Understanding NASCAR Betting: The Best Betting Thrill in Sports

NASCAR betting is the most exciting betting in sports in my personal opinion. If you disagree, you are entitled to your wrong opinion. There is nothing more thrilling than holding a ticket that will pay 30 or 40 to 1 with your driver in the lead and the laps counting down. When done right, it’s also one of the most profitable. In 2022 alone I’ve had winners at 40 to 1, 35 to 1, 25 to 1, and 18 to 1. These long shot odds are simply not often available in other sports unless you parlay multiple games.

Hopefully this guide will help new, and veteran bettors understand and make profitable bets. With a FanDuel bettor turning $13.49 into nearly $1,000,000 on Sunday, and many other tickets turning pennies into tens of thousands, it seems like a good time to get this guide out. So let’s get to it.

NASCAR runs three national touring series. The Cup Series is the top level competition. There are also two “minor league” series, the Xfinity Series and Camping World (next year Craftsman) Truck Series. The Truck Series normally runs Friday night, the Xfinity Series on Saturday, and the Cup Series on Sunday. This means that when all three series are running we can have a full weekend of action.

Understanding Odds

NASCAR odds are normally expressed in “American odds” such as +500 or -150. Odds that are +xxx (plus money) mean that for every $100 you bet you would win xxx. While odds that are -xxx mean that to win $100 you would need to bet xxx. Plus money odds in particular can also be expressed as 5–1, which means you win five dollars for every one dollar bet (this is the same as +500).

All odds have an “implied probability” of the bet winning that those odds suggest. For example a bet with odds of +100 (“even money”) has an implied probability of 50%. That means if every bet you placed was as +100 you would need to win half of your bets to break even. If the odds of a bet are shorter than +100 you would need to win over half your bets to make money.

In a two outcome betting market where both outcomes are equitably likely, sports books will generally list the odds at -110. This means you actually need to win 52.38% of your bets to break even. This is why books make money, most bettors win 50% of their bets and thus slowly bleed money. Ultimately your objective should be to make bets where you think the bet wins more of them than the implied odds suggest.

Types of Bets

Basic Bets

So how do you bet on NASCAR races? The most obvious bet is a bet on a driver to win a race. This is typically known as an outright bet. The bet is straightforward, if the driver you bet on finishes first (and doesn’t get disqualified for post race inspection failure, more on this later) then you win.

Many books also allow you to bet on a driver to finish inside the top 3, top 5, top 10. Again, this is a simple bet, if your driver finishes inside the top 3, 5, or 10, you win. Most books also post head to head matchups between drivers. This is another simple bet, the driver with the better finishing position wins. The last basic bet is a group bet, where four to six drivers are listed in a group. To win this bet your selected driver needs to finish above all other drivers in the group.

Every legal book I have reviewed offers at least some bets on the Cup Series, but not all books offer odds on the Xfinity and Truck series. The offerings for Xfinity and Trucks are also more limited. Books that do offer odds on these series will offer outright bets and occasionally top 3, top 5, and head to head bets. No book that I have seen offers top 10 bets or group bets on Xfinity or Truck races. Before this week, no book had offered any of the more “exotic” bets discussed below for the lower series either. However, this week for the first time Caesars is offering winning manufacturer and top manufacturer driver bets for the Xfinity race.

More “exotic” bets

Getting less common as we go, some books also allow you to bet on the manufacturer of the winning car. Some books also allow bets on the top driver of each manufacturer, and on the team of the winning driver. While available at fewer books, these bets are also fairly straight forward.

Currently NASCAR has three companies that “manufacture” cars for the national series, Chevy, Ford, and Toyota. A winning manufacture bet is a bet that any driver behind the wheel of the selected maker will win the race. Top manufacture driver doesn’t require the driver to win the race. Top manufacture driver bets pays based on which driver from each manufacture has the best finish of that specific make.

Winning team bets are also straightforward, although they require a bit more knowledge of how NASCAR operates. Each car is owned by a person or company who pays for the car, the driver, the pit crew, etcetera. An owner may have up to four cars in the Cup Series that comprise that owner’s “team.” A winning team bet is a bet that any driver from a specific team will win the race.

Pole Bets

With the return of qualifying at least two books have been offering bets on which driver will qualify first and win the “pole” for a race. With the exception of the Daytona 500, which has its own unique qualifying structure, drivers qualify for each race by time trials. For the 2022 season this is done in two rounds.

For the first round of qualifying drivers are split into two groups, based on finishing position from the last race. Each driver runs one to two laps and the five drivers from each group with the fastest times advance to the second round. In the second round each driver again runs one to two laps and the fastest driver is the pole setter. A pole winner bet is a bet that the selected driver will be the fastest driver in this second round.


Stage Bets

2022 has also seen the return of stage winner betting. NASCAR races, with the exception of the Coke 600, are split into three “stages.” All this means is that at two predetermined laps in the race there will be a caution thrown once the leader crosses the start/finish line. Stage racing started in 2017 as an attempt to make races more exciting by creating mini races within the race. It also has the effect of artificially stacking the drivers up more often creating more passing. A stage winner bet is a bet on which driver will be in first place at the end of stage one or stage two.


A parlay is bet combining two or more individual bets into a single bet with a larger payout. Every individual bet or “leg” of the parlay must win for the parlay to win. When you place a parlay you are not getting any “bonus” value. Parlay odds are simply calculated by multiplying the implied probability of each individual leg of the parlay to get the odds of the parlay as a whole.

For example, if you parlay two head to head matchups, betting on Driver A +100 over Driver B and Driver C +120 over Driver D, your parlay odds would be .5 x .4545 = .22725 which pays at +340. The odds simply pay out at the implied probability of both bets winning at the same time. The higher payout simply reflects the reduced probability that all legs of the parlay will win. For this reason, parlays are rarely a good bet, particularly if, as discussed below, the bets are negatively correlated. Parlays can however be a good bet in the rare instance where you can parlay positively correlated events.

Parlays and Negative Correlation

Books limit what bets can be parlayed, but for two weeks, before getting crushed, FanDuel allowed for parlays of top top 3 and top 10 bets. If these come back at FanDuel or elsewhere they are not parlays I would normally recommend. In most cases when you parlay two drivers to finish inside the top 10 the bets are negatively correlated. That is, if one bet wins, the other is more likely to lose.

Put another way, when parlaying top 10 bets, you are betting one driver to finish at least tenth and the other to finish at least ninth. However, you are not getting increased odds for more difficult task of finishing ninth for the second driver. This means you may be taking two plus value bets and turning them into a single bet with losing value.

The same would likely, but not always, be true if you were to parlay a bet of Driver A to finish ahead of Driver B and Driver B to finish ahead of Driver C. This requires Driver B to thread a needle of sorts and split the two other drivers. But if Driver B has a great day the driver may beat both. Conversely, if the driver has a poor day, he will lose to both. Unless the likely finishing positions of Drivers A and C are very far apart, winning one leg of this parley will increase the odds of losing the other.


Parlays and Positive Correlation

The flip side of negatively correlated bets is positively correlated bets. Books tend to prohibit parlaying positively correlated bets, but occasionally one sneaks through. A prime example is the $1,000,000 parlay at the Coke Zero Sugar 400. The unique circumstances of superspeedway racing and a playoff cutoff race created positive correlation in some top 10 bets. Slower drivers were more likely to survive together in the instance of a large crash taking out front runners. So a parlay of the slower drivers to finish inside the top 10 was positively correlated. If one slow driver made the top 10 so, it was likely due to chaos taking out the front runners, which meant the other slower drivers were also likely to survive.

The top 10 parlay is rarely going to be positively correlated. A more likely example of positive correlation would be Driver A to finish ahead of Driver B and Driver A to finish ahead of Driver C. In this case if Driver A beats Driver B, it likely means Driver A had a good day, which increases the odds of also beating Driver C. Books are aware of this and so this sort of parlay is rarely allowed.

What Odds (and Bets) Don’t Mean

Lets now talk about what odds don’t mean, in particular what being the “favorite” for a race doesn’t mean. Being the favorite does not mean that the odds makers expect the driver to win more often than not. The shortest odds for an outright winner tend to be around +300 to +400 and more often closer to +600. Even the implied odds of a +300 bet are only 25% though. So even the shortest odds for an outright winner suggest that the driver would win just 25% of the time. 

Similarly when I place a bet it doesn’t mean I expect the driver to win. When I am betting on a driver it simply means I think that the driver is more likely to win than the implied probability of their odds suggest. For example, for the 2022 Daytona 500 I placed a bet on Justin Haley at +5000. I didn’t think Haley was “likely” to win. I did think he had a better than 1.96% chance of winning which his +5000 odds implied. I often mention this when writing up bets, which I keep track on the Action App from Action Network and which you can follow on the app with the link here: https://myaction.app/OwiPD9m0Tsb

You can also follow my picks from your desktop or laptop with the link here

How to Decide on Bets

So how do you decide which bets are good and are worth your money? Well the simplest way is to tail experts with a history of winning. For the Cup Series I write a weekly early best bets article for Garage Guys published on Wednesdays. Chase, Dale, and I, and other verified experts all also post our Cup Series bets to the Action Network App. You can follow our bets for free there.

For the Xfinity Series Cody Zeeb write a weekly article that comes out on Thursdays. For the Truck Series Derek Yoder writes a weekly article posted a day or two before the race. Dale also hosts a weekly show, DALESCENTER, where he discusses bets for all three series as well as F1 and Indycar.

If you are going to try and make your own picks you should digest as much information as you can. You should look to as many different sources as you can. So even if you are not tailing our picks, you should look at the picks Chase, Dale, and I are making and look at the reasoning we provide. Personally when I am projecting races I rely heavily on loop data from NASCAR. The loop data provides information about drivers speed throughout prior races, fastest laps, and driver rating.

How Much to Bet?

How much you bet on individual bets is going to depend on how much your total bankroll is. When you see most NASCAR bettors talking about bets they normally talk about “units.” Simply put a unit is your standard bet size. It represents the percentage of your bankroll you are willing to lose on a single bet. Most professionals agree that this should be at most 5% of your total bankroll. More conservatively it should be around 1% of your bankroll.

At 5% you would have to lose 20 bets in a row to be out of money. Frankly if you lose 20 in a row you might want to find a new hobby. The smaller your unit is as a percentage of your bankroll, the less individual losses hurt.

Another advantage of betting in units is it allow people with different bank rolls to talk to each other about how strongly they feel about a bet. For example, if I were to tell you that I put $100 on a bet, that might sound like I thought it was an insanely good bet if your average bet was $10. But if my unit is $100 itself then I’m valuing it as an average bet. In that case its easier for the parties both say they bet one unit on it and thus know, that despite the large variance in the amount of the bet, the parties view that bet about the same.

Shop Around

When placing bets it’s always best to shop around to see where you can find the best odds. In Virginia where I live we currently have 13 active online books (though three of them set lines from the same oddsmaker) and the odds can vary wildly. Looking back to my Justin Haley Daytona 500 bet; at the time I made the bet his odds varied from +3500 to +5000 depending on which book you used. If you don’t shop around and placed the same bet at +3500 you would be leaving a lot of money on the table if the bet wins and might be going from a positive expected value bet to a negative expected value bet.

Closing Thoughts

While betting on NASCAR can be highly profitable, its unlikely to be a get rich quick scheme. There will be big wins, but there will be weeks where even if you have handicapped speed perfectly, chaos ensues and every bet loses. Bet within your means and don’t be afraid to have no action. If you don’t like any bets, its ok to take a week off. Best of luck, and let’s go collect some bags.


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