Alex Bowman won early in 2020 and punched his ticket to the playoffs with an Auto Club Speedway checkered flag. We are often worried about early winners because the temptation to experiment can become overwhelming. And whether that is perception or reality really doesn’t matter when a driver starts on a downward spiral.
When the series got back underway last May after the COVID-19 break, Bowman momentarily seemed to pick up where he left off and finished second at Darlington behind Kevin Harvick. The No. 4 team went on to dominate the regular season. Bowman languished for the next five weeks with a best finish of 12th. He wouldn't score another top-five until late August.
Because of his early success, it took a long time for Bowman’s odds to consistently match his potential. Bowman had long odds of +3300 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, +3000 at Texas Motor Speedway, and +3300 at New Hampshire.
His solid run on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway should have given him a boost at Michigan International Speedway – but it didn’t. And for that matter, he did not come close to living up to his potential with a 21st- and 36th-place finish in the doubleheader, so the books got it right.
From that point on, oddsmakers seemed to completely lose faith in Bowman. Through the end of the season, his average odds were +2886; his average odds’ rank was 10.6.
In 2021, without the Auto Club victory to boost his numbers, Bowman has been afforded even less respect. He has not yet been ranked among the top 10 with oddsmakers in 2021, but given the wild card nature of two of the first six races, his average outright odds to win have been +2771.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, that actually makes him more attractive. Last week we ranked Bowman as a Best Bet to earn a top-five in the QuikTrip 500. One of the reasons we took a risk on him was his +3300 odds. If he hit on that number, it would have covered a weekly bet for the rest of the year.
This week, Bowman has even longer odds on the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track. There are going to be so many dark horses this week with dirt stars like Stewart Friesen, Shane Golobic, Chris Windom, and Mike Marlar in the field. They will not be in the strongest equipment in the field, but with a lot of cautions expected, they should be able to stay on the lead lap and spoil the efforts of hopefuls like Bowman.
Coming off his solid third-place finish, it would have been interesting to see what happened to Bowman’s odds if a dirt track race was not the next course on the schedule. Would they have fallen back in the +2000s? If the No. 48 earns a surprising top-10 this week, we may yet find out. Chances are that his odds will remain in the +3000s for a little while longer – until he seriously challenges for a win.
That creates an opportunity for bettors to place a modest weekly wager on Bowman every week until he breaks back into Victory Lane. And it is almost assured that Bowman will score at least one win this season. Hendrick Motorsports has reasserted themselves in the past two years.
Kyle Larson is only improving their performance. William Byron has a win in the first six races and Chase Elliott will win sometime in the next six events. It is only a matter of time for the No. 48 team.
Be prepared to abandon that betting scheme during weeks when Bowman’s odds fall below 30/1, however, because his most striking feature right now is his Return on Investment (ROI).
Avoid him on aero-restricted superspeedways. Since those races are traditionally crapshoots, oddsmakers are reluctant to give long odds on anyone with a strong engine. Bowman’s average odds at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway over the past year are +2075.
You can feel fairly confident on the road courses, however. Bowman has been strong on the hybrid tracks of the Charlotte Roval and Daytona Road Course.
A more traditional track type to start him will be the 1.5-mile tracks. Atlanta, Kansas Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Homestead-Miami Speedway are all at the top of his list in terms of career-best average finishes, so he should be strong on the other similarly-configured tracks.