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What the Bristol Cup dirt odds reveal

NASCAR drivers Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, and Kurt Busch preview what they think they'll encounter on dirt at Bristol.

The Bristol dirt race is one of the most unique events on the 2021 NASCAR Cup schedule and early this week sportsbooks struggled to determine appropriate betting odds.

Both the opening and current odds reveal important assumptions made by oddsmakers, and just how wrong they were with some of their original thoughts.

Of course, some of their assumptions were also correct.

MORE: Bristol dirt Cup race starting lineup

MORE: NASCAR makes competition changes to Bristol dirt Cup race

From the moment the books opened, it was apparent Kyle Larson would be the favorite to win the Food City Dirt Race. With a victory already in hand from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a dominant car last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway (before he finished second behind Ryan Blaney) and a worst result of seventh in the past four weeks, he had momentum on his side.

More importantly, 46 victories in 97 dirt races in 2020 and a second straight Chili Bowl Nationals win in January of this year underscored his dirt track ability. PointsBet Sportsbook began taking bets on Larson and selected drivers Monday.

NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race Practice

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 26: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Freightliner Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 26, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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Larson opened the week with American Odds of +240. One handy way to view American Odds is to move the decimal point two positions to the left and that will let a bettor know exactly what he will make on a one dollar bet. The return on investment (ROI) for +240 odds is $2.40. For bettors more comfortable with fractional odds, a line of +300 is the same as 3/1.

Larson never lost his status as a huge favorite, but after his engine overheated in the middle of final practice and the accompanying revelation that he would have to drop to the back of the field on Sunday with the engine change, oddsmakers scrambled to find the appropriate line. Larson bounced from as low as +235 to a high of +300 before settling into +290 on Saturday.

Christopher Bell has always been the second-highest ranked driver on the PointsBet Sportsbook for the Food City Dirt Race. He experienced a larger line movement in light of the on track activity, slipping from +520 to +750. Bell had the second-fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 88.999 mph, but a slower pace in final practice preceded a significant change to his Food City Dirt Race odds.

Ranked third after practice, Chase Briscoe’s odds reflected another accurate prediction. He opened the week as the fourth-ranked driver at +1200. A strong practice necessitated a slight adjustment to +1100.

Chase Elliott became the fourth-ranked driver following practice with a +1300.

The most striking change from Monday, however, was a reimagining of who would run well.

On Sunday, NASCAR is scheduled to visit a dirt track for the first time in 50 years. No one in the field has experience with Cup cars on this surface, so oddsmakers had to make assumptions based on drivers’ experience in other series. They were overly enthusiastic about a few drivers. Stewart Friesen opened the week with the fourth-best odds of +1400. He failed to impress the bookmakers in practice and fell to +2500.

With odds of +5000 Chris Windom and Shane Golobic were also ranked among the top 20 at the start of the week ahead of William Byron and Ryan Newman. Those positions swapped relative to one another. After practice, Byron’s odds improved from +7000 to +3300. Newman was changed from +6000 to +5000, while Windom (+9000 current odds) and Golobic (+10000) fell dramatically.

The top 10 in each of Friday’s practice largely favored drivers with predominately asphalt backgrounds. The line movement reflected this new information.

NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race Practice

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 26: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, Drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 26, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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Considered a longshot before practice with odds of +3500, Alex Bowman shocked the bookies with his fastest lap of 89.308 mph in the first practice and a second-best 89.135 mph lap in final practice. This caused a massive shift in odds as Bowman had +2200 points (or $22 worth of ROI) stripped from his payout. He landed at +1300, which ranked him fourth in the field of 39 drivers.

After practice, Bowman became the fifth-ranked driver in regard to this odds.

Ryan Blaney (+1500) paced final practice with a lap of 89.233 mph.

Byron also experienced a major line move from +7000 to +3300.

Denny Hamlin (+1800) and Joey Logano (+2200) had points shaved from their payout based on their practice speeds.

Hamlin swept the top five in practice. Logano was seventh fastest in practice 1 and fastest in Happy Hour.

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Dan Beaver handicaps NASCAR races for NBC Edge.