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June 13, 2024

Iowa Corn 350 betting report: Christopher Bell priced as unusual favorite

Christopher Bell looks on.
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

Christopher Bell is not a name that NASCAR bettors are used to seeing at the top of oddsboards for Cup Series races, but that’s where the driver of the No. 20 Toyota sits ahead of Sunday’s Iowa Corn 350 Powered by Ethanol (7 p.m. ET, USA, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).

A combination of Bell’s dominance in Xfinity Series races at Iowa Speedway, his participation in tire tests on the repaved track last month and Toyota’s supremacy on comparable layouts has him priced as the betting favorite this weekend.

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In five Xfinity Series starts on this 7/8-mile oval, Bell has two wins and two second-place finishes, leading 668 of 1,257 laps. At the comparable Phoenix Raceway on the Cup circuit in March, he won the Shriners Children’s 500 by over five seconds, and Toyotas led all but 14 of the laps. Three weeks later, at Richmond Raceway, a speeding penalty cost Bell another potential victory on a short flat track as Denny Hamlin, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, took the checkers.

The market-making Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas took immediate action on Bell’s opening odds of +600.

“Within 10 minutes, we took a limit bet ($833 to win $5,000), and we moved to (+500),” Ed Salmons, VP of risk management at the SuperBook, told “We had a few nibbles at five, so we moved to 9-to-2 (+450). …

“He’s great on flat tracks, and his history in Xfinity (at Iowa Speedway) is just dominant,” Salmons continued. “It’s just insane how good he is here. Plus, Gibbs usually runs really well on these flat tracks. That’s why he’s a favorite.”

Two prominent NASCAR betting analysts understand why Bell is favored, but they’re looking elsewhere for value.

After his tire test in May, Bell “didn’t sound overly optimistic about the partial repave rather than the high tire wear surface he dominated on here five-plus years ago,” Todd Fuhrman, co-host of the Bet The Board podcast and a former Las Vegas oddsmaker, said in an email.

“The other question bettors need to ask is even if he dominates practice and puts it on the poll, how much shorter can his price get,” Fuhrman continued. “This is a guy I’m fading early or waiting to add to my race card post-practice, but definitely not buying sight unseen.”

Added Jim Sannes, managing editor of digital media at FanDuel Research, “I understand the price on Bell, given he dominates short/flat tracks, was great here in Xfinity, and tested here this spring. I just can’t get there myself, given his odds are shorter than you often see on favorites at tracks where we have more data. So I understand it, but I do think he’s pretty heavily overvalued.”

Eyes on Fords

While Brad Keselowski, in seventh place, is the only Ford driver in the top 10 of the Cup standings heading into Iowa, the manufacturer has some momentum. Fords have visited the winner’s circle after three of the last five events, including the All-Star Race at Wilkesboro Speedway and two weeks ago at Gateway.

Keselowski, along with Kyle Larson, also tested Goodyear tires at Iowa Speedway last month.

“Ford has shown a lot of speed of late,” Salmons said. “We haven’t seen this kind of speed from Ford since maybe the championship race of last year. They kind of struggled (at the start of this season), but you saw the speed show up again at Darlington (won by Keselowski) and then definitely at Charlotte for some. At Gateway, Penske was the best Penske has been in like a long time. They were really good that day. So that’s definitely circled in our brain.”

In terms of comparable tracks he’s using to handicap Iowa, Sannes is blending Gateway in with Phoenix, Richmond, New Hampshire and a “smidge” of Martinsville.

“I do have Gateway in there as well, even though it was using a different rules package, just because it can help give a bump to Fords,” Sannes said. “The Fords seem to have unlocked some speed recently.”

Fuhrman, in fact, bet Penske’s No. 22 early.

“I took a bit of Logano in the outright market at prices of 12-1 or better,” Fuhrman said. “I’m actually bullish on the Ford camp this week.”

Around the track

Here are some other drivers on bettors’ radar this weekend at Iowa:

  • “I’m super interested in Bubba Wallace, who grades out as a value to me in pretty much every market,” Sannes said. “He never won here in Xfinity or Trucks, but he did have some really nice runs where he qualified well and led laps. I’m also just generally buying into his uptick in form on short, flats, as he has a top-eight average running position in four straight races at Martinsville, Phoenix, and Richmond combined. My personal risk tolerance allows me to bet him outright (available for +5000 at BetMGM), but I’ve got his top-10 odds at 50.9% (playable at +100 or better), so you can absolutely justify just riding with the top-10 markets instead.”
  • Fuhrman likes the Gibbs cars this weekend, just not at such short odds: “While I’ve got confidence in JGR drivers, other than Martin Truex, I thought all of them were fairly priced to start the week.”
  • Fuhrman believes Ross Chastain “has a high ceiling but potentially low floor” on Sunday: “I’m seeing Team Trackhouse trending up in recent weeks and think his first win is coming in short order.”
  • The SuperBook wrote limit bets (to win $5,000) on Larson, Ryan Blaney and Truex Jr.
  • Longshot bettors played $100 limit bets on Ryan Preece at 500-1 (to win $50,000) and Josh Berry at 80-1 (to win $8,000).

Marcus DiNitto manages a sports betting partnership with The Sporting News. NASCAR is one of the many sports Marcus enjoys wagering on. Follow him on Twitter; do not follow his picks.