Tips for Betting on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship

By Nick Sterling in NASCAR
| September 3, 2021 8:46 am PDT

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series will begin their playoffs this weekend. That makes it an optimal time to place your bets for which driver will win the championship.

In order to make a bet, you must be familiar with the format.

The Cup Series playoffs consist of 16 drivers and takes place over 10 races. The first round (Round of 16) features three races. After those three races, the playoff field will go down to 12. They follow the same format for the Round of 12 then Round of 8 before we have four drivers in the Championship 4 race.

Those four drivers will have equal points at Phoenix and whichever driver finishes highest wins the championship.

Now that you’re more familiar with the process, let’s check out my top betting tips for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

Which Drivers Have the Most Playoff Points?

Playoff points are extremely important when it comes to betting on the NASCAR playoffs. Drivers earn playoff points through the regular season via race wins, stage wins, and placing top 10 in points following the regular season.

Kyle Larson stands out as one of the best bets to win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

Why? Because his 52 playoff points are 28 more than second-place Ryan Blaney.

Larson won the most races, stages, and captured the regular-season title. He immediately goes into the playoffs as the favorite because of that.

The playoff points carry over to each round. So even if Larson struggled in the Round of 16, he would start the Round of 12 as the points leader because the points reset by each round.

It would take a bad performance in the Round of 8 for Larson not to make the Championship 4.

If you don’t have a lot of playoff points, it’s tough to make the Championship 4 without winning a race. A good example of this is Alex Bowman last season.

Bowman entered the playoffs with nine playoff points, 13 behind fourth-place Joey Logano.

Bowman had a very successful playoff run that saw him score three, top-five finishes and seven top 10 finishes. He scored the second-most points in the playoffs last season but he missed out on the Championship 4 because of his lack of playoff points.

NASCAR implemented playoff points into the sport in 2017. Since then, no driver has come from farther back than 37 points to win the championship.

Let’s look at where the last four champions ranked entering the playoffs.

  • 2017: Martin Truex Jr.: 1st (+20)
  • 2018: Joey Logano: 6th (-36)
  • 2019: Kyle Busch: 1st (+15)
  • 2020: Chase Elliott: 5th (-37)

It’s possible to come from behind but it usually takes a win in the Round of 8. That’s how both Logano and Chase Elliott made it to the Championship 4 in their respective year’s. Without the win last season, Elliott doesn’t make it to the Championship 4.

If you’re keeping track at home, seven drivers are within 37 points of Larson. The championship may very well come from that group.

A win can certainly overcome a big points deficit but do you really want to rely on that? Maybe or maybe not, but that leads me to my next tip.

Bet on NASCAR Drivers Who Know How to Win

The way the playoffs are set up is a win can advance you to the next round. Michael McDowell enters the playoffs with the longest odds and there’s little chance he advances to the Round of 12. If he somehow pulled off a victory in the Round of 16, then he’d advance.

Kurt Busch somewhat pulled off this feat last season.

He entered the Round of 12 last in the playoff standings but he found himself in position when a late caution shuffled the field. Busch took advantage and won the first race of the season in the Round of 12.

That’s why I’m high on someone like Joey Logano. Despite entering the playoffs with four straight finishes outside the top 20, Logano is one of my sleepers to win the title.

Logano only has one win this season and ranks ninth in the standings. However, his five stage wins are tied for second and his 409 laps led rank fourth. He hasn’t been as consistent as others this season but he is a threat to win at any time this season. We’ve seen Logano rise to the occasion in the playoffs.

In 2018, he came into the Round of 8 fifth in the points. He had just one win in the season before the round but he led 100 laps in the previous race. Logano went on to win Martinsville and the rest is history.

Last season, he pulled off a similar feat, winning the opening race of the Round of 8 at Kansas.

Prior to the win, Logano had three finishes outside the top 10 in the playoffs. He is a driver that is capable of turning it on at any time.

That’s why I value someone like Logano over William Byron.

Byron has more top-five finishes, top 10 finishes, a better average finish, and finished ahead of Logano in the regular-season standings. However, Byron has just one win this season and has led 100 less laps than Logano. While I do think Byron is close to winning, it’s hard to count on potential for the playoffs.

Winning means everything in the playoffs. If you’re a driver further back, it’s much more important to win than to run consistently.

Value 550 Horsepower vs. 750 Horsepower Package

The 550-hp high-downforce and 750-hp low downforce package is a big tell of which drivers will excel where.

The playoffs will consist of six races using the 750 package and three with the 550 package. Talladega uses a 450 package.

Some drivers have really focused on one package while neglecting the other package. Martin Truex Jr. is the biggest example of this.

Truex won this season at Phoenix, Martinsville, and Phoenix. All tracks use the 750 package and the Cup Series will run at all three tracks in the playoffs. That includes the Championship 4 race at Phoenix.

He also has Richmond to look forward to. He may not have won there earlier this season but he has dominated at the track over the last few years.

Race Finishing Position Laps Led (of 400)
Richmond 2 (2016) 3rd 193
Richmond 1 (2017) 10th 0
Richmond 2 (2017) 20th 198
Richmond 1 (2018) 14th 121
Richmond 2 (2018) 3rd 163
Richmond 1 (2019) 1st 186
Richmond 2 (2019) 1st 109
Richmond 1 (2020) 2nd 0
Richmond 1 (2021) 5th 107

It’ll be interesting to see how that factors in with two 550 hp tracks in the Round of 8.

On the flip, Truex’s teammate, Kyle Busch, has been great on 550 tracks and just okay on 750 hp tracks.

Busch has the best average finish on 1.5-mile tracks this season. That includes a win at Kansas and four top-five finishes. Those tracks don’t even include his win and second-place finish in the two Pocono races.

That’ll be good for the playoffs with races at 1.5-mile tracks like Las Vegas, Kansas, and Texas.

Unfortunately, Busch has struggled on the 750 hp ovals. Among the eight oval tracks that use that package, Busch has just the 19th best average finish. The only silver lining is two of his better 750 tracks are Darlington and Richmond.

There are drivers like Denny Hamlin and William Byron who have excelled with both packages. However, their lack of wins really put their championship hopes in question.

How the drivers perform with each package is definitely something you need to be mindful of when betting on the champion.

Pay Attention to Recent Track Success

This is similar to the 550 vs 750 package section, but this more focuses on individual tracks.

The best way to value how successful a driver will be in the playoffs is to look at their past success at the track. However, it’s important not to look too far back. Kevin Harvick is a great example of this.

Harvick won eight races in 2018 and nine races in 2020. In those seasons, he was great virtually everywhere. Harvick has been consistent this season but he hasn’t won a race or a stage. That’s why he enters the playoffs 16th in points.

I know Atlanta isn’t a playoff track but it’s a good example of why you should value 2021 performance.

Coming into the season, Harvick had led over 100 laps in seven of the last nine Atlanta races. That stretch included a pair of wins. This season, Harvick failed to lead a lap in either Atlanta race and finished 10th and 11th, respectively.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Kyle Larson. Larson has been dominant this season, winning five races and leading the standings. We’ve seen him excel on some of his worst tracks in terms of average finish.

Earlier this season, Larson finished fifth at Martinsville. It was just the third time in 13 career starts he has finished better than 14th at the track.

Larson dominated the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte to pick up his second victory of the season.

Check out his Charlotte stats prior to the victory.

  • 11 starts
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 4 top 10 finishes
  • 20 laps led
  • 18.9 average finish

Because of that, I expect Larson to run strong at the Charlotte Roval. He has finished 25th and 13th in his two starts at the track, respectively, but Larson has been one of the best drivers on road courses this season with two wins.

It’s okay to look farther back than 2020 or 2021 but you can’t go too far back. Bettors have to value 2021 stats over everything because they will give you the most accurate prediction.

Betting on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship

If you feel comfortable enough, I recommend betting on the NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

These NASCAR Cup Series Championship betting tips should give you a good idea of what to look out for over the next 10 races.

The playoff will be interesting to follow and placing a bet early on only makes it more fun to follow. If you do choose to bet, one more parting tip is to use the best apps for betting on NASCAR.

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