|Brad Keselowski goes for sixth win of season and sweep at Loudon, NH|
What do you make of him? Is he a villain? Or is he the breath of fresh air some have waited for in this era of Jimmie Johnson dominance?
It wasn't too long ago he was wetting his beak in the top series and earning the nickname 'Brad Crash-a-lot-ski' from a few prominent Cup drivers thanks to his ultra-aggressive driving and some early mistakes. But now he's starting to repeat 2012, a year he won Chicago to kick off the Chase en route to winning the title.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has made a major adjustment on the odds to win Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway just because of what we have seen recently with Keselowski. And it's not about winning two consecutive races coming in, but rather winning two consecutive races on a specific type of track.
He's been posted at 7-to-2 odds, which is a major price reduction from what we've seen all season, where three to four drivers have been favorites in the 5-to-1 range. At one time, four drivers were considered equal almost everywhere. By posting Keselowski so low, it's saying that Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano are only secondary figures and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford should be in victory lane for a series-leading sixth time this season.
Because New Hampshire's flat 1-mile layout requires almost the same set-up as Richmond or Phoenix, we can group them all together, and the cool thing about it being this late in the season is that there are four races of data to scroll through.
The best handicapping practice for this race is to look at what's happened in the last two events on the similar tracks. So let's see: Keselowski led 383 of the 400 laps at Richmond on Sept. 6 and then on July 13 he led 138 laps en route to a win at New Hampshire. That's 2-for-2 on recent tracks that are most critical to the number.
If we go back further to include the other two like-track races, Keselowski finished fourth at Richmond in April and third at Phoenix in March. No one in the series has a resume even close to being as good. Logano won at the first Richmond race and Harvick won at Phoenix. Gordon finished second twice at Richmond this season, but Keselowski is a notch above all which is why he owns such low odds this week.
So who has the best shot at upsetting Keselowski?
Jeff Gordon (6-1): So what if he hasn't won at New Hampshire since his magical season of 1998? He's still the top contender to beat Keselowski. This guy is on a major rekindle tour and is savoring all the moments fans are giving him because of being the villain of sorts (an entirely different story) for the duration of his career. He's led a track-high 1,271 laps over his career and has a 9.8 average finish over his last 20 winless starts. Thanks to runner-up finishes at both Richmond races, Gordon is the non-Penske driver to key on.
Clint Bowyer (25-1): He could have never imagined his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota would fail to win a race after their theatrics last season at Richmond. His engine has been tired and way behind all the top teams for most of the 2014 season, but we have seen some power from Toyota in the Joe Gibbs garages as well as MWR teammate Brian Vickers.
Two weeks ago at Richmond, Bowyer was trying to race himself into the Chase and failed, but he did finish third. In the first New Hampshire race, he finished sixth. This is his type of track.
He won his first career Cup race here and he's won two times overall. Richmond is his other signature track. So with a Toyota upgrade, Bowyer's natural skills on these tracks, he might be the best candidate at double-digit odds to win.
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