Updated 2020 NASCAR Schedule: The Betting Impact of Racing’s Return on May 17 at Darlington

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Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Snickers Throwback Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

After days of rumors, NASCAR’s updated 2020 schedule has officially been released. The Cup Series will return on May 17 at Darlington Raceway, followed by an XFINITY Series race (also at Darlington) on May 19, and a second Cup race at the same track again on May 20.

Here’s the full rundown of NASCAR’s new May racing schedule:

May 17: Cup Series at Darlington (400 miles) at 3:30 p.m. ET
May 19: XFINITY Series at Darlington (200 miles) at 8 p.m. ET
May 20: Cup Series at Darlington (500 kilometers) at 7:30 p.m. ET
May 24: Cup Series at Charlotte (traditional Cola-Cola 600) at 6 p.m. ET
May 25: XFINITY Series at Charlotte (300 miles) at 7:30 p.m. ET
May 26: NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Charlotte (200 miles) at 8 p.m. ET
May 27: Cup Series at Charlotte (500 kilometers) at 8 p.m. ET

That’s seven races to bet over an 11-day period. Wow.

And from a wagering perspective, the news nugget that caught my attention is that there will be no practice in any of these events and qualifying will take place in just one — the Coca-Cola 600.

That will impact NASCAR betting in three key ways.

1. No Practice

Practice is a very important tool when handicapping NASCAR as it allows bettors to analyze lap times for drivers in real race conditions. Not having this is seemingly a big blow for NASCAR bettors.

As a result, handicappers (as well as oddsmakers) will have to rely more heavily on historical data to project performance.

On the other hand, when the Cup Series returns to race at Darlington and Charlotte just a few days after the first event, we’ll have an entire race’s worth of data in very similar conditions to analyze.

2. No Qualifying

Second, the loss of qualifying won’t affect betting decisions as much, with a key caveat being that everyone knows the starting lineup with ample time to make decisions.

For example, it’ll be tough to feel confident betting on a driver if NASCAR is simply going to pull names out of hat to determine starting position in the hours leading up to the race. However, if we know starting positions a day or two in advance, we can place wagers more comfortably.

3. When Will Odds Open?

And perhaps the biggest question surrounds how sportsbooks will address this condensed schedule. In a typical week, NASCAR odds are widely available days ahead of the race, but when will odds open with such a condensed schedule?

As I mentioned with qualifying above, knowing the starting lineup with enough time to make betting decisions is important, but won’t do any good if lines aren’t available as well.

I’m just speculating, but my assumption is that sportsbooks will be ready to rock with NASCAR back and aggressive about opening odds as early as possible, but again, that’s just a gut reaction.

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