Thursday, June 4, 2015

Kevin Harvick favored at Westgate SuperBook despite no wins in 28 Pocono starts

Pocono's tricky triangle won't see too much passing this week.
LAS VEGAS -- The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has opened Kevin Harvick as a 4-to-1 favorite to win Sunday's Axalta 400 at Pocono Raceway despite the fact he's never won in 28 career Sprint Cup starts at the 2.5-mile 'tricky triangle'. He finished a career-best second place last season, only 0.228 seconds behind Dale Earnhardt Jr., but Harvick recognizes his own struggles.

“Pocono is one of those places where I haven’t had a ton of success," he said in a team press release. "I think right before they repaved it is when I started to figure the old Pocono out and we were starting to run better. Probably the best memory I have there is winning a Truck (Series) race, so that’s about the extent of it for me.”

He’s been given favorite status for this race because he's got plenty of what the track requires: horsepower. While NASCAR has reduced horsepower in Cup cars from 850 to 725, Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team has consistently proved to have an edge over most drivers. Jimmie Johnson, who is 5-to-1 this week, has a series-leading four wins, but Harvick has nine top-two finishes in 13 starts, including two wins.

Harvick’s horsepower edge will allow him to run near the front and drag race faster than most down the longest front stretch in the series. He may not win, but the Westgate believes another top-two finish is likely. The bookmakers don't want too much risk on him on Sunday.

Harvick's teammate Kurt Busch is a two-time winner at Pocono and his car has been just as good as Harvick's on a few occasions. Busch knows what it takes to win on the difficult layout that in some ways resembles a road course.

“I think it’s a fun track as far as how unique it is with the three corners being different,” Busch said. “And the fact that your setup really can’t be dialed in for all three corners, you have to give and take. Some years it seems like turn one is tough. Some years turn three ends up being a tough corner, but I always focus on the tunnel turn. I always try to get through turn two as quickly as I can because it seems like the years I’ve won, that’s where I’ve had the best car.”

Busch last won at Pocono in 2007 and has finished third in two of his past three starts on the track. He comes in as the third choice to win at 7-to-1 odds and may present a little more value than both Harvick and Johnson.

Earnhardt Jr. comes in at 8-to-1 odds on the basis of sweeping the 2015 season, an amazing feat considering he had been winless in his first 28 Pocono starts.

“It seems like guys that run well at Pocono can sustain it," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I've seen guys sweep there and we were able to do it last year. I like the track, and we have run well there since the repave. I anticipate us being competitive again and hopefully getting three in a row.”

Perhaps the best value on the board comes from Denny Hamlin at 10-to-1 odds, not only because he's won four times in 18 Pocono starts over his career, but also because we've seen Joe Gibbs Racing take major strides over the past three weeks in closing Harvick’s horsepower advantage. Hamlin took home the $1 million check at the All-Star Race in Charlotte, and his teammate Carl Edwards won the Coca-Cola 600 a week later, which was the first time neither Harvick nor Johnson won on a 1.5-mile track in eight races. Edwards is 20-to-1 this week and is a two-time winner at Pocono himself.

Here's a look at the Westgate's odds for Sunday's race (1:16 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1). Be sure to check back Saturday afternoon, as we'll break down what we saw during Saturday's final practice and how it applies to the race.

Read More Here.....complete list of Westgate odds

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