|Danica figures to advance to All-Star Race|
All 23 drivers entered for the Sprint Showdown went winless in 2013-14, and this 40-lap event will be light at the top. There seems to be a limited number of cars with a chance to win, which is why Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer open as the LVH SuperBook’s 5-to-2 co-favorites to win it.
Larson has been a superstar in every practice and qualifying session run on 1.5-mile tracks this season. His two top-five finishes (Fontana and Texas) have come on the big horsepower tracks, and since he‘ll likely have the best car in this race, advancement to the All-Star Race seems probable. He is definitely the driver to beat.
Bowyer hasn’t been a factor to win on any of the down-force tracks this season, but he did have his best practice sessions of 2014 at Kansas last week. The Kansas Speedway layout is much flatter than Charlotte, but speed is speed, which is why he draws co-favorite status with Larson, who has been much more impressive on these type of tracks.
After them, Paul Menard is 7-to-1, followed by Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon 8-to-1. The Richard Petty stable has been fast on these types of tracks during practices, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Almirola – or teammate Marcos Ambrose (12/1) – pull off a semi-upset. Menard and Dillon haven't been as good on these tracks for Richard Childress Racing as the program was in 2013.
Danica Patrick is 12-to-1, and the price is that low because of what she did at Kansas last week. En route to a career-best seventh-place finish, she passed Kansas’ best, Jimmie Johnson, in the later stages while both were racing in the top 10. It was here first real coming-out party, and something everyone needed to see out of her.
Even if she doesn’t finish in the first two positions, her popularity will probably get here the last invite to the All-Star Race.
Patrick won the fan vote last season. This time around, though, she’ll have a new fan base to contend with as the No. 3 RCR car might evoke memories and prompt fans to vote Dillon in. He started the season with a bang by being on the pole at Daytona, but he’s been a quiet non-contender since. It certainly doesn’t look like the same car that Kevin Harvick drove last season to four wins, even though everything from that No. 29 team transferred to Dillon’s No. 3 garage this year.
Dillon’s still in a major learning curve, but he’s stayed out of trouble and is 14th in points. Nothing worse than a rookie getting in the way, and Dillon has come with total respect and reverence for where he’s at right now and for the legacy of the car number Dale Earnhardt made so famous.
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