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Best Bets

QuikTrip 500 Dark Horses

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: March 21, 2021, 12:45 pm ET

The most popular bets on a given weekend revolve around the winner, and their odds for that position often drag those for top-three and top-10 results.

For the favorite drivers, the outright odds to win are generally accompanied by unattractive numbers in the top-three column, but occasionally good deals can be found there. And for true dark horses, looking at the top-10 odds can be a way to supplement your betting strategy.

Outright odds for the favorites are studied closely by the books, but once they get beyond the top-10 rankings, algorithms are more likely to drive the number. Look closely each week to see if you can find some hidden gems that are worth a couch-cushion bet.

Each week as we prepare notes for the upcoming race, a script is run from a database containing nearly 700,000 records that include race results, strength-based categories, and former betting lines. It would be foolish to slavishly regard those numbers as sacrosanct, but they often reveal undervalued options.

Austin Dillon (+6600 for the outright win at PointsBet Sportsbook) was the highest ranked driver this week based on our Power Ranking formula for Atlanta Motor Speedway. Part of the reason for that is a pair of top-15 finishes on this track in the past three years.

But Dillon is capable of greater heights. Last year his O'Reilly 500 win on the similarly-configured Texas Motor Speedway qualified him for the playoffs. He also had a fourth-place finish in the 2020 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His stats do not support a large bet, but Dillon should get a little movement for a top-three with odds of +1500 and a larger one for a top-10 at +200.


Alex Bowman (+3500) was actually one of our showcased drivers in this week’s Best Bets column. We ranked him among the drivers capable of scoring a top-five. The oddsmakers do not agree, but his +3500 for the outright win drug his numbers for a top-three to a very tempting +800. He can even be had with a positive bet of +125 to finish in the top-10 – and Hendrick Motorsports is much too strong to pass that up.

Aric Almirola (+8000) has not gotten off the grid very quickly this year. The entire Stewart-Haas Racing organization seems to have a bit of a hangover from 2020 when their top driver Kevin Harvick (+550) failed to make the Championship 4. We remember how strong they were last year before the playoffs began, however, and Almirola’s four-race streak of top-10s from Homestead-Miami Speedway through Kansas Speedway 1 needs to be noted. Almirola is listed at +200 to score another.

A truer dark horse can be found with Michael McDowell (+25000). He finished sixth at Homestead. And if he can repeat that feat, he could add some money to the coffers with odds of +550 to score a top-10. Front Row Motorsports is not one of the heavily-funded powerhouses and they represent a risk, but the return on investment is strong.

Austin Cindric (+12500) is another interesting bet this week. More importantly, he does have the horsepower under the hood to finish in the top 10 with a fourth Team Penske engine at his disposal. With odds of +225 to finish in the top 10 and +1800 for a top-three, it might be worth digging in the couch cushions.  

Ryan Newman (+15000) shocked the field at Homestead with his seventh-place finish. He failed to score a top-10 on this track type in 2020, but one has to remember that his Daytona 500 crash, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a move to Roush Fenway Racing set him back. He ended 2019 strong with three top-10s in the final four 1.5-mile races that year. He is worthy of a modest bet at +350 to score another top-10.



Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.