New NASCAR rules package complicates odds for local race 🏁



Mar 6, 2018
[h=1]Pennzoil 400 betting: New NASCAR rules package complicates odds for local race[/h] By Case Keefer (contact)

Saturday, March 2, 2019 | 2 a.m.

Gamblers have traditionally been well-served by concentrating their wagers on drivers at the top of the betting board in NASCAR’s annual local spring race.

Only one driver in the last 17 years has overcome odds of more than 10-to-1 to win a race in NASCAR’s top series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — and that was Martin Truex Jr., who was 12-to-1 in 2017. This year’s Pennzoil 400, which begins at 12:45 p.m. Sunday and airs on Fox, could be the one to break the predictability and end with a surprise.

“It definitely feels like it’s more open than it’s ever been for anyone to win essentially,” said Ed Salmons, vice president of risk at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. “By anyone, I mean anyone as far as the good teams. You’re still not going to have one of the bottom guys win.”

The reason for the change is a new rules package NASCAR is implementing for the race in an effort to foster more competition. The 2019 season is already under way after races at Daytona and Atlanta the last two weekends, but Las Vegas will be the first site where cars have to abide by tapered-space and aeroduct restrictions among other changes.

It’s causing a lot of uncertainty for everyone, even the sharpest racing bookmaker in town in Salmons, who had become accustomed to Las Vegas races playing out a certain way.

“The cars would run so fast that passing was difficult,” Salmons said. “It would take like five laps to line up one pass on one guy so if you got kind of in the back of the pack, it took you forever to move forward. This package, it’s the first time they’re really using it so it’s hard to tell how much track position could mean, but it could mean very little.”

Salmons posted Kevin Harvick as the favorite, at 9-to-2, to win for the second straight year and claim his third Las Vegas victory in his last six tries, but there’s been no shortage of drivers attracting action.

For the first time ever, the Superbook put odds on all 38 drivers to win as opposed to their usual modus operandi of choosing 29 and making the remaining competitors part of “the field.” Every driver has drawn at least one wager.

“At least now I can see one of 15 guys winning the race whereas in years past, you could probably narrow it down to six or seven guys,” Salmons said. “It’s just hard to tell from the early stuff, but I think Austin Dillon looked really good in practice and he was somewhere from 40- to 60-to-1 to win. I’m not saying he’s going to win, but at that price, it’s kind of worth $5 or $10. It’s not a bad gamble.”

Jimmie Johnson, who opened at 40-to-1, has been the most popular pick at the Superbook, largely because of his seven Cup championships and four Las Vegas wins. Truex took the largest single wager of $3,000 at 6-to-1 odds.

There are more ways to bet on the Pennzoil 400 than any other race on the NASCAR calendar. Even though the handle hasn’t continued to grow exponentially like in past years, demand remains high when the race is in town.

“It’s probably dropped the last few years as the popularity of the sport went down,” Salmons said. “I don’t think it’s dropped as much as the TV ratings have dropped, but it’s sort of leveled out. Some races are more popular than other ones, and this is certainly one of those.”

NASCAR has gone all-in on combatting its decline by creating more parity. It remains to be seen if the latest attempt of the new rules package turns out the way it anticipates.

So far, it’s mostly succeeded in creating a foreign sense of mystery in sports books.

“It may be a matter of which driver is able to keep it more gassed down through the straightaways because you’re going to build up all your momentum by keeping it down and going faster through the corners,” Salmons predicted. “That kind of tells you the guys who have excelled in Infinity and trucks might have the advantage, but you just don’t know. There are a lot of unknowns.”