Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jimmie Johnson 5-to-1 favorite to win 2014 Duck Commander 500 at Texas

Johnson has won two of past three Texas races
LAS VEGAS-- Jimmie Johnson has won two of the past three races at Texas Motor Speedway, so it was only natural the LVH SuperBook would post him the 5-to-1 favorite to win Sunday's Duck Commander 500. In 21 career starts, Johnson has an 8.7 average finish with three wins. He's also been the most spectacular driver on 1.5-mile tracks over his career but what may be most enticing about him this week is his team is on the brink of getting everything figured out. That’s a scary prospect for everyone else. The No. 48 led the most laps in each of the past two races, but had victories at Fontana and Martinsville slip away. We've had six different drivers win the first six races, and Johnson is definitely the top candidate to make it seven-for-seven.

The best handicapping tool for this race is to refer back to what happened in the March 9 race at Las Vegas — Texas' sister track. The banking at Texas is steeper, making it much faster than Las Vegas, but everything the teams learned about their set-up at Las Vegas during a Thursday test session, practices and the race itself will transfer well to Texas. You can also mix in a little bit of what we saw at Fontana to better help break down the candidates to win Sunday.

Three drivers come is at 7-to-1 odds, led by Las Vegas winner Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, who won this race last spring, and two-time Texas winner Matt Kenseth. All three of those drivers led laps at Las Vegas with Busch having the second most (52) behind Keselowski (53). Last season, it was Kenseth and Busch that had everything figured out early on 1.5-mile tracks, winning six of the first seven on the schedule. Busch would also win at the 2-mile layout at Fontana. However, Kenseth's history at Texas goes much deeper. As great as Johnson has been there over his career, Kenseth has been even better, with a track best 8.3 average finish. Since NASCAR began keeping track of their loop data in 2005, Kenseth has a series-best rating of 107.2. Johnson is second at 106.4.

Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano are each set at 8-to-1 odds. In Logano's first season with Penske Racing last year, he had his best-ever run at Texas with fifth and third-place finishes. At Las Vegas, Logano finished fourth, leading twice for 44 laps. Harvick has never won at Texas, but he's garnered tons of respect from the Las Vegas bookmakers just because of the show he put on during testing where it became clear in an instant that Harvick would routinely be battling for wins on the 1.5-mile tracks for most of the season. He finished 41st in the Vegas race because a brake issue sent him to the garage early, but he did lead twice for 23 laps before the trouble started.

Four drivers have odds set at 12-to-1, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr, who finished second at Las Vegas. Then there's 2006 winner Kasey Kahne, 2009 winner Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin who swept the 2010 season. Junior won his first career Cup race at Texas in 2000 as a rookie in what be the most endearing moment captured on video with his father. Who can forget the proud father’s ear-to-ear smile as the Intimidator ran to the winners circle to greet his son after his first win? Junior hasn't won at Texas since then, but the Vegas race and all of his other successes thus far into 2014 should give reason to believe he'll be challenging for the win. From a value standpoint, Junior looks the most attractive among all the drivers.

This is Texas, so you have to consider a Roush Fenway Racing driver just because the organization has won at Texas nine times, including when they christened the track with Jeff Burton's win in 1997. Greg Biffle (30-to-1) and Carl Edwards (20-to-1) have each won multiple times at Texas, the last coming with Biffle in the spring of 2012. A case could be made for Edwards to run well, but Biffle’s chances don't look promising.

Last week we saw that a long shot could finally win at Martinsville with Kurt Busch paying out at 50-to-1. That stopped a long line of succession where the heavy favorite -- 17 of the past 19 wins were by four drivers -- had won on the flat half-mile track. Over 26 Texas races, the favorites have been the way to go if wanting to cash. The highest odds of an eventual winner was Burton's 2007 win at 35-to-1. Even Junior's first win only paid out at 18-to-1 in 2000. Fast is fast and there is no way to hide it.

Be sure to check back Saturday for our post-practice report where we'll identify who looks the fastest and has the best chance of winning Sunday's race.

Read More Here....LVH odds to win at Texas

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