Thursday, June 26, 2014

Jimmie Johnson favored to get his first win at Kentucky

Will Hendrick power be the main storyline at Kentucky this week?
LAS VEGAS -- After a week where we saw NASCAR Sprint Cup series cars turn left and right at Sonoma Raceway, an unusual race where neither Jimmie Johnson nor Hendrick Motorsports won, we get back to our normally scheduled routine: a Saturday night special at Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400. And that means without looking at anything, if we're racing on a 1.5 mile track, Johnson has to be favored.

The LVH SuperBook did just that and posted Johnson atop the board at 4-to-1 to win despite the track being one of four on the series he has never conquered. We saw him check Michigan off the list two weeks ago -- his most elusive track, so he's probably in a mood of 'let's finish this track off' in what will be only his fourth attempt at Kentucky.

A Chevy has never won on Kentucky's 14 degrees of banking that has its own unique bumps and traits. Joe Gibbs has seen to that twice as Kyle Busch won the inaugural race in 2011 and Matt Kenseth won last June. Gibbs' Toyotas won seven of the 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks last season and Kenseth led the way with four.

The closest Kentucky average finish to Kenseth (4.7) and Busch (5.3) in the three previous races has been Johnson (6.0). Johnson's best finish was third in 2011. But we can throw all those numbers out the window. This is 2014 and there have been rapid changes to who provides elite power on these tracks, and it's definitely not Gibbs.

Here's how the 1.5-mile season has gone so far: Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski won at Las Vegas in March followed by teammate Joey Logano at Texas in April. In both events, a Hendrick car finished second, and surprisingly it wasn't Johnson. Jeff Gordon followed up his second-place at Texas with a win at Kansas in early May, which started a five-race win streak for the team, and then Jimmie Johnson got his first win of the year at Charlotte.

It's like the Hendrick program has just morphed into this unstoppable beast, just like Gibbs started off 2013. Their five-race win streak was halted last week (Gordon finished second), but now it's back to business where this team should have a huge edge.

Even though Kevin Harvick drives for Stewart-Haas, he's still kind of part of the Hendrick family as he's using a Hendrick engine. Harvick has finished second on the past two 1.5-mile tracks and is the 9-to-2 second choice to win. He's using a chassis this week that finished second in the non-points All-Star race, so technically he's been runner-up in three straight 1.5-mile track races. He was also second two weeks ago on Michigan's 2-mile layout, another track requiring lots of horsepower. Obviously, Harvick has been knocking on the door loudly since he last won at Darlington in April.

After Johnson and Harvick, the LVH has a four-way log jam for the third-choice to win with all the usual 1.5-mile suspects this season at 8-to-1: Keselowski, Logano, Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski, who won at Kentucky in 2012, hasn't seen victory lane since early March at Las Vegas where Earnhardt Jr. only finished second because he ran out of fuel while leading on the last lap.

After them, three drivers are listed at 12-to-1, including Kenseth and Busch, who rolled in as the favorites in this race last season. Kasey Kahne is in that group, too, but it's only about respect for his past skills and knowing his Hendrick engine could find victory lane for the first time this season very soon.

It'll be shocking if anyone beats any if those favorites, but if looking to score with a 20-to-1 long shot or higher, you should first look at Kyle Larson at 25-to-1. When he eventually wins this season it will be on a track like Kentucky. Then there's Tony Stewart at 20-to-1 and his teammate Kurt Busch at 25-to-1. The common thread all of those drivers have is the Hendrick engine.

Who knows, we could even see Danica Patrick roll strong like she did with a career best seventh-place at Kansas. She's got the same engine as those guys, and while a win is unlikely, the LVH will give you 300-to-1 for taking a chance that she can win.

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

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