NASCAR Cup Series
By Marcus DiNitto
5 Minute Read
With a lack of data and an inordinately short, short track, the 2023 Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum has the betting market flummoxed.
The oddsboard shows no clear favorite to take the checkers Sunday in Los Angeles (8 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), as five drivers opened at +800 at the market-making Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, with two competitors just behind that group at +1000.
“These odds say that we really have no idea of who should be favored,” Ed Salmons, vice president of risk management at the SuperBook, told NASCAR.com this week. “I mean, it’s random. There’s so many guys that can win. It’s kind of like college basketball this year. We just don’t know who should be the guy or the team.”
Here are the odds to win the season-opening non-points race from three sportsbooks – the Westgate and NASCAR partners BetMGM and Barstool.
RELATED: See full BetMGM odds for Sunday
Salmons weighed in on why the top of the oddsboards looks the way it does.
“All you can do is go by what you saw last year, and for whatever reason, the Toyotas weren’t good on short tracks last year; but they have some of the better drivers in (Denny) Hamlin and Christopher Bell, and you always have to respect that,” the oddsmaker said.
Kyle Busch — Bell and Hamlin’s former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate who is now in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet — deserves special attention from bettors.
“You got Kyle Buch in the car that (Tyler) Reddick led the first (53) laps (in last year’s Clash) before he broke, and Kyle finished second last year and the Toyotas were off on speed, ” Salmons pointed out. “So you have to respect that.
And, of course, the Hendrick Motorsports dynamic duo of Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson always gets respect, as does Joey Logano, who won the Clash last year as a precursor to his Cup championship.
Looking for Betting Value
There’s been exactly one race at the LA Coliseum, last year’s Clash, and the practice of applying data from “comparable” tracks is even more imperfect than usual — typical short tracks are twice as long as this quarter-miler. Add in the randomness that’s likely to occur in the tight quarters, and handicapping the race becomes a challenge.
For his race simulations. Jim Sannes — a quantitative NASCAR betting and fantasy analyst at numberFire — inputted data from short, flat tracks while overlaying the variance of Bristol.
“The goal is to have drivers who run well on that track type to rise to the top but to have it projected as being a pretty volatile race,” Sannes said in a direct message. “It might not be perfect, but I do think that’s the proper way to handle something like this.”
He believes he’s found some value.
William Byron at +1500 odds and Ty Gibbs at +7500 may be worth a wager, according to Sannes’ model. The sims also point to Blaney at +1200, but that price appears to be long gone.
“It’s high on Blaney and Byron because they’re good on short, flat tracks but have odds a good chunk longer than the key studs.”
Salmons added of Blaney, “He’s as good as anyone on these kinds of tracks. He just never seems to be able to win.”
In an email, BetMGM Sportsbook trader Michael Ranftle said of early betting on the Clash, “There’s been some interest in Larson, Busch, (Brad) Keselowski, Austin Dillon and (Justin) Haley so far … but we expect most of the bets will come later in the week.”
While the Clash has no bearing on the championship, here’s a peek at how 2023 Cup futures odds have shifted at the SuperBook since opening numbers were hung last fall.
At the top of the oddsboard, Elliott has been shortened to 6-1, making him the sole favorite. Salmons adjusted Elliott’s price after a customer placed a $12,500 bet (at 7-to-1 odds to win $87,500) on the Hendrick driver to win the title. The same customer made the same bet last year.
It’s a big bet, not necessarily a sharp one. Salmons categories the gambler among “house customers who we have relationships with, and they obviously like bet a lot on this stuff, so we let ’em.”
The SuperBook also wrote a $3,000 bet on Logano at 12-to-1 odds, although no adjustment to that price followed.
At BetMGM, Ranftle said, “A few bettors are on Austin Dillon at 150-1 to win 20k+. There are also long-shot bets on AJ Allmendinger, Justin Haley, and Corey Lajoie that win between 15k and 50k.”
Meanwhile, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suárez have seen their odds lengthen during off-season wagering.
“Chastain probably had the most perfect year he could have had last year, and with Kyle being in probably lesser equipment than last year, you would think it would be harder for him to win,” Salmons said of his adjustments. Wallace moved from 25-1 to 33-1 at BetMGM.
“I expected more interest but our price was a tick too low,” Ranftle said. “There were a lot more casual bets on him last season at the opening line of 150-1.
Suárez has been lengthened at BetMGM to 50-1 from 40-1. “Not many takers on that one and we were a little lower than other books also,” said the bookmaker.
Marcus DiNitto is Senior News Editor at Gaming Today. He’s been covering sports business for 25 years and sports betting for 12. NASCAR is among the many sports Marcus enjoys betting but often loses on. Follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.