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The Driver I’m Loading Up on Now Before Practice and Qualifying for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Let me present you with three driver profiles. All three drivers are with the consensus top team for their respective manufacture, but none are considered the top driver for their team. 2022 Stats at all six 1.5-mile tri-ovals:

Driver A: 4 lead lap finishes, 4 Top 10s, 2 Top 5s, 1 Top 3, 1 win, 123 Laps Led, 71 Fastest Laps

Driver B: 3 lead lap finishes, 2 Top 10s, 1 Top 5, no Top 3 or wins, 83 Laps Led, 67 Fastest Laps

Driver C: 4 lead lap finishes, 4 Top 10s, 3 Top 5s, 1 Top 1, no wins, 81 Laps Led, 76 Fastest Laps

Which driver would you prefer?

What if I told you that Driver A missed one of the 2022 races? If you only look at the races they started the laps led and fastest laps statistics changes to look like this:

Driver A: 123 Laps Led, 71 Fastest Laps (No Change, that’s the point)

Driver B: 44 Laps Led, 40 Fastest Laps

Driver C: 81 Laps Led, 73 Fastest Laps

Now what if I told you could bet Driver A to win this weekend’s race at +2200, but the best price you could get Driver C is +1400 and the best price on Driver B is +1000. If you could only make one bet and wanted to maximize return, which driver would you bet to win? Would you assume one of those prices is wrong?

If you were following along with the stats I was posting on Twitter last night, you may have guessed that Driver A is Alex Bowman. Filling out this group, Driver B is Ryan Blaney and Driver C is Christopher Bell.

(Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

I already wrote up Bowman on Wednesday for a Top 10 at +110, which is still available at Barstool and BetRivers, but now I’m loading up for more on the #48. Maybe it’s because he is the fourth best driver at Hendrick Motorsports, but it seems the world is always sleeping on Bowman. Let’s dig into the data on why I’m not this weekend.

2022 Data on 1.5-mile tri-ovals

2022 1.5-mile tri-oval data sorted by Laps Led as a percentage of total 1.5-mile tri-oval Cup Series Laps Run

As we can see from the chart above, last year Bowman led the third most percentage of laps at 1.5-mile tri-ovals overall when considering the number of laps run in races he started. But it’s important to note that on lap 98 of the 334-lap race at Texas Bowman had an incident that junked his car. The incident put him multiple laps down and ultimately sidelined him for five races. Kansas is also the most similar track to Vegas, particularly Kansas 2 since Goodyear is bringing the same tire compound to Las Vegas as it did to Kansas 2. So, while data from Charlotte and Texas does matter, the most relevant data is from the races at Las Vegas and Kansas. With that in mind let’s look at what happens if we remove Charlotte and Texas from the data set.

Data on Las Vegas and Kansas Races

2022 data from Las Vegas 1/2 and Kansas 1/2 sorted by Laps Led as a percentage of total Cup Series Laps Run at those tracks.

When looking at just Las Vegas and Kansas races that he ran, Bowman now leads the field in percentage of laps run as the leader. In absolute laps led he has closed the gap between him and Ross Chastain to just 29 laps, and again, that’s with Bowman having missed the opportunity to lead any of the 267 laps at the second Las Vegas race.

In this modified data set Bowman spent 82.8% of the laps he could have run inside the Top 10 and 49.26% of the possible laps running inside the Top 5. This makes him the Cup Series leader in Top 10 and Top 5 percentage for the most relevant races. He is also second in percentage of laps run inside the Top 3, just a few percentage points behind Ross Chastain. The picture that emerges is that outside of the Texas race, where he just had a terrible day, Bowman was not just good at the 1.5-mile tri-ovals, he was really good at them.

Data from 2023 Auto Club

Moving to data that is not as predictive as the 2022 1.5-mile tri-oval data, but nevertheless still matters, if we look at last week’s race at Auto Club we see that Bowman had a strong start to the 2023 season. At Auto Club Bowman led 16 laps, which was 8% of the laps in the race. He also spent 143 laps (71.5%) running inside the Top 10, 63 laps (31.5%) running inside the Top 5, and 27 laps (13.5%) running inside the Top 3. He had an average running position of 7.48, good for fifth best. Clearly the 48 Team still has plenty of speed.

Summary of Bets

All things considered it simply doesn’t make any sense that Bowman is priced where he is. He had an incredibly strong 2022 season at the most relevant tracks and has started out the 2023 season strong. The best prices available on his HMS teammates are +800 (Larson), +1300 (Elliott), and +1600 (Bryon) to win. The best prices on Top 3 bets are +235, +375, and +500. This trend continues through the Top 5 and Top 10 prices. While there is no doubt that Bowman is the “worst” driver at HMS, at 1.5-mile tracks he has proven his abilities and this disparity in pricing doesn’t have a rational explanation.

As already mentioned above, the prices on the two drivers, Ryan Blaney and Chistopher Bell, from my initial driver comparison are also much shorter than Bowman’s. These three drivers had very similar performance on the 1.5-mile tri-ovals in 2022. Blaney and Bell also had similar speed to Bowman this past weekend before they both had incidents which took them out of contention. Once again, the disparity in pricing simply doesn’t make sense to me.

At the end of the day Hendrick Motorsports wasn’t the best at qualifying on the 1.5-mile tri-ovals in 2022. So, if you want to wait on Bowman to see how he practices I get it, but I don’t see his prices getting longer and so I’m willing to get my bets in now to ensure I don’t miss out on him at these long shot prices if he comes out and qualifies well. I have a total of 2.4 units down on Bowman this weekend spread out as follows:

.4u to win +2200 to win 8.8u – Barstool Sportsbook (bet to +2000)

.4u to finish Top 3 +650 to win 2.6u – Betway (bet to +600)

.6u to finish Top 5 +325 to win 1.95u – Betway (bet to +300)

1u to finish Top 10 +110 to win 1.1u – Barstool Sportsbook (bet to +100)

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