|Any Value with Carl Edwards this week at 18/1 odds?|
When posting odds for a NASCAR race, the first thing books such as the LVH like to do is figure out what their desired theoretic hold is. They are routinely the lowest in Las Vegas, at about 28 percent (lower is always better for the player). Then they have to shape the odds on a probability model. Who does well at a track? Who is running well at the moment? How have drivers run at similar tracks on the season?
All those things shape the numbers and in 32 of the 36 races, the drivers marking high on the meter have their odds placed at low numbers such as 5-to-1, a price Jimmie Johnson often sees. The drivers that do poorly and have almost no shot at winning get placed at odds of 100-to-1. Meanwhile, others like Danica Patrick last week at Charlotte, get placed at 1,000-to-1 odds.
Think of it like a grading curve in school. The sports book grading curve is shaped around that theoretic hold percentage.
When restrictor-plate races come around four times a year - twice each at Daytona and Talladega - the probability of less successful drivers winning increases, which in turn forces the books to lower their odds. In doing so, the usual favorites have to be boosted up to higher odds to get them back to their desired theoretic hold. Instead of 15 to 18 drivers having a legitimate shot at winning at places like Charlotte, plate races - where the cars are more evenly matched than anywhere - have about 35 drivers that can win.
Because Talladega usually has more passing than Daytona, and the packs are more tightly bunched together late in the race, the probability for a driver like David Gilliland goes up even more than it would at Daytona. Gilliland is 60-to-1 to win this week. Last week at Charlotte, he was part of the Field bet at 300-to-1.
Gilliland is used as an example here because he finished second in the May Talladega race, and pushed his Front Row Motorsports teammate David Ragan to the win. In 32 other races, this duo has no shot. But strap the plate on and they will give all the point leaders a run for their money. Ragan paid out at 100-to-1 odds with his second career win, the first of which also came on a plate race at Daytona in 2011.
David Ragan's odds this week? Try only 40-to-1.
Even Danica Patrick finds herself getting lots of respect from the books at 40-to-1 because of her surprising knack for challenging in the plate races. She got caught up in a 12-car crash with 10 laps remaining in the first Talladega race this season, but in both Daytona races, she had a car capable of winning, finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 and 14th in the summer race.
This season there are only two cars that have finished in the top-5 at all three plate races. Johnson won both Daytona races and came in fifth at Talladega. The No. 55 car driven by Mark Martin was third in the Daytona 500 and Michael Waltrip drove it to fourth-place at Talladega and then fifth in July at Daytona.
The most surprising non-top-5 finisher of all three races has been Matt Kenseth, who kicked off his season with a great Daytona speed week, and has led a ton of laps (142 of 192 laps at Talladega), but he just hasn't been in the right place at the right time to snatch a win. Kenseth is one of the co-favorites at 10-to-1 this week along with Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
An interesting look this week is Carl Edwards, who at 18-to-1, is still searching for his first restrictor plate win. He finished third at Talladega in May and the Roush Fenway Racing program has been one of the better plate teams over the last six seasons that has seen drivers like Kenseth, Ragan and Jamie McMurray all go to victory lane.
Edwards has been close several times and even crossed the finish line running, with his legs, like Ricky Bobby at Talladega on a last turn wreck in 2009 that saw his car get airborne. He had been battling with Brad Keselowski for the win, but the car, after a couple of rolls, never crossed the finish line and finished the race 24th.
The real fun in this race - beyond sitting on the edge of your seat for those final 10 laps, gripping a bet ticket on a couple of drivers like the final turn at the Kentucky Derby - will be watching what the point leaders do. Johnson has played the waiting game at Talladega better than anyone over the past seven years of the Chase. But with Kenseth ahead of him in points and driving a car that can stay out front of all the wreckage when “The Big One” eventually happens, Johnson may be forced to change up his strategy a bit. Every little bonus point counts and if Kenseth leads the most laps again Sunday, that's at least one more point that Johnson can never get.
Here's a look at the complete list of odds to win this week and updated numbers to win the Sprint Cup with five races remaining:
JIMMIE JOHNSON 10-1
MATT KENSETH 10-1
KYLE BUSCH 10-1
JEFF GORDON 10-1
KEVIN HARVICK 10-1
DALE EARNHARDT JR 10-1