The rich racing history of NASCAR is intertwined with the history of sports betting, one that began with barstool bookkeeps and grandstand handshake wagers and evolved into an integral component of the sport itself.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, NASCAR has been a primary engine of sports betting promotion, quickly embracing and promoting its role in the sport.
Other major sports organizations have followed suit, but NASCAR has set the pace for adopting, accepting and normalizing legal sports betting.
Sports betting and NASCAR: A brief history
Betting is embedded into NASCAR, but it was previously conducted among fans in the grandstands, sportsbooks in Vegas or the corners of smoky watering holes. A handshake agreement between NASCAR race attendees. A nod to the book in the corner for a moneyline on Richard Petty. A lips-sealed, head-nod acknowledgment of its presence, with an understanding that it was an aspect of the sport conducted in the shadows.
Since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, a 1992 law codifying the illegality of sports betting in the US, sports betting is no longer an unspoken act. On the contrary, it has gone fully mainstream, with NASCAR at the forefront of the new frontier of sports betting in the US.
NASCAR’s sports betting partners
The overturning of PASPA has unlocked a sports betting revenue stream for major sports organizations. Partnerships with sports books have become a cornerstone for NASCAR in a post-PASPA society. NASCAR quickly got on board with the legal shift in sports betting, aligning itself in 2019 with Genius Sports, a sports data and tech company.
This partnership was forged to develop an official betting platform for NASCAR, featuring real-time odds and options for wagers with races already underway.
Since this initial partnership, NASCAR has entered into agreements with FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and others that have provided an injection of revenue but and amplified the sport’s visibility. Viewership grew 4% in 2022 from the previous year, and betting on the Daytona 500 increased 73% over the past year.
Auto racing fandom often has familial lineage – you get into it with your folks in your younger years or you simply never connect with it. Legal sports betting partnerships with some of the largest sportsbooks in the country have introduced a new generation to the excitement of NASCAR and made fans out of others who were never brought up in a racing household.
Sportsbooks develop unique wagering markets for NASCAR
Even non-bettors are familiar with the headline wager types – think moneylines, over/unders and parlays. With partnerships with online sportsbooks, NASCAR has positioned itself in the market through specific bet types unique to auto racing.
When looking to place a bet on a NASCAR race, you can consider several options. Some of the most popular bet types are:
- race winner;
- top 10 finish;
- podium finish;
- fastest laps;
- number of cautions; and
- head-to-head wagers.
Head-to-head wagering, a unique betting market on the rise among auto racing fans, allows bettors to bet on a rivalry between two drivers that is selected by the sportsbook. Including a “spread” through a plus/minus positional difference creates the added excitement of wagering on one driver to beat another and the positional difference between the two.
Unique markets such as this differentiate NASCAR from the other major sports and will continue to evolve as more states legalize sports betting.
Where is NASCAR wagering most popular?
That auto racing thrives in the South is an understatement. However, the region has also been the slowest to adopt legal sports betting. As such, knowing which state will ultimately be NASCAR’s largest sports betting market is at least a few years off. Not until Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and a few other southern states legalize sports betting (if they do) will we have an accurate picture of the NASCAR sports betting landscape.
In the interim, many have tackled which state is the most NASCAR obsessed. The methodology used typically involves tracking Google search data by state for NASCAR drivers, races and tracks. Using that data helps paint a picture of what the NASCAR sports betting market will eventually look like and, more importantly, whether North Carolina will sit atop it.
The three states – and the legal status of sports betting – that regularly top NASCAR state popularity lists are:
- North Carolina (likely legalizing online sports betting this year; retail sports betting legal at tribal venues);
- West Virginia (legal online and retail sports betting); and
- South Carolina (no legal sports betting).
It probably comes as no surprise to North Carolinians that they top this list. Charlotte is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte Motor Speedway and many NASCAR racing teams. The state has also produced the most NASCAR champions in the country, including Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty. Historians cite North Carolina’s Piedmont clay as the original racing surface of the stock cars that predated NASCAR.
West Virginia, which prides itself in being the NASCAR state despite not hosting a NASCAR race or having an active NASCAR track, also appears at or near the top on many lists.
South Carolina, which typically comes in just under West Virginia, is home to Darlington Speedway. Referred to by fans hauntingly as the “Lady In Black” and the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” Darlington’s shape (an uneven oval) gives it a hallowed position in the hearts of NASCAR fans.
With North Carolina sports betting legislation awaiting Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature, the Tar Heel State looks likely to vault to the top of NASCAR’s legal sports betting markets. Fans of NASCAR will then be able to take advantage of a multitude of new-player bonuses and top sports betting promos in NC as operators vie for the attention of state bettors.