Kyle Busch takes a look at the tablet to review performance data from the Next Gen car. Photo by Rachel Schuoler with Kickin' the Tires.

COLUMN: Bettin’ at Auto Club Speedway After a Costly Day At Daytona

NASCAR NASCAR Cup Series Opinion

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

To say superspeedways are unpredictable is an understatement and there’s no denying I got crushed last week on my picks to win the 2022 Daytona 500. But that’s going to happen – probably more often than not and it doesn’t really matter what track the NASCAR Cup Series is at.

Kyle Busch Auto Club scaled
Kyle Busch put down the third-fastest lap during Cup Series qualifying at Auto Club Speedway. Photo by Matthew Thacker/NKP

Because of the nature of auto racing, it is difficult to pick a winner. Unlike football, baseball or other sports where you can often get a “lock” in head-to-head action, racing is different. Any broken part or piece on the car or incident on the track could end a favorite’s day in seconds. The closest thing, this week, to a lock at Auto Club Speedway would be head-to-head finishing action pitting Kyle Larson against Garrett Smithley. Sure, it seems like an automatic win but Larson could get caught in an early wreck and finish 36th through no fault of his own while Smithley simply brings the car home 10 laps down but in 35th. Still, sportsbooks aren’t giving that type of head-to-head action.

Last week, I picked Joey Logano as my winning favorite. Looking back at the stats, he was fastest during green flag laps the entire race and as he was making his move to the front through the field on Lap 151 when he got caught up in a crash and then was stuck partially on the track and partially in the infield grass. His tires were spinning in the grass and he ended up finishing three laps down. It was unfortunate but that’s why they call this gambling. My other to bet – Tyler Reddick (25 to 1) was taken out in the same crash that ended Logano’s day. Until then, he had a good run going with 56 percent of his laps in the Top 15. After racing his way into the Daytona 500, my longshot bet on Greg Biffle (75 to 1) never really got out of the gate as he spent dozens of laps in the garage while his team replaced a fuel line. He finished in 36th.

Looking at this week’s action, the best bet I can find for the money would be Kyle Busch. I got him earlier in the week at 8 to 1 (DraftKings Sportsbook) based on his past performance at Auto Club Speedway. Since 2018, he’s led the most laps at 196 his average finishing position has been second – third in 2018, first in 2019 and second in 2020. Busch is one of only two drivers to have an average finish at Auto Club Speedway in the single digits at 8.9 and he also has four wins in his career at the two-mile track. With only a few hours to go before the green flag, Busch has become even more of a favorite dropping to 6 to 1 (BetMGM) or 7 to 1 (DraftKings Sportsbook) on the action depending on which sportsbook is used.

The other driver with a single-digit average finish (9.4) is Chase Elliott and he is a solid consideration but with Busch having four wins it is hard to bet against him. Of course, you could always bet both and if either one wins, you’ll cover your action and make a few bucks. The odds for him to win the race are 7 to 1 (BetMGM), 7 to 1 (DraftKings Sportsbook) and 6 to 1 (Sportsbook.ag).

Now, if you’re looking for a driver that could have a good day and be a strong return on your investment, I would have to go with Ross Chastain. Why? It’s simple, Chastain hasn’t been to California with a car that could put him in Victory Lane. His last outing was with Roush-Fenway Racing in 2020 when he subbed for Ryan Newman after Newman’s crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Since NASCAR didn’t visit Auto Club Speedway in 2021 due to the pandemic, Chastain never had a chance to race there in one of Chip Ganassi’s cars, although some would say Ganassi may not have had the equipment to win either.

I am not sure what is going on with Chastain this week, though. I bet his early odds at 25 to 1 (DraftKings Sportsbook) but now he is 80 to 1 (BetMGM), 40 to 1 (DraftKings Sportsbook) and 30 to 1 (Sportsbook.ag). He must start from the back due to issues on Saturday but passing isn’t that difficult here and a backup car shouldn’t be that big of a disadvantage now. It’s almost like the oddsmakers are looking only at his past performances with subpar teams and not his current situation. Your action today could be a real steal on BetMGM.

My longshot pick this week is Daniel Hemric because I think he is untapped talent and Kaulig Racing is a diamond in the rough. That team is a prime example of “The Little Engine That Could.” The only difference is that instead of saying, “I think I can, I think I can,” Kaulig Racing’s attitude is, “I know I can, I know I can.”

DKS Prop Bets

Hemric has only had one start at Auto Club Speedway and that was in a Richard Childress Racing car in 2019. A lot has happened in the past three years, so if you are willing to take a chance, Hemric would be a good longshot bet even if his odds are also kind of screwy – 80 to 1 (BetMGM), 70 to 1 (DraftKings Sportsbook) and 200 to 1 (Sportsbook.ag). If you have an account at Sportsbook, those odds are awfully tempting.

For those interested in proposition bets, DraftKings Sportsbook and BetMGM have some interesting action, now. In the past, the only thing you could really bet on for a NASCAR race was the winner – maybe, you could get some Top 3 action but nothing like what’s available now. For example, if you think Brad Keselowski will out-perform all of the Team Penske cars, you can get action on that prop bet at 4.5 to 1 on DraftKings Sportsbook. Another interesting bet would be Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney all finishing in the Top 5. Fading that action will get you 7 to 1 on your money if it hits.

BetMGM has some head-to-head action this week that basically offers even money. For example, you can basically have a coin flip with Kurt Busch (1 to 1) going head-to-head with Brad Keselowski (5 to 6) this week. If you bet Kyle Busch to beat Denny Hamlin in a head-to-head matchup, the sportsbook has the best odds as you will have to lay 10 to 11 for either pick, meaning you’re giving up odds because a $5 bet would only net you $4.55 if you win.

I am not big into prop bets, simply because they often don’t have the best bettor advantage. However, if you are just looking to sweat some action they can be fun.

BetMGM HtoHBefore I wrap, I want to give one additional pick that could prove valuable. Although Kevin Harvick has to come from the back, he may be a potential sleeper if the team was able to repair his car from Saturday’s incident. His odds are at 20 to 1, across all through sportsbooks that I have listed. Harvick’s average finish is 12.9 here and he is one of those drivers who will give everything he has to get to the front.

Remember, my action on these bets is minimal, I just don’t think it’s right to offer advice that I am not following, myself. If you can’t afford to bet and lose, then don’t bet and if you have an issue with gambling, please seek help. Nothing I have referenced in this column is a guarantee, so don’t take it that way. But if you like to have a little skin in the game and think my insight could payoff, the information is here. If my picks aren’t your cup of tea, the odds are below so feel free to send me your picks and we can brag about who was right, or wrong, after the race.

Odds to Win Wise Power 400  
       
  BetMGM DraftKings Sportsbook.ag
Kyle Larson 9 to 2 5 to 1 4 to 1
Denny Hamlin 6 to 1 8.5 to 1 8 to 1
Kyle Busch 6 to 1 7 to 1 7 o 1
Chase Elliott 7 to 1 70 to 1 6 to 1
Joey Logano 10 to 1 14 to 1 10 to 1
Alex Bowman 12 to 1 14 to 1 16 to 1
Martin Truex Jr. 12 to 1 10 to 1 12 to 1
Ryan Blaney 12 to 1 12 to 1 12 to 1
William Byron 12 to 1 12 to 1 12 to 1
Austin Cindric 16 to 1 25 to 1 16 to 1
Tyler Reddick 18 to 1 16 to 1 16 to 1
Kevin Harvick 20 to 1 20 to 1 20 to 1
Brad Keselowski 25 to 1 20 to 1 20 to 1
Christopher Bell 33 to 1 35 to 1 26 to 1
Kurt Busch 33 to 1 30 to 1 25 to 1
Erik Jones 40 to 1 50 to 1 50 to 1
 Austin Dillon 66 to 1 50 to 1 50 to 1
Daniel Hemric 80 to 1 70 to 1 200 to 1
Aric Almirola 80 to 1 80 to 1 100 to 1
Bubba Wallace 80 to 1 100 to 1 125 to 1
Ross Chastain 80 to 1 40 to 1 30 to 1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 80 to 1 100 to 1 150 to 1
Chase Briscoe 100 to 1 75 to 1 80 to 1
Chris Buescher 100 to 1 50 to 1 150 to 1
Cole Custer 100 to 1 80 to 1 200 to 1
Daniel Suarez 100 to 1 80 to 1 150 to 1
Harrison Burton 100 to 1 80 to 1 125 to 1
Justin Haley 150 to 1 90 to 1 250 to 1
Todd Gilliland 250 to 1 150 to 1 1000 to 1
Ty Dillon 250 to 1 150 to 1 500 to 1
Michael McDowell 500 to 1 150 to 1 300 to 1
B.J. McLeod 1000 to 1 1000 to 1 1500 to 1
Code Ware 1000 to 1 500 to 1 1500 to 1
Corey Lajoie 1000 to 1 250 to 1 1000 to 1
Josh Bilicki 1000 to 1 1000 to 1 1500 to 1
Garrett Smithley 1000 to 1 1000 to 1 1500 to 1
NOTE: If you, or someone you know, has a problem with gambling, there is help. Call 1-800-522-4700.
Odds as of 9 a.m. CST 2/27/22
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