|Talladega brings so many potential issues into Chase equation|
Among the bottom four drivers -- who almost need to win Sunday to move on -- three have eight Sprint Cup trophies collectively, and the fourth has five Talladega wins under his belt. Huge names in desperation mode. With five races to go, six-time champ and preseason favorite Jimmie Johnson is 30-to-1 to win the championship. 2012 Sprint Cup winner Brad Keselowski is 12-to-1, and 2003 champ Matt Kenseth is 15-to-1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the longest shot left on the board, at 40-to-1 odds.
Outside of Matt Kenseth, who is only one point behind Kasey Kahne for the eighth (safe) position in the Chase, the three others are on red alert: they must get out front, lead some laps and try to win the race. The value certainly doesn’t seem like it’s there with Keselowski, a two-time Talladega winner who will be about 12-to-1 to win the race. Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 in February, so we know he’s going to be good in this restrictor-plate race. He's a five-time Talladega winner, but hasn't won there since 2004.
Then you’ve got Johnson in an unfamiliar situation for a fall Talladega race: he has to win. In the past, he’s coasted in this race, trying to stay out of trouble, get some positive championship points and move on to the next track before going on to win a title. He’s won twice at Talladega, both in the spring, the last time being 2011.Through five races, it’s hard not to give NASCAR a standing ovation for the excitement they’ve created so far with the bold change to the Chase format. If the mild-mannered Matt Kenseth loses his cool for the first time
in a 16-year career, then you know how intense the pressure must be. That translates well to TV and also at the bet windows here in Las Vegas. We have underdog possibilities like never before. Who knew Ryan Newman would be a contender for the title?
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