Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dale Earnhardt Jr. favored to win Talladega Geico 500

Dale Earnhardt Jr is a five-time Talladega winner - last time in 2004
LAS VEGAS-- Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't won at Talladega SuperSpeedway since a span of winning five of seven races from 2001-04, but he's still favored to win Sunday's Geico 500. Yes, it's hard to believe it's been 20 races since Junior last won on the beastly 2.66-mile high-banked layout; because of the volatile nature of the track and the 43 cars being somewhat equal, he gets the favorite label by default and popularity.

There really isn't a favorite from an oddsmaking standpoint at any of the four restrictor-plate races (two each at Talladega and Daytona). The edge power teams have on the other tracks don't apply. Since Daytona, Kevin Harvick's odds have been in the 9-to-2 range, and he's led 952 laps through nine races. He's one of the best plate-racers in the series, but he has still won only once over his career at Talladega (2010) and he's yet to win a plate race in five chances with Stewart Haas Racing. He opens at 12-to-1 odds this week.

As for Junior being the default favorite, it all rests with supply and demand. He is routinely voted as the most popular driver in NASCAR, and that translates to the bet windows in Las Vegas. Even though it's been over a decade since he won at Talladega, his legend precedes him with those five wins. He was strengthened last year when he won the Daytona 500, showing he could still read the air of the draft better than most. Because the books know they're going to have risk on him whether he's 12-to-1 or 8-to-1, they figure they might as well start low and adjust from there.

Based on probabilities, the favorites this week should actually be Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. Despite leading plenty of laps in plate races since the two became teammates, the Joe Gibbs Racing team has only won once between Daytona and Talladega. They also don't have an expected high volume of betting tickets written on them like Junior does.

The best thing about the equality of each car on restrictor-plate tracks is that you get great odds on drivers you normally wouldn't. Up to 38 drivers have a chance to win, compared to last week at Richmond, for example, where only 13 legitimately had a shot. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has seven popular drivers listed at 12-to-1, following Junior at 8-to-1. They know a long shot can cash at Talladega, just like Jamie McMurray and David Ragan did in 2013.

Here's a look at all the Westgate's odds for this week’s race at Talladega:

DALE EARNHARDT JR 8/1: While Daytona and Talladega run much differently, the speeds and performance with plates on are still relevant to cross reference. In Junior's case, he led 32 laps and finished third in the Daytona 500. In 30 starts at Talladega, he has five wins and 10 top-five finishes with a very respectable 15.5 average finish. He finished second in the fall of 2013, as well as 2009, since his last win in 2004.

KEVIN HARVICK 12/1: He finished second in the Daytona 500, but surprisingly didn't lead a lap. What makes him so good in plate races is that he's got the respect of every driver out there.They want to work with him because they know he's going to pave a way to the front -- Junior has the same appeal. In 29 career starts at Talladega, he's got a 15.6 average finish, which is third best among active drivers with at least four starts.

DENNY HAMLIN 12/1: He won his first career plate race at Talladega last spring and has averaged a fourth-place finish in his past three Daytona starts. While JGR is still figuring things out on the cookie cutter tracks, they may very well be ahead of everyone in plate races with a package that is relatively the same from last year. Expect him to be up front with the lead pack for most of the race, which with two laps to go is about all you can ask for when making an odds to win wager on a driver.

JIMMIE JOHNSON 12/1: The thing that makes Johnson attractive this week is his strong Daytona 500 performance where he led four times for 39 laps and finished fifth. He's a two-time Talladega winner and two-time runner-up with a 17.5 average finish.

MATT KENSETH 12/1: He won for the first time at Talladega in 2012 in his final year with Roush Fenway Racing, but he looked just as strong in his first two years with JGR. He's led lots of laps in the nine plate races with JGR with a best finish of second last fall at Talladega.

BRAD KESELOWSKI 12/1: We should have known Keselowski would be a monster at Talladega when he took an underfunded part time team to victory lane in 2009 for his first career win. He's won two times since for Penske Racing, including last fall. He's got a 15.1 average finish in 12 starts, and it's usually all or nothing for him. He's only had four top-five finishes and three are wins.

KURT BUSCH 12/1: When he first came into the series I was shocked to see how adept he was in plate races. Seeing him run here in Las Vegas at the Bullring in his younger days, it was obvious he was going to be a terror on short tracks, but restrictor-plate racing was thought to be an entirely different story -- an acquired skill over time. All he did in his first Talladega race in 2001 was finish third, and then he finished third and fourth the next two years. At the time I was calling him the best driver to never have won a plate race and 13 years later that's still the case. He certainly could have been selfish in the 2008 Daytona 500 and not pushed teammate Ryan Newman to victory, but here we are in 2015 still with no plate wins. We didn't get to see him in the Daytona 500 this year because of being suspended by NASCAR, but Regan Smith drove his No. 41 to a respectable 16th-place finish. With a win in his back pocket already, look for Busch to go hard after another one.

JOEY LOGANO 12/1: His career best came in 2009 as a rookie with third-place, but he's finished 11th or worse in his past seven starts. He won the Daytona 500 in February, but there's no chance of him using that strong chassis since it's on display at Daytona USA. Most other drivers will be using either the primary or back-up chassis from Daytona.

Read More Here....Complete list of drivers odds

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