Wednesday, April 9, 2014

LVH odds to win 2014 Bojangle's Southern 500 at Darlington

Jimmie Johnson is 5/1 to win his forth race at Darlington Saturday night
LAS VEGAS -- Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth combined to win 13 of the 36 races last season, but thus far in 2014 both have been kept from the winners circle. What is even more remarkable is that seven other drivers have won during the first seven races. It's the longest streak to start a season without multiple winners since 2003 when there were nine straight different drivers.

The all-time record to start a season is 10 different drivers in 2000. With the list of quality drivers that are still winless, that record could be in jeopardy and Darlington Raceway is the perfect track to have the streak continue.

If we look at who the most consistent drivers are at Darlington, three of them have yet to win on the season, and that’s not even including Kenseth, who won last season. Between three-time winner Jimmie Johnson, seven-time winner Jeff Gordon and 2010 winner Denny Hamlin, there is a strong probability for new winner again this week.

Johnson comes in as the LVH SuperBook’s 5-to-1 favorite to win Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 on the basis of the massive respect for his overall game, along with an 8.8 average finish on ‘the track too tough to tame’. Sure, he’s gotten his Darlington stripes just like everyone else, but he has a special skill on the track which has helped him handle the differing banks and angles on each set of turns. “The lady in black’, as the track is sometimes referred to, has been rather kind to Johnson.

Gordon has won seven times on the 1.366-mile layout, including a record four straight Southern 500’s from 1995-98. He’s had top-5 finishes in eight of his past 10 starts, grabbing the win in 2007. For the first time since 2009 -- a span of 174 races-- he comes into this year’s race as the points leader. The LVH has him at 8-to-1 and the way we saw him run at Fontana and Texas suggests that he’s got plenty of power to help him grab his eighth Darlington win, and his first of the season.

While the ‘Lady’ has allowed Johnson and Gordon plenty of success, they’ve also endured her wrath on occasion. Denny Hamlin (10-to-1), however, has never felt her true anger. In eight career starts, he’s never finished worse than 13th. He’s been runner up the past two seasons and won in 2010. He’s been kissed by her — collecting his own stripes — but they were just friendly hellos which has allowed him to average a series best 5.4 average.

A large number of 25-to-1 has been posted on a possible candidate to win — someone who would keep the different driver streak alive as well. Except this one, Tony Stewart, has never won at Darlington before. That’s a span of 21 races and is one of only two tracks he‘s never on, with Kentucky being the other. It’s amazing that a two-time Sprint Cup Champion, and a driver with Stewart’s moxie, could go on so long and not win the prestigious Southern 500. All the past greats have done it, and it’s one of those mysteries akin to Stewart never winning the Daytona 500.

The reason for the long odds is simply because no one knows what to think of the Stewart-Haas Racing program through seven races. SHR drivers Kurt Busch (25-to-1) and Kevin Harvick (8-to-1) have each won races this season, but they sit 25th and 26th respectively in points. Stewart is 14th, and has shown sign of getting back to his 2011 form, but as a bettor, they are hard to trust. Last week at Texas was the perfect example. They showed off amazing speeds in practices and qualifying, but something went wrong on race day.

Yes, they are all fast, but with two of three winning already, could it be that the new points system has lessened their sense of urgency, where they can take a swing for fences approach and sacrifice consistency? Wins are all that matter and they already theoretically have two cars in the Chase, unless this different driver streak keeps piling up.

What a bettor should like about Stewart is that Darlington needs to be checked off his list. His average finish of 12th-place should also meet satisfactory consistency requirements. He finished a career-best third in 2009 and matched it in 2012.

Harvick and Busch have never won at Darlington either, but the second-place finish by Busch in 2003 might have been the best finish to a race in NASCAR history. Ricky Craven won that race by two-thousandths of a second, and while they were slipping, sliding, beating and banging along the way, the final three laps showed all the unique facets of the track and why it is the most exciting type of racing on the circuit. It’s the Fenway Park of NASCAR — old, but nothing beats it.

Other drivers that have fared well at Darlington that have yet to win this year include Ryan Newman (12.3 avg.), Martin Truex Jr. (11.4) and 2005-06 winner Greg Biffle (13.9).

Read More Here...........LVH odds to win

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