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December 21, 2014

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NASCAR betting heats up for Las Vegas race week

Professional offers tips on how to bet on NASCAR

Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Driver Odds

  • Jimmie Johnson: 9-2
  • Mark Martin: 7-1
  • Kyle Busch: 8-1
  • Jeff Gordon: 10-1
  • Tony Stewart: 12-1
  • Denny Hamlin: 12-1
  • Greg Biffle: 12-1
  • Juan Montoya: 15-1
  • Clint Bowyer: 15-1
  • Kevin Harvick: 15-1
  • Jeff Burton: 15-1
  • Kurt Busch: 18-1
  • Carl Edwards: 18-1
  • Matt Kenseth: 20-1
  • Kasey Kahne: 25-1
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 30-1
  • Ryan Newman: 30-1
  • Joey Logano: 40-1
  • Jamie McMurray: 60-1
  • Sam Hornish Jr.: 100-1

Source: Las Vegas Hilton

Sample Head-to-Head Matchups

  • Mark Martin -145 vs. Kyle Busch +125
  • Carl Edwards -110 vs. Kurt Busch -110
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. +120 vs. Ryan Newman -140
  • Jeff Burton -125 vs. Greg Biffle +105
  • Matt Kenseth EVEN vs. Juan Montoya -120
  • Jimmie Johnson -140 vs. Mark Martin +120

Source: Las Vegas Hilton

The Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway serves as the sport's main event in one area — betting.

Las Vegas sports books take more action on Las Vegas' NASCAR race than any other race on the schedule. Matt Metcalf, assistant Superbook director who oversees NASCAR wagering at the Las Vegas Hilton, said it wasn't even close.

"We'll out-write this race easily over all the others," Metcalf said. "Second is Daytona, but this race will be three times more than any other."

Metcalf said that NASCAR usually was a niche betting sport and that the Hilton had a handful of loyal customers who play every week. That changes when it's race week in town.

With so many race fans visiting Las Vegas, NASCAR becomes a much more popular betting option for the public.

There's two ways to bet on NASCAR in sports books — the win odds or individual matchups. For example, Jimmie Johnson is a 9-to-2 favorite at the Hilton to win the Shelby American Sprint Cup race. But bettors could also take Johnson to beat another driver, like Jeff Gordon at a price of -155 (risk $1.55 to win $1).

"From the public standpoint, the straight win odds are a lot more popular," Metcalf said. "For most of our more educated gamblers, they'll look at the head-to-head matchups."

Rocky Atkinson, a professional sports gambler who considers NASCAR one of his specialties, advocates the matchup approach.

Atkinson said casual gamblers often are enticed by the bigger payouts on win odds, but that's not where the true value is.

"The smarter thing to do is really look at these head-to-head matchups," Atkinson said. "I actually look at every driver that's entered into the race and do a chart of each driver and how they've done in Las Vegas. I then go down the matchup list and compare them with each other."

Atkinson said another key aspect to take into account was the track type. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is considered an intermediate track with a length of 1.5 miles.

His research this weekend revealed a couple of names to look out for: Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson.

Burton, who won the Las Vegas race in 1999 and 2000, has an average lifetime finish of ninth in this race, which is very high. Johnson has won the Las Vegas race three times and is considered the driver to beat on intermediate tracks, where he has nearly 40 career victories.

Still, Atkinson wouldn't recommend betting on Johnson to win. He'd rather point a bettor toward finding a matchup they like that involves Johnson and putting money on that.

"I was looking at the odds and even though Jimmie Johnson is one of my favorites to win this week, the 4.5-to-1 odds aren't very good," Atkinson said.

Another area that complicates NASCAR betting is the qualifying process. Drivers' starting position is determined Friday after a qualifying round.

Depending on what happens, Metcalf said the odds could be shifted. Metcalf, however, stressed that it wasn't as important as it appears.

"Starting position actually doesn't factor into the races as much," Atkinson said. "The qualifying doesn't mean a whole lot. You still kind of look at it, but it's not a big factor."

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