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Know Your Book’s House Rules – Shortened Race Edition

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On Sunday, for the second time in less than a year, NASCAR bettors were sent into a frenzy trying to understand how a ruling by NASCAR would effect their bet slips. On June 20th the entire Chicago region was facing “moderate” or “severe” drought conditions. But mother nature has not been nice to NASCAR this year. So the fact that the Xfinity and Cup Series were scheduled to race on the streets of Chicago on July 1st and 2nd should have told us that rain would be coming.

On Saturday storms interrupted the Xfinity race two laps short of the half way mark. With ongoing lightning strikes NASCAR decided to postpone the finish until Sunday morning. Mother nature wasn’t having any of it though. Sunday morning just as gates were opening lightning forced NASCAR to delay again. The race would never resume. Rain continued to pour down, in 24 hours Chicago had five inches of rain dumped on it. For context, the city’s average for the month of July is three and a half inches.

With the rain coming down and the need to start the Cup race as close to on time as possible, NASCAR resulted to an unprecedented option. NASCAR called the race 2 laps short of the half way point, declaring Cole Custer the winner. Chaos ensued.

Ultimately as I’ll explain, books all paid out the official results NASCAR announced. In doing so the books appear to have complied with their rules. NASCAR is a smaller market than any other sport. This means that unfortunately the rules for NASCAR bets are often not as clear as other sports. This was also an issue last year when Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were disqualified after Pocono. So, lets take a dive into the rules in play.

NACAR’s Rules on Ending Races

To understand why the decision to call the race early was such a shock to bettors, we need to first understand what the rules regarding shortened races are. The most casual fans might not know the rule, but most regular fans are familiar with the broadcast talking about how far a race has to go to “be official.” If asked, most fans would tell you to be official the lead lap cars need to complete 50% of the advertised laps, or, if the end of stage two is before this, to complete the second stage.

But in this case NASCAR invoked a rule that few fans, myself included, were not familiar with before today. The rule “Except in Rare Instances” or EIRI, gives NASCAR vast discretion. Officials may take any action necessary to protect NASCAR’s interests.

So, it is clear that NASCAR has the authority to end the race as it did. But what does that mean for bettors? As it turns out it means that what NASCAR says goes, period. I’ll eat some crow up front and say this was NOT what I expected. As soon as the race was over, before I had reviewed any rules, I stated that I though bets would be void.

But even I’m wrong sometimes, so while I eat some crow lets get into the rules.

Sportsbook Rules on NASCAR Completing Races

Unfortunately, when it comes to the rules on NASCAR, the sportsbooks rules are not as specific as they are for other sports. Lets start with a clear rule. At Caesars, for bets on baseball, in most circumstances a game must go at least four and a half innings for bets to be action. This rule is standard across the industry.

This level of specificity is lacking for NASCAR, as is detailed below. If NASCAR did not have an EIRI rule, this would be fine. Bettors would know that a race needed to go half way or through the end of Stage 2. With the EIRI rule though, bettors are left in limbo. They cannot know before a race how far the race must go for bets to be action. The minimum length of a race is thus an unknown.

Before we get into the specific books rules and results from Sunday I want to take a moment to thank all my twitter followers for flooding me with tickets. I sent out the call on Sunday for screen shots of bet slips and y’all didn’t disappoint. So thank you for making this next section possible.

Caesars

At Caesars, the rules do not establish how much of the race must be completed for bets to be action. The rules do contemplate shortened races. However, the rules state only that if race officials shorten a race, bets will be action if officials declare a winner.

True to this rule, on Sunday Caesars graded bets on a race that few, if any fans, would have thought was official.

DraftKings

While not favorable to bettors the rule at DraftKings appears clear. If NASCAR officials declare a winner, no matter how many laps have been completed, that winner will be used to grade bets. On Sunday DraftKings graded bets as such.

FanDuel

FanDuel’s rules are quite awkward, but ultimately the rule is clear. As with Caesars and DraftKings, as long as NASCAR declares a winner, that result will be used to grade bets, no matter how long the race has gone.

As one would expect based on this rule and NASCAR’s invocation of EIRI, on Sunday FanDuel graded bets based on the 25 lap results.

Bottom Line

Unlike rules for other sports which require events to go a prescribed length for bets to be action, the rules for NASCAR bets state that if NASCAR declares an event official, those results will be used to grade bets. NASCAR’s rules normally require a race to go half the advertised distance or through stage 2 to be official. However, NASCAR’s EIRI rule allows for a race to be called early if NASCAR deems it to be in the best interest of the sport. Based on the apparently unlimited discretion NASCAR has, I’ve personally appealed losing tickets, arguing they should be void. I’m not optimistic about the outcome though. The rules are clear books will follow NASCAR’s declaration regarding winners.

The good news is that this is likely a once in a lifetime event. Unlike the disqualifications following the 2022 Pocono race, this sort of situation is highly unlikely to come up again. So unlike the aftermath of that event, where I shifted bets to DraftKings given the books favorable policy on grading DQ’s, this result won’t change where I bet. Even if I was concerned about this happening again the books rules appear to be uniform on this matter. Still, its another reminder that you should always read the house rules before betting.