NASCAR

NASCAR Betting Guide: Auto Club 400

Denny Hamlin and all of Joe Gibbs Racing struggled in Las Vegas, but that seems to be baked into his betting odds for Fontana. Who else should we look to bet this weekend?

When you're betting a race in Fontana, it's different than a track like Daytona.

In Daytona, the cars race in a pack pretty much the entire race, and the difference in speed between one car and another is pretty minimal.

In Fontana, the draft isn't a factor. Cars can get strung out, and if you want to be on the plus side of that string, you've gotta have some serious steam under the hood.

This means our pool of drivers who could potentially win the race is much smaller than it would be at other tracks. If you don't have that top-end speed, we'll see ya next week, partner. You're not getting that checkered flag.

It also means we should be less inclined to bet longshots than we were in Daytona, and even a bit moreso than we were in Las Vegas last week. We'll want to stick mostly to those with shorter odds who may check in even as just slight values.

With that in mind, here are some bets you could target based on the outright numbers at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Joey Logano +6500

It's the third race of the 2020 Cup Series season, and it's the third where Joey Logano tops my model prior to practice and qualifying. It worked out last week, and there's still a bit of value in this number.

Speed will not be an issue for Logano. He won the first Michigan race last year (another two-mile, non-drafting track) and was runner-up here in Fontana as well as Indianapolis. Logano added a fifth-place average running position in the second Michigan race and never had an average running position outside the top 10 in six races at this track type.

We should de-emphasize track history most places, and that's especially true for the tracks the Cup Series visits just once per year like Fontana. With that said, Logano does have plus form here with four straight top-fives and a top-five average running position in three of those races. Despite the win last week, Logano still holds the best number among the favorites.

Ryan Blaney +1200

Ryan Blaney has almost won each of the first two races this year. He was a couple feet short in the Daytona 500, and an ill-timed caution took away a shot at a win in Las Vegas. We should keep buying Blaney while he remains outside of the elite odds tier.

Blaney is Logano's teammate, so we can rest assured he has the speed to compete. Blaney had four top-10s in the six races at non-drafting superspeedways last year, and he had a seventh-place average running position in one of the exceptions. Included in the impressive runs was a fifth-place finish last year in Fontana with a seventh-place average running position.

Prior to practice and qualifying, Blaney is third in my model behind Logano and Kyle Busch (+475). It's likely higher on him than it should be, but his strength this year makes that optimism seem warranted. If Blaney does manage to win, his numbers will likely be shorter the rest of the year, so it makes sense to be in on him until he cracks victory lane.

Denny Hamlin +1200

It may be wise to hold off on all Joe Gibbs Racing cars until after practice Friday afternoon. They were brutal in practice prior to Las Vegas, and none of them really popped during the race. It does seem, though, like some of those concerns are baked into Denny Hamlin's number here.

Hamlin is another driver who feasted on this track type last year, especially in the second half. In three races on non-drafting superspeedways there, he won once, was runner-up in another, and finished sixth in the third. Hamlin's average running position was in the top five twice, so his overall second-half dominance clearly translated to the high-speed venues.

The woes of JGR last week are a good justification to back off of Busch and Martin Truex Jr. (+725) given that their numbers are much shorter. But Hamlin's only 12/1, and he has been white hot for a while now. That number works before we see cars on the track, and you might want to sniff him even at a shorter number if the Toyotas show life in practice.

Cole Custer +11000

This very much violates the "no longshots" rule discussed in the open. But Custer's a bit of a different case because the speed isn't in question here, making him an exception with some sneaky viability.

Custer's driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. That means he's teammates with Kevin Harvick (+520), who won races in both Indianapolis and Michigan last year. The four SHR drivers last year combined for seven top-fives on this track type, and two of them came from Custer's predecessor in the No. 41, Daniel Suarez (+17500).

Custer proved he could wheel it around this track last year by winning the Fontana race in the Xfinity Series, besting Busch by 1.927 seconds. If you want more experienced longshots with some speed, Matt DiBenedetto (+5000) and Austin Dillon (+7000) have the juice to compete. But Custer's team strength allows us to swing for the fences at a track where doing so is generally discouraged.