One Dover NASCAR Driver Matchup I’m Betting Right Now
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars won’t hit the track for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism (2:15 p.m. ET green flag) at Dover International Speedway until Friday, but a handful of sportsbooks have already opened futures and props for this weekend’s race.
For those new to NASCAR betting, matchups include two drivers, and bettors simply wager on which driver will finish ahead of the other in the final race results.
After analyzing the numbers for Dover, there’s one driver matchup I’m betting now before the number inevitably gets away from us.
Daniel Suarez (-115) over Alex Bowman
Dover, also known as “The Monster Mile”, is a very unique racetrack that’s highly banked, one mile in length and concrete, as opposed to asphalt. Similar to how some golf courses set up well for certain golfers, some drivers just take to Dover well, and Suarez is one of them.
Suarez became a full-time Cup Series driver before last season and has two career starts at Dover, both in 2017. In those races, Suarez’s average finishing position of 7.0 ranks fifth among all drivers. Suarez also ranks fifth in average running position (10.5) over that span, according to FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com’s loop data. This statistic is a better indicator of overall performance because it encompasses where a driver is running over the course of an entire race, not just the final lap.
Because Dover is so unique, recent seat time is also important for drivers and teams to know what to expect from the racetrack. How do tires wear? Do cars get tight or loose over the course of a run? How does the track change based on temperature?
While Suarez ran both races, and ran well, last season, Bowman has not been to Dover in a Cup car since 2015.
Tires matter, and I’m not just talking about new vs. old tires during the race itself. As the cars and technology evolve, Goodyear must keep up by updating the actual tire compounds. In recent years, NASCAR has taken downforce away from the cars, inspiring Goodyear to bring tires that encourage more grip and falloff.
The tire that will be used this weekend is a newer combination that debuted last fall at Dover. As mentioned, Suarez and his team ran that race and have a notebook on how it reacts to their setups. Bowman does not.
Betting market adjustments
Unlike any other sport, auto-racing odds are significantly affected by on-track activity, such as practice and qualifying, before the race actually goes green. That’s like oddsmakers adjusting lines based on how Steph Curry looks in morning shootarounds or how Tiger Woods is hitting his driver on the range.
Sportsbooks adjust aggressively based on starting position, which is another factor to consider when handicapping NASCAR. This matchup is essentially a pick’em at -115 on both sides. But once qualifying begins at 3:20 p.m. ET on Friday, sportsbooks will take this matchup off the board, then reopen it later that night based on the results.
Therefore, it’s important to also project which driver will secure the better starting position, then bet accordingly. For example, if our analysis assumes that Suarez will qualify better, we want to go ahead and bet him now. However, if the numbers suggest that Bowman will start closer to the front, the strategy changes because sportsbooks will reopen Bowman as the favorite based on qualifying results, giving us a better number on Suarez.
Last year at Dover, only two drivers (Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch) secured better average starting positions than Suarez’s 4.0.
Top Photo: A view of the Miles the Monster statue before the Apache Warrior 400 presented by Lucas Oil at Dover International Speedway