250 250 380 Larson +250
Pocono Larson +225 -100 280 Bowman +1000
Pocono-2 Larson +225 -100 180 Kyle Busch +450
Road America Elliott +225 225 405 Elliott +225
Atlanta-2 Larson +175 -100 305 Kurt Busch +5000
Loudon Truex/Hamlin +450 -100 205 Almirola +10000
Watkins Glen Elliott +200 -100 105 Larson +450
Indianapolis Road Elliott +175 -100 5 Allmendinger +2500
Michigan Larson +250 -100 -95 Blaney +1800
Daytona-2 Hamlin +800 -100 -195 Blaney +1200
Darlington-2 Larson +250 -100 -295 Hamlin +600
Richmond-2 Truex +450 450 155 Truex +450
Bristol Larson +400 400 555 Larson +400
Las Vegas-2 Larson +300 -100 455 Hamlin +700

Moral of the story

So betting on NASCAR is pretty easy, huh? Just bet the favorite every race, and with some patience and guts, turn a nice profit over the long run?

Not quite.

Three-quarters of a season is far too small a sample size to come to that conclusion, and if we were able to look back at an extended period of time (maybe we will someday), we’d likely see different results.

From our perspective, the most important takeaway from this analysis is that Cup races play out close to form.

Sure, there have been a few drivers who have cashed big tickets as long shots this year – and if you were on Michael McDowell to win the Daytona 500, Aric Almirola in Loudon or even Kurt Busch in Atlanta, congratulations on those picks. But only four of the 31 races have been won by a driver not from either the Hendrick, Gibbs or Penske teams, so a swing-for-the-fences betting strategy is probably misguided.

Other takeaways and notes

Here are some other thoughts as we look back upon the season-long tally ….

  • Betting the favorite in every race would be paying off well; betting Larson every time out would be even better. His seven wins would have resulted in $3,700 in cashed tickets on $100 wagers, against $2,400 in losses, for a season-long win of $1,300. The bulk of that profit, however, would have come from his win at 10-1 odds at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the spring, before the market caught up to his dominance. Jumping on that train now, when he’s priced short in every race, is not advised.

Pro NASCAR bettor Zack White said in a text: “I think the +300s you’re seeing on him now are too short to be long-term profitable at this point. A lot of these playoff teams are saving their best for last, and I expect to see some real competitive racing down the stretch. Larson is still the favorite for sure. …. I’m just going to need to a better price to bet on him.”

  • While both of Elliott’s wins this season have come on road courses, he has underperformed against market expectations on these layouts, as he has been the favorite in all six such races. Keep this in mind before rushing to the window to bet the No. 9 at 2-1 odds at the Bank of America ROVAL in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week.
  • There are long shots, and then there are long shots. The McDowells, Kurt Busches and Almirolas of the world aren’t exactly on the same plane as drivers like Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney, each of whom has won three races priced in double-digits odds. If you’re looking for a larger payoff, focus on the drivers from the Big Three garages.
  • Several races saw multiple drivers open as co-favorites at the SuperBook. Fortunately for this analysis, none of those guys won these races. We made the assumption here that a bettor following the bet-the-favorite strategy would have made a $100 wager on just one co-favorite per race.

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.