Kyle Busch had a 2020 season he would like to forget. Bettors who risked hard-earned money on him last year felt exactly the same way.
From 2015 through 2019 Busch earned at least four wins each season. In those five seasons, he scored an average of 16.4 top-fives, which allowed bettors to hedge with a prop bet and spread some of the risk.
Last year Busch struggled to close the deal in the final laps of a race – and his missed opportunities added to the frustration level felt by the driver and team. Busch is a notoriously bad value when he is exasperated.
In the first 33 races, he earned five top-three finishes, coming closest to Victory Lane with runner-up finishes at Auto Club before the COVID-19 break, at Darlington in the second race of the rebooted season, and at Atlanta a couple of weeks later. He then had to wait 19 weeks for another second-place finish while his winless streak stretched on uncomfortably.
At the start of the season, Busch’s three-week average in terms of recent odds was in the range of +480 to +730 with the wild cards of Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway accounting for the peaks. It took a long time for it to dawn on oddsmakers that Busch simply was not going to provide the value they expected.
Beginning with the doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway in August, his odds finally started to catch up with his potential.
From Michigan through the second Kansas Speedway race, his odds surged to an average of +1033 with a range of +730 to +1470. In the three races during the playoffs immediately preceding his one and only win of 2020, Busch had odds of +1400 at Talladega, +1600 on the Charlotte Roval, and +1400 at Kansas. Prior to that, he had been north of +1000 only five times.
Busch’s single win came at Texas Motor Speedway during the playoffs after he had already been eliminated from championship contention. At that point of the season, a hypothetical $10 wager would have bettors down ($330).
Busch won Texas with odds of +1500, which would have left the bettor in the red to the tune of ($190) and they would have closed the year at ($210) on $360 wagered.
That was last year. In 2021 bettors can expect two things.
First, it is likely that oddsmakers will once again value Busch highly at the start of the year, but – and this is an important but – their algorithms will almost certainly be skewed slightly by his 2020 performance. That will make Busch a better value overall. It is difficult to imagine he will not wind up with positive numbers next year.
And secondly, bettors will want to change their patterns regarding the 2015 and 2019 Cup Champion.
While Busch at his best is good everywhere, bettors will want to concentrate their attention on the tracks where he is strongest. In the past three years, Busch has a better-than fifth-place average finish on seven tracks.
His best course has been Auto Club with a 2.0 in three starts, and while that track will not host a race in 2021 it makes him even more interesting at Michigan (where he has a 4.5 over the past three years).
Phoenix Raceway is next on the list with a 3.3 in six starts, followed by Sonoma (3.5 in two), Richmond (3.6 in five), Homestead (3.7 in three), Michigan, and Atlanta (5.0 in three starts).
Don’t sleep on Busch in 2021, but don’t wager so much that he keeps you awake either.
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