NASCAR Betting Guide: Grant Park 220
This weekend's NASCAR festivities in Chicago are going to be a spectacle.
It's the first street race in Cup Series history. They'll be racing through one of the country's biggest cities, surrounded by a beautiful park and tall buildings. Aesthetically, it's going to be a delight.
The race, though? That puppy might be a poopshow.
Because it's a street race, the entire track is narrow, meaning one slip-up could lead to a massive wreck. There aren't many run-off areas, and there are high-speed sections that could cause mistakes.
This all could be a thrill to watch, so I'd go out of your way to tune in. But from a modeling perspective, I'm basically treating this thing like a superspeedway race.
I have a high projected incident rate and lots of variance for those who do survive the attrition. It leads to pretty spread-out win equity and few drivers with high odds for a top-10.
I could wind up being wrong in this assumption, which means the error margin on the model is higher this week than usual. As a result, I want a larger edge before deciding to take the value that is available on the board.
Even with this in mind, there are some bets I do like. Let's run through those pre-practice bets now, and then we can add more later should extra value pop up based on the Grant Park 220 betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Michael McDowell to Win (+2500)
(UPDATE: McDowell has since shortened to +1700 to win. My model has him at 6.5% to win after qualifying, and the implied odds there are 5.6%. The gap isn't as large now as it was before, but McDowell is still a value, at least by my numbers.)
I was on Michael McDowell entering the last road course race at Sonoma, as well. There, McDowell was +4000 but qualified third and closed at +1400 to win.
He didn't get the job done there. But McDowell showed me enough to justify backing him again -- even at reduced odds.
In the Sonoma race, McDowell had a top-five car and ran there a good chunk of the race. He wasn't as good as Martin Truex Jr. or Denny Hamlin, but he was firmly in the tier right behind them. Unfortunately for him, a poor late-race pit stop put him outside the top 10, and he rebounded to just seventh.
The speed was solid, though, as expected. In eight Next-Gen-era road course races, McDowell has six top-10 average running positions and five top-10 finishes. His two worst races both came at Circuit of the Americas, so it's possible that track doesn't suit his skills. Chicago may not, either, but his general road-racing skill should translate.
My model is way above market on McDowell, putting his win odds at 7.4%. Again, I don't know how accurate the model will be this week, so take it with a grain of salt. But I agree that +2500 is too long for someone this skilled.
Daniel Suarez to Win (+2500)
(UPDATE: Suarez has since shortened to +1300 to win. My model has him at 6.2% post-qualifying, below his new implied odds of 7.1%. Thus, if you didn't bite on Suarez earlier, I wouldn't bite now unless you can get him longer than +1600 or so.)
I wound up biting on Daniel Suarez at Sonoma post-qualifying, as well. That one didn't go as well as Suarez had a big issue on the first lap and never recovered.
I don't think we should over-weigh that mistake in our minds, though, and Suarez does seem undervalued at +2500.
My model puts Suarez's win odds at 6.8%, up from 3.9% implied. Obviously, Sonoma was a letdown, but he did have a good run at COTA earlier in the year. There, he had a seventh-place average running position before a late-race incident pushed him back to 27th.
Outside of his win in Sonoma last year, Suarez has had a lot of incidents on road courses, and he has finished outside the top 20 in five of eight races. But he showed upside in Road America and Watkins Glen, as well, adding top-five runs. The incidents make him more volatile, but volatility isn't a bad thing if you are capable of hitting the highs.
I still think Suarez can do that, and so does the model. Thus, I'm okay backing him at +2500 in a race where everyone else is a little more volatile, as well.
Austin Dillon to Finish Top 10 (+470)
(UPDATE: Dillon has since lengthened to +650 for a top 10. He qualified 29th, so I get this. He wasn't bad in practice, though, ranking 17th in single-lap speed. Due to the prior/chaos that's in the model, I still have Dillon at 23.0% for a top-10 versus 13.3% implied. My confidence in it is low despite what the model says, but it's not a terrible bet at +650 if you want in.)
This is where the superspeedway angle comes into play. If the studs have reduced odds at a top 10 due to chaos, those odds have to go somewhere. It gives the lower-tier drivers a boost in hopes they can pick their way through the carnage and eek out a top 10.
Austin Dillon is the best value to do so by my numbers.
I've got Dillon finishing inside the top 10 26.1% of the time, up from 17.5% implied. In eight Next-Gen road-course races, Dillon's top-10 rate is 25.0%, and he was 11th in another, so it makes sense that he would benefit from increased variance.
Dillon has finished 33rd and 19th in the two road-course races this year. But he had decent speed in Sonoma before a spin pushed him back, and recovering for a 19th-place finish was decently impressive. His two top-10s in this sample came at Charlotte and COTA, two tracks where we can see a decent amount of chaos.
There are other drivers in this range who are above their implied marks to finish inside the top 10, and I may end up adding them at some point. But for now, Dillon's my favorite thanks to the big strides he has made on these tracks in recent years.
Post-Qualifying Addition: Kyle Larson to Win (+1400)
(UPDATE: Larson has since shortened to +1000, almost exactly in line with my model's mark of 9.0%. I'm fine if you find him longer than this, but if +1000 is the best you can get, he's likely a stay-away.)
It's extremely odd to me that -- given the days they had Saturday -- Kyle Larson lengthened out to +1400 while Chase Elliott is still +600. Elliott said he was uncomfortable in the car, later wrecked, and qualified 26th.
Larson, meanwhile, had solid speed in practice and will start seventh. He shouldn't have lengthened this much, and it gives us a window to take advantage.
Even with the speed of the Toyotas, Larson shouldn't go overlooked. He was sixth in single-lap speed Saturday and was third in five-lap average. His seventh-place qualifying position is close enough to the front to make a move.
Larson couldn't hang with Martin Truex Jr. in Sonoma, but he never really had track position. I don't think he'd have been as fast as Truex, regardless, but their poor qualifying effort there prevented us from ever seeing.
My model has Larson's win odds at 9.0%, up from 6.7% implied. Even though I think my model may be a bit too low on the Toyotas, that's a big enough gap for me to bite.
Post-Qualifying Addition: Alex Bowman to Finish Top 10 (+230)
I've actually got value on Alex Bowman outright at +7000, so if you're feeling frisky, that's a route. But there's nice value in this market, as well.
After qualifying, my model has Bowman at 39.1% for a top-10, up from 30.3% implied. Although Bowman's single-lap speed was disappointing, he ranked 13th in five-lap average. He validated that with a 13th-place qualifying run.
Bowman has never been lights-out on road courses, but he is steady. In the Next-Gen era, he has a pair of podiums and only one finish worse than 16th across 7 races.
I'm not convinced of Bowman's upside, which is why I'm taking the top-10. But in a potentially chaotic race, you don't need a ton of upside to cash this market. Thus, of the bets still on the board, I think Bowman is the best value remaining.