Bookmakers, like everyone else these days, are having a hard time keeping up with Kyle Larson, whose +175 opening odds at SuperBook USA to win Sunday’s Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart (3:30 p.m., NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) mark the shortest he’s been priced all season. Odds this short are a rarity in a NASCAR outright market.
Larson has been the betting favorite in every non-road course race on the Cup Series circuit since the Coca-Cola 600, where he opened as the 5/1 (+500) chalk at the SuperBook. A return to a price that long appears distant for the No. 5, as Larson continues to run up front and his numbers continue to tighten.
This weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is the first time, however, Larson has dipped below the +200 threshold. While he was exactly 2/1 in the anomalous Bristol dirt race, he was +400 in the All-Star Race on June 13, +250 in Nashville on June 20, and +225 for both races of the Pocono doubleheader on June 26 and 27.
Larson is so far ahead of the field, at least from some oddsmakers’ perspective, that he is not listed in any head-to-head props offered at either the SuperBook or Barstool. BetMGM is dealing a matchup featuring Larson against Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott, pricing the No. 5 as a large -185 favorite (bet $185 to win $100), with the No. 9 coming back as the +150 underdog.
Piloting Chip Ganassi Racing equipment in six of his seven Cup starts in Atlanta, Larson’s 12.14 average finish at this track is the best of any active driver, per DriverAverages.com. At this season’s first race here, Larson led 269 of 325 laps and won Stages 1 and 2, before finishing second to Ryan Blaney.
Futures odds further illustrate Larson’s superiority, as his price to win the 2021 Cup title is skinny, ranging from +180 to +250 around the marketplace. There’s a sizable gap to the second betting choice, Elliott, who sees odds in the +500 to +700 range.
The ultra-tight pricing on Larson is justified — over the last six non-road course races, he has two wins, three runner-up finishes and a ninth, when he lost his lead on the last lap with a cut tire in Pocono. But there’s a point at which it becomes so prohibitive that bettors have to look elsewhere.
So let’s look elsewhere …
With plenty of current momentum and excellent history at 1.5-mile tracks in general and Atlanta Motor Speedway specifically, Kyle Busch is second on Sunday’s oddsboard, offered at a consensus +750. Busch rolls into Atlanta with three straight top-three finishes, including a win at Pocono, and has finished in the top five in five of the last six points races. His 7.71 average finish in the 45 races on 1.5-mile layouts since 2018 is tops in the series, and his 13.48 average finish in Atlanta is second best.
Chase Elliott is next on the oddsboard, hovering in the +800 to +900 range, although the SuperBook goes a bit longer at +1000. A victory at Road America last week broke Elliott’s string of three straight poor runs (finishes of 27th, 12th, 39th). Elliott is a short underdog (+110) vs. Kyle Busch (-130) in a matchup prop at the SuperBook, and many bettors will be enticed despite his unspectacular stats at Atlanta and 1.5s overall, and his recent performances on ovals.
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. lurk at +1000 via BetMGM. Truex has three wins on the season, but since his most recent victory, on May 9 at Darlington, the No. 19 Toyota hasn’t finished in the top 10 on an oval. His solid past performances in Atlanta and on similar layouts, though, earn him the betting market’s respect. Hamlin clings to his points lead in the standings but is still searching for his first win of 2021.
Kevin Harvick’s season of disappointment continues, but oddsmakers give him a realistic shot at the checkers in Atlanta, one of his best tracks, with BetMGM hanging +900 odds on the No. 4 Ford. Harvick has won two of the four Atlanta races since 2018 with a series-best 122.7 average rating. On 1.5-mile tracks since 2018, his 111.5 rating is also tops in Cup, and his 8.02 average finish is second to Kyle Busch.
Team Penske, meanwhile, after battling toe-to-toe with Hendrick and Gibbs early in the season, has fallen off the pace. Blaney, whose lone win of 2021 came at Atlanta, is the shortest priced of Penske’s three Cup drivers around the market, offered at 12/1 (Barstool and SuperBook), while Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are a distant 16/1 and 20/1, respectively, at SuperBook.
For a shot at a fat payday, why not take a look at the “other” drivers in the Hendrick garage, with William Byron available at +1200 (BetMGM and Barstool) and Alex Bowman +1600 (Barstool and SuperBook) around the market? Byron has finished in the top four in five of the last six non-road course races. “The Showman” finished third in Atlanta in March and boasts three wins on the season.
Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.