Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Johnson a Massive 9/5 Favorite at Martinsville

Kenseth might be able to use Hamlin's skills to help in Chase
LAS VEGAS - Jimmie Johnson has moved to the front of the standings in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and while his four-point lead is slim, it was enough for the LVH SuperBook to make him the 1-to-3 favorite to take home his sixth Sprint Cup title. Matt Kenseth can be bought at 2-to-1 odds for those who still believe in his chances.

The biggest reason for the odds move is that Kenseth didn't do enough at Talladega, a track he won at last season and a track he led 142 of the 192 laps in the spring. Kenseth came away with only a 20th-place finish, while Johnson led the most laps and finished 13th, good enough for a margin of eight points and a flip-flop at the top of the standings.

Kenseth's chances to win his first Cup Championship since 2003 appear even bleaker when looking at his track record at Martinsville Speedway, the site of this week's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 where the LVH installed him at 12-to-1 odds. It could be argued Kenseth should be much higher, like in the 20-to-1 range, because he's never won at Martinsville in 27 starts, a span in which he's only mustered three top-5 finishes.

Johnson, meanwhile, comes in at the shortest odds of the season as the 9-to-5 favorite, and for good reason. Not only has Johnson won the past two races at the half-mile flat track, but he's also compiled eight wins and a 5.3 average finish in career 23 starts. No one has been better than Johnson at Martinsville over the last decade.

Despite the appearance that Johnson looks as though he's going to run away with the title, there is still plenty of reason to support Kenseth and take a shot with 2-to-1 Sprint Cup odds. Some of the reasoning stems from the April Martinsville race where Kenseth was having one of his better runs. He only finished 14th, but he was able to lead three times for 96 laps, and was actually leading with 37 laps to go before Johnson made the pass.

Kenseth could always get some good fortune and have Johnson falter, but Johnson's worst finish over his past 20 Martinsville races has been 12th. Kenseth's best plan is to stay within the top-10 this week and then make his move back to the top of the standings on the two 1.5-mile tracks remaining at Texas and Homestead. He has four wins this season on the nine 1.5-mile tracks while Johnson doesn't have any.

The driver that could really help matters out for Kenseth is his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, a driver with four grandfather clocks - the Martinsville trophy - of his own. Not only can Kenseth pick up some advice from Hamlin on the best way to roll in and out of the turns, but he can also root for Hamlin to compete for the win to block Johnson from having a max-points day. There aren't many drivers in the series capable of going toe-to-toe with Johnson at Martinsville, but Hamlin, a native Virginian, is one of them.

The reason Hamlin has high odds of 12-to-1 on him this week is because of recent poor performances that has seen him go without a top-5 finish in his past 20 starts, dating back to the Coca-Cola 600 in late May. This is new for all of us, including Hamlin. This is a driver that has come into the series and been fast from the start, and now JGR is giving him a car that resembles the one they gave Bobby Labonte at the end of his run with the team.

Hamlin was out of the Chase - in part because of his altercation with Joey Logano that forced him to miss four races - and it was almost as if they took his car away. He still could have raced himself in with wins, but it never happened.

But this is a team racing on Sunday, and the team needs Hamlin to make a big block on Johnson. If Kenseth can come out of this race with a deficit of only 10 in the Sprint Cup, he should be considered more of a co-favorite with Johnson for the final three races. Hamlin could be huge in helping that happen.

A driver sure to be in the top-5 mix at Martinsville is Jeff Gordon. He has 26 top-5 finishes in his 41 career starts, but hasn't won there since sweeping the 2005 season. However, he is right there with Johnson and Hamlin as the best at this track. The three of them have combined to win 15 of the past 20 races at Martinsville. Gordon is 6-to-1 to win this week.

Read More Here........LVH Martinsville and Sprint Cup Odds to win

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