The Arizona sports betting circuit is still young and thriving. And NASCAR is primed and ready to capitalize on it.
It was yet another successful weekend in the desert for NASCAR following the Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway. The race ended with Chase Briscoe capturing his first-career Cup Series win. It was the first time the race ran since Arizona’s legalization of sports betting.
Joe Solosky, NASCAR’s managing director of sports betting, spoke with PlayAZ about how the organization expects to impact the future of AZ sports betting and how it can continue to expand in the Grand Canyon State.
NASCAR, Barstool setting the pace
In July 2021, NASCAR announced that Barstool would become the exclusive sportsbook of Phoenix Raceway. The Barstool mobile app went live shortly after the state’s September 2021 launch of legal sports wagering.
Everything came together just in time for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Solosky says the partnership in Arizona with Barstool has created a lot of energy around betting. He adds that the momentum carried over into this past weekend’s Ruoff Mortgage 500.
“I’ve spent a lot of time at their booth over the past two days, and it’s definitely full. People are either signing up for the first time for Barstool or they’re placing bets on NASCAR because the offering is so wide. Even wider than it was in November.”
On the topic of a retail sports betting space at the track, Solosky stated it is a goal. He says one of the partnership’s objectives with Barstool Sportsbook is to have a physical presence at Phoenix Raceway.
“On the track side, we’re working on getting more events here, whether it’s concerts, festivals, etc., so that there is more traffic throughout the year. So I think in a couple of years down the line, within a five-block radius, there is going to be a spot here at Phoenix Raceway for a retail environment and retail sportsbook branded Barstool.”
Sports betting + NASCAR hitting the pedal to the metal
As most know, sports betting has only recently begun to shed this negative stigma in our society. Solosky says it wasn’t until 2019 that NASCAR started to embrace the sports betting culture. But since then, NASCAR has been all-in.
“Integrity was the first deal (partnership) we signed as a league in the sports betting space,” said Solosky. “From there, we found a data supplier. We found a partnership with responsible gambling as well for our fans. And then, over the last two years, we’ve signed four different sportsbooks to be partners of ours.”
Diving into the sports betting world has its challenges. However, Solosky says it is a tremendous opportunity to grow their fanbase.
“What I like about this role is that I’m encouraged to be aggressive about how we approach it because it’s ultimately a way for us to get new fans,” said Solosky. “By exposing that sports betting audience to a compelling NASCAR offering so that they might watch it on TV and then come to the track. And once you come to the track, you’re locked in.”
Soloskys says that so far in 2022, the growth of NASCAR betting has been insane. He says there has been more money bet on the first two Cup Series races of the year than all of February and March in 2021 combined.
Betting on NASCAR in Arizona
NASCAR betting may not be something that the casual sports bettor considers. To help change that perception, Solosky says there is an effort to turn customers toward featured matchups to help keep them engaged longer.
“We think there is an importance to getting away from outright winner and more on the matchup side. So you watch the race from a different perspective, and you don’t tune out when your driver maybe doesn’t make it through Stage 1 or Stage 2.”
Betting on an outright winner in NASCAR can be a crapshoot. In the Ruoff Mortgage 500, engine trouble took betting favorite Kyle Larson out of the race. And the eventual winner Chase Briscoe had some of the longest odds to win at +10,000.
Solosky adds that NASCAR is continuing to grow in the sports betting world. One of the following steps is to find a way to incorporate traditional betting like moneyline, point spread, and over/under into NASCAR.
“The featured matchup betting and head-to-head betting really lends itself to that,” said Solosky. “With the head-to-head betting, you have moneyline between the two drivers. You can have a point spread with position differential.”
While looking to the future, he hopes that NASCAR and sportsbooks can look at an over/under for total points a driver gains in a race.
Another option he suggests is positions gained following the first lap. He says it can help NASCAR betting look exactly like your betting card for NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL betting.