For a sport that promotes itself on speed, NASCAR betting can seem like one of the slowest options to sports bettors.
There are a handful of betting selections for each week’s NASCAR Cup event – outright odds, matchups, speed rows - but sitting around watching cars turn left for three or four hours is a grueling practice, especially if your bets don’t pan out.
Enter the Can-Am Duels. The pair of preliminary races at Daytona unofficially opens the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup betting schedule, with the top drivers in NASCAR revving their engines Thursday night with Duel No. 1 at 7 pm ET and Duel No. 2 at 8:45 p.m. ET (NASCAR moved the Duels to a night race four seasons ago).
For those not familiar with the duels, they’re basically a condensed version of a regular race. The field is cut in half and split in two 60-lap, 150-mile mad dashes to determine the starting order for this Sunday's Daytona 500.
Drivers and teams don’t have time for methodical fuel-management strategies to play out nor can they afford to sit back in the pack and make adjustments, hoping to find the right groove late in the race. If they want a shot to run up front at Daytona, they have to leave it all on the track Thursday night. There's betting value to be had all over the board.
The top guns carry a heftier price tag, with some elite drivers looking to kickstart the season with a win and others just trying to protect their cars in qualifying. Figuring out which guys are going all out or not can stretch your money pretty far. And then you have the live long shots, looking to make a name for themselves and punch a ticket to the "Great American Race". As well, you have your super speedway specialists who consistently dominate the restrictor-plate events on the big tracks.
The Can-Am Duels are racing at its most primal. And that’s why they’re the most exciting wagering options for those who aren’t quite sold on betting NASCAR. It’s basically the closest thing you’ll find to horse racing, but with 800 horsepower instead of one.
But while the Can-Am Duels are some of the most exciting ways to wager on auto racing, they might also be some of the most ignored. According to Ed Salmons, manager at the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas, the Duels draw about 10 percent of the total action that the Daytona 500 does.
“The Duels have historically been a non-event,” Salmons told Covers. “Betting on these races has been much smaller than normal races. Maybe that changes with the night running, but I doubt it.”
Salmons says NASCAR betting overall is growing in popularity every year, and some of the options – like head-to-head driver matchup betting – is outdrawing popular props like PGA golf matchups each week.
Not having the appeal and audience of the Daytona 500 is a blessing in disguise. NASCAR bettors can find Can-Am Duels odds closer to their opening price without the public having their say and sucking all the value out of potential contenders and popular favorites. Just look at the recent winners and their odds - all big-name drivers providing solid payouts (Duel 1/Duel 2):
2017: Chase Elliott +800/Denny Hamlin +400
2016: Dale Earnhardt Jr. +500/Kyle Bush +600
2015: Dale Earnhardt Jr. +600/Jimmie Johnson +700
2014: Matt Kenseth +600/Denny Hamlin +600
So, if you’re on the fence about NASCAR betting or just looking for something different Thursday night, take a gamble: Try gambling on the Can-Am Duels. You’ll quickly see that turning left never felt so right.
Here’s a look at the odds for both Can-Am Duels:
Brad Keselowski +350
Joey Logano +500
Jimmie Johnson +600
Ricky Stenhouse Jr +700
Kurt Busch +800
Ryan Blaney +800
Alex Bowman +1200
Aric Almirola +1500
Daniel Suarez +1500
William Byron +1500
Jamie McMurray +1500
Ryan Newman +2500
Ty Dillon +3000
Darrell Wallace Jr +3000
Chris Buescher +3500
Denny Hamlin +400
Kyle Busch +450
Kevin Harvick +600
Chase Elliott +599
Kyle Larson +701
Martin Truex Jr +701
Clint Bowyer +1000
Erik Jones +1000
Paul Menard +2000
Kasey Kahne +2000
Trevor Bayne +2000
AJ Allmendinger +3000
Danica Patrick +3000