Kyle Larson is the favorite to repeat as the NASCAR Cup Series champion in 2022, per opening futures odds posted around the betting market. He’s followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, then drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing, with Team Penske after that. In other words, bookmakers anticipate next season playing out a lot like the recently completed 2021 campaign.
This remains despite the change on tap to the Next Gen car.
While the Next Gen car could even the playing field, emphasizing driver skill over equipment, SuperBook USA’s Ed Salmons — a top NASCAR oddsmaker — will believe it when he sees it.
“I’ll go with the assumptions I’ve seen the last couple years, and when I see something different on the track, I’ll go with that,” Salmons said. “Stuff that tells me otherwise, I’ll build that into the odds, but until I know something factual, I’ll just assume all the stuff I know is what I know from the other car.”
To some sharp NASCAR bettors, though, the change to the Next Gen car necessitates a new handicapping approach.
“Short answer is it’s going to change everything,” bettor Blake Phillips said. “… You have to throw out a lot of the previous results to an extent. … My approach next season is going to be very different in that I’m going to be looking at recent results much, much more heavily than historic results, and I’m going to be seeing how closely they align with previous results and how much they differ.”
To pro bettor Zack White, the change represents an opportunity to be a step ahead of the oddsmakers.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge. Luckily it will be a challenge for the bookmakers, too,” White said in a text message. “I haven’t finalized a plan yet on how I will adjust handicapping, but obviously a lot of old data will have to be thrown out. We will see what kind of information I can get my eyes on before those first couple races and go from there.”
Here are early odds from two sportsbooks — SuperBook USA and NASCAR sponsor Barstool — to win the 2022 Cup title for drivers priced at 100-1 odds or less at the Las Vegas shop.
|Martin Truex Jr||+1000||+550|
SHUFFLING OF THE FIELD?
Throughout the 2021 season, we spoke of the “Big Three” garages — Hendrick, Gibbs and Penske — but should the Next Gen car accomplish NASCAR’s goal of elevating the importance of driver skill, we may see teams with lighter budgets win more races.
“Guys like Tyler Reddick come to mind,” Phillips said. “I think that’s the guy who might suddenly be a lot more competitive than he is now when we go to the new package. But at the same time, this is a guy who has to drive that car as hard as it will go every single week, and I want to see if he can keep it clean.”
The inverse would also be true: Drivers who can thank their equipment for their past success may come back to the pack (Denny Hamlin is looking at you, Alex Bowman).
“I do expect we’re going to see some of these lower-funded teams and drivers who have a ton of talent but don’t have a ton of money being quite a bit more competitive, and I think we’re going to see some of the lower performers on the heavily funded teams dropping a little bit further down in the pack,” Phillips said.
Salmons is skeptical.
“The one thing I always hear whenever they wheel out a new car is the guys that never win, they’re going to have a chance now, it’s going to even the field,” the bookmaker said. “I believe the teams that have the most money spend the most and find stuff out first and get the advantages first. That’s just how it is. I could be dead wrong. But until I see it on the track, I’m not going to believe it.”
Marcus DiNitto, senior news editor at Gaming Today, has been covering sports business for more than 20 years and sports betting for about 10. NASCAR is among the many sports he bets — and typically loses — on. Follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.