AP Photo/Nick Wass

How Dover handled opening day of at-track betting on NASCAR

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DOVER, Del. – Inside a nondescript white tent about 50 feet from the Miles the Monster statute, Dover International Speedway entered a new era Saturday of betting at track – a NASCAR track.

Mimicking the betting windows often seen at horse racing tracks, the austere setup in the Dover FanZone just outside the track entrance featured a folding table with several sheets of odds for the Xfinity and Cup races and an electronic station with an attendant who took fans’ cash and punched in their bets.

Dover is the first NASCAR track to offer an on-site location for betting, which encompasses all professional sports after Delaware became one of the first states to offer sports wagering after a Supreme Court ruling in May.

John Hensley, the general manager and senior director of horse racing and sports betting at Dover Downs Casino (which is adjacent to the 1-mile oval), said there was an encouraging stream of fans moving through the kiosk during a three-hour stretch after its 9 a.m. opening.

Hensley said the most action had been on Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, who will start 1-2 in the race after the lineup was set by points standings because of a qualifying rainout.

Odds sheets are displayed for betting on other sports in the kiosk at Dover International Speedway. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The NASCAR betting was split about 50-50 between picking a race winner or making a proposition bet (such as whether a driver would finish in the top five or top 10, the number of the winning car, the number of drivers to finish on the lead lap, most laps led, etc.).

“We’re doing all we can to explain it, educate them about what’s available,” Hensley said. “Everyone assumes you can bet the race winner. Then they come and look at this longer list of props you have, and then they start looking at cautions.

“The over/under on the amount of cautions is 7½, and the questions we’re getting speaks to how educated the NASCAR fan is. They immediately say, ‘Does that count the stage cautions?’ Every single person, that’s their first question.”

A list of proposition bets being offered for Sunday’s race.

The over/under bet on the number of cautions does NOT include stage cautions, only for the “natural” yellows that occur during the race.

Sharp-eyed fans also might have asked why Kasey Kahne was listed at 500-1 (Kahne remains sidelined at Dover; Hensley said he was removed from the line after the opening).

Las Vegas-based William Hill is handling the NASCAR oddsmaking, and Hensley said the sports book is offering more prop bets than a typical race weekend (including when NASCAR is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which has no betting windows).

But the volume of options isn’t expected to have a major impact on the handle. The Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal reported that $60,000 has been wagered on NASCAR since sports betting opened in the state on June 5, which accounts for only 0.2 percent of $39.77 million in sports betting.

“That’s true, and that’s typical in the Nevada environment anyway,” Hensley said. “The four major sports do the bulk of the interest. We’ve done a good percentage of that $60,000 already this week with the event being here and with a little bit of push from what it’s had.

“The jury is out on how much from a monetary standpoint, but it’s a great tool. It’s a wonderful enhancement. Every little bit helps. It’ll be interesting to see where all the major sports and NASCAR go in the future.”

Matchups offered for Sunday’s race (betting on which driver would finish higher).

Cup betting was on hold around noon Saturday – William Hill pulls down the lines during practice and qualifying, which are monitored from Vegas to adjust the odds accordingly – but several bettors in their early 20s were milling about the tent and betting on the Xfinity race and other sports.

Bradley Saucier, a 21-year-old from Maine, had put money on Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier to win in Xfinity and planned “to probably put the whole house on Kyle Larson” to win Sunday (at 13-2). The over on the number of leaders (6½) also seemed attractive.

“It’s changed the experience quite a bit,” said Saucier, who also bet college football, baseball and hockey. “It definitely makes it feel like I have part of the race. I’m more part of it when I have a horse in the race.”

His friend Joshua Merrill, who attends several races annually with Saucier, bet Elliott Sadler to win Saturday and also planned a few parlay bets for Sunday. “Sitting at the race and having money on it makes you pay more attention to what’s going on,” Merrill said.

Travis Parks laid $5 on Justin Allgaier to win at 4/1 and also was betting the winning car number Sunday (taking Nos. 00 to 21 like a roulette wheel), as well as a few parlay and prop bets on SEC football games. “I thought this would be just racing,” Parks said. “It’s like a mini-casino.”

The NASCAR rulebook doesn’t explicitly prohibit drivers or team members from betting. NASCAR president Steve Phelps said before Sunday’s race that “specific langauge” would be added to the 2019 rulebook to clarify its gambling policy.

NASCAR betting is capped at $1,000 on race winners and $500 for proposition bets, and Hensley downplayed the notion that a team member might attempt to influence a race outcome because of betting.

“With the risk manager setting limits, the risk and return of trying to fix something is so small,” Hensley said.

Roger Penske was ready for his close-up in popular commercial

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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MONTEREY, California – Roger Penske is the only team owner in auto racing history who has 18 “Baby Borg” Trophies in his possession for his team’s record 18 wins in the Indianapolis 500.

Perhaps his next trophy should be an Emmy.

Penske took part in a commercial along with 103rd Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and one of his NASCAR Cup drivers, Ryan Blaney. The commercial was shot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 7 while NASCAR was in town for the Brickyard 400.

The premise of the commercials is a takeoff on the 2006 comedy, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with Blaney playing the Ricky Bobby role and Pagenaud playing the Jean Girard role.

The commercial was shot by NBC to promote its coverage of the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series and concludes with Penske stepping in between the two drivers, demanding them to, “Go out there and win races.”

Penske delivered the line perfectly and in just three takes.

“It took me about five minutes,” Penske told NBCSports.com. “They made it very easy for me. We let the guys do all of the hard work. It was fun for me to do. I saw it, and I didn’t make a fool out of myself.

“I’m ready for the next commercial.”

Penske’s ability to deliver his lines perfectly impressed NBC Sports Group President of Programing Jon Miller.

“I assume he’s got his SAG card,” Miller told NBCSports.com. “He has certainly been in front of the camera enough, and he’s quite an ambassador for the sport, so we were not at all surprised by that.”

NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood was also highly impressed with Penske’s ability to turn into an actor in front of the camera.

“We were thrilled that he agreed to do it,” Flood told NBC Sports.com. “It’s one of those special things and the kind of guy he is to jump on board and make it even bigger because we had a ‘Plan B’ if Roger couldn’t do it, and when we got the confirmation, we knew we had something special that was going to happen.

“Roger Penske did the ad with two of his drivers that we shot at the Brickyard last week that got out there. A lot of fun, a lot of great response to it, and that’s things we couldn’t have done in the past. I think that’s part of us leaning in as NBC in trying to grow all of motorsports, and it’s important that every form of racing gets attention, and that’s what we’re pushing, as you know all too well.”

Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, who will take a 41-point lead over Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi into Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix, also was complimentary of his team owner.

“Wow, I was impressed,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com. “First of all, how did they get him to do a cameo? That was cool. And he nailed it.

“The pressure on Simon and Blaney to nail it, after Roger does it in only three takes? Wow, the pressure was really on them to deliver their lines.”

Pagenaud thought Penske’s first take was the best.

“It didn’t take long for Roger to deliver his line, he was on top of it,” Pagenaud told NBCSports.com. “NBCSN was very excited about the idea. IndyCar CEO Mark Miles made sure we were able to get into Gasoline Alley early that day. It was the Saturday of the Brickyard 400 and it was early, but Roger was probably up since 2 a.m. I’m sure, so it wasn’t early for him.

“It was good, the script was fun and well done. I forced my French and Blaney being the perfect American NASCAR driver and Roger just being himself was just perfect. It shows personality between NASCAR and INDYCAR. NBC is doing such a great job showing both fans on both sides what is going in and it helps everybody get interested in both sports.”

Penske was asked if that is how he normally talks to his drivers in a prerace situation to fire them up.

“That’s not the normal, daily message, but that’s how it helped those two guys get going,” Penske said. “I think NBC has done a great job in all cases on IndyCar. The continuity of having the same partner has made a huge difference. The talent knows the drivers. They know the situation. Guys like Paul Tracy and the experience of Leigh Diffey and the whole group has done a great job.

“It’s about good racing. We have good teams. Lots of competition, new drivers and date equity. And it’s attracting young people.”

Penske believes the addition of NBC Sports to the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, including the season’s final race on the NBC, has been a big boost to the series.

“Any time you are on network is great,” Penske said. “It’s great for the sponsors, the notoriety for the team and the drivers is very important for all of us as we finish up the season. It’s going to be a great weekend, and I hope we can continue the movement we’ve had and the momentum we’ve had coming up to the last weekend.”

Richmond winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing — It was a 1-2-3-4 finish until Erik Jones’ car failed inspection. Still the team scored a 1-2-3 finish and claimed its fourth consecutive win on a short track with Martin Truex Jr.’s triumph. Don’t forget, the organization also won Friday’s Xfinity race with Christopher Bell.

Ryan Newman His fifth-place finish tied his best result of the year and was his third consecutive top-10 showing. He was encouraged by the team running toward the front and noted: “You take away those four Gibbs cars, we were racing for the win. I know it doesn’t work that way, but if they would have had one bad meeting (incident) we would’ve been in the hunt.” Still, Newman moved into a transfer spot heading into this coming weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Brad KeselowskiHe finished fourth and was the only driver outside of Joe Gibbs Racing to lead Saturday’s race.

Bubba Wallace His 12th-place finish was his third top-15 result in the last five races. He had one top-15 finish in the first 23 races of the season.

Front Row Motorsports — All three of its cars placed 21st or better, the first time the team has accomplished that feat this season. David Ragan was 19th, rookie Matt Tifft placed 20th and Michael McDowell was 21st.

LOSERS

Erik Jones He was feeling good about his fourth-place finish that put him within three points of the final transfer spot to the next round only to later find out that his car was disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Now he’s 45 points out of the final transfer spot and is essentially in a must-win situation. He faces being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for a second year in a row.

William Byron Got lapped in the final circuits before the end of each stage and also had a pit road speeding penalty. That led to a season-worst 25th-place finish. He holds the final transfer spot to the second round by two points on Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman heading to the Roval.

Brad Keselowski bumped up to fourth, but JGR domination still ‘not good news’

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Brad Keselowski ended Saturday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Richmond Raceway with what he thought was a fifth-place finish.

About an hour later though, Keselowski was moved up one position to fourth place after original fourth-place finisher Erik Jones was disqualified after his car failed post-race inspection.

Still, gaining one extra finishing position didn’t make the 2012 NASCAR Cup champion happy because of Joe Gibbs Racing’s domination in the second race of the playoffs – even with Jones’ DQ.

(How JGR finished is) definitely not good news,” Keselowski said. “We’ve got work to do. (JGR is) really strong and we’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads-up, but we threw everything we had at them.

We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

MORE: Results, points after 2nd race of Cup playoffs at Richmond

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

Keselowski tweeted a few hours after the race that he didn’t “take no pleasure & seek no treasure from another man’s loss,” referring to Jones’ DQ.


Even so, Keselowski took some consolation from his overall performance.

We led 80-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win,” he said.

Keselowski mistakenly said in a post-race interview that he had joined Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in advancing to the Round of 12 two weeks from now due to his points in the standings.

Yeah, we’re locked into the next round,” Keselowski said. “That feels good. I’m proud of that effort.”

Actually, Keselowski left Richmond two points shy of being locked into the next playoff round. That will have to come next Sunday at Charlotte’s Roval.

There’s still work to do not only for Keselowski’s car, but also those of his teammates — Joey Logano finished 11th and Ryan Blaney 17th — to counter JGR’s domination.

But what exactly has to be done is a question mark, Keselowski said.

Honestly, I don’t know,” Keselowski said. “They’ve got all the secrets so we need to find some more secrets.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch sees progress in runner-up finish at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — After his fiery comments last week led some to be critical of his attitude toward slower drivers, Kyle Busch was calmer after his runner-up performance to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Busch led a race-high 202 of 400 laps but lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate with 26 laps to go and had to settle for second place.

“We put up a valiant effort,” Busch said.

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car

While his winless drought starched to 14 races, Busch noted that the performance was a step forward for the No. 18 Toyota team.

“I know we’re capable of it, the team is capable of it,” said Busch, who clinched a spot in the second round with his 54-point night. “Just stupid things have been biting us this year and we put it all together tonight. I didn’t speed on pit road, pit crew did a good job, our car was fast and we made the most of our effort.”

Whether it was Busch hitting the wall (or another car) at Las Vegas, an engine failure at Indianapolis, the pit crew losing the lead at Darlington or a speeding penalty at Watkins Glen (and hitting cars), Busch and the team have been off in recent races despite often having the speed to challenge for wins. In the process, Busch has lost the chance to collect many more playoff points.

He was strong enough Saturday night to win the second stage, giving him his third stage win in the last seven races.

But Busch didn’t have enough at the end to keep Truex behind him.

“We ran OK,” Busch said. “(Truex) could follow closer than I could, and he was better on the long run than I was. Why? Maybe I pushed my tires too hard there at the last stint at the beginning trying to stay ahead of (Denny Hamlin), which gave (Truex) the opportunity to kind of save his stuff and roll around and attack later.”