|These two figure to be dueling again Saturday night in All-Star Race|
There are 19 drivers already eligible to start the All-Star Race based on their wins from the 2013-14 seasons. Two more drivers will earn their way in by finishing among the top two in the Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap qualifying race. One more entry will be given to the driver receiving the most fan votes. If Danica Patrick doesn’t finish first or second in the Showdown, she will most likely be voted in like she was last season, especially after her career-best seventh-place finish last week at Kansas.
Sprint Showdown odds: Bowyer, Larson co-favorites
Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson have been posted as the 5-to-1 co-favorites to win the main event by the LVH SuperBook. Harvick has been consistently fast on 1.5-mile tracks this season, especially in practice, and had his best showing on one Saturday night at Kansas, where he finished second. Harvick won this event in 2007.
Johnson is a four-time winner of this race, including last season, but hasn‘t been his usual self on these types of tracks this season. Among Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas and the 2-mile fast track at Fontana, Johnson still doesn’t have a top-five finish this season. He looked good last week finishing ninth, but he was a notch below teammate Jeff Gordon, Harvick and Joey Logano – the three drivers who should get the closest looks to win this week.
Gordon hasn’t won a Sprint Cup championship since 2001, which was also the season he won his third and most-recent All-Star Race. Johnson would join the Hendrick Motorsports organization in 2002 and go on to win six championships, making Gordon somewhat of a forgotten driver, even though he was the one who made the team a NASCAR giant. It’s been a long time since he was the dominant force at Hendrick, but things are clicking in the No. 24 garage, which was just rewarded with its first win of the season last week.
Gordon is 8-to-1 to win this week, along with teammate Kasey Kahne, and the Penske Racing duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Kahne, winner of the 2008 All-Star Race, finished third last week after a solid practice – his best of the season on the 1.5s – indicating his team may have found some answers on the down-force tracks. Kahne is also a four-time winner in Charlotte points races.
Keselowski won at Las Vegas in March and also won the fall race at Charlotte last season, but he hasn’t been as good as his teammate on these types of track this season. Logano won at Texas and finished fourth at both Las Vegas and Kansas. At Charlotte over his career, he has a 10.4 average finish, best among all active drivers. He’s morphing into a driver that has everyone’s respect, and his confidence is booming. There’s no more picking on Joey Logano. He’s all grown up now.
Look for Gordon, Harvick and Logano to have the best chance at winning, and despite Johnson’s struggles, he’s still going to have to be dealt with. Last season Johnson was in a similar situation on 1.5-mile tracks before the All-Star Race. He wouldn’t win a points race on one of them until Texas in the fall, but he came up big when the $1 million check was dangling in front of him.
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