|Kasey Kahne is 10/1 to win Sunday at Michigan|
In that June race, Johnson came in as the 7-to-1 co-favorite. Since he finally got the Michigan monkey off his back, Johnson opened at the LVH SuperBook as the 5-to-1 favorite to win this week's Pure Michigan 400.
Michigan native Brad Keselowski is the co-second choice at 6-to-1 odds. His best career finish on the 2-mile, wide-open D-shaped oval was second-place in 2012, and he finished third there in June.
Michigan NASCAR races always have a little extra sizzle because of the manufacturer executives from nearby Detroit who come to watch their brands win. The all-time scoreboard reads Ford with a 34-21 advantage over Chevy, but in the June race, it was the guys in bow-ties doing the high-fiving.
Seven of the first eight finishers were in Chevrolets, with Keselowski’s Penske Ford the only outsider to crash the party. His teammate, Joey Logano – who won this race last season – finished ninth.
The most disappointed of all from that race had to be Jack Roush, whose cars didn’t fare well on his home track. Roush-Fenway Racing has 13 wins at Michigan, but the best his team could do in June was a 20th-place finish out of four-time winner Greg Biffle and a 23rd from two-time winner Carl Edwards.
Don’t expect much to change this week. We know what teams have generated the most horsepower this season, and it’s been just about any team running the Hendrick Chevy engines, which include Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing and Stewart-Haas Motorsports. All four Hendrick drivers finished seventh or better in the June race. The Penske Fords have been just as good, but there are only two of them compared to the Chevy masses. The best Joe Gibbs Racing finisher was Matt Kenseth in 14th.
When Kevin Harvick won his second race of the season, at Darlington in early April, it looked as though he was going to be the driver to beat every week – and to a degree he still is – but he hasn’t won since then. However, he has been the master bridesmaid with five second-place finishes, including the June race at Michigan. In fact, he’s finished second at Michigan in three consecutive races. He won this race in 2010 and is listed at 6-to-1 odds this week.
Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon comes in next at 7-to-1. Surprisingly, he has only two wins in 43 career starts at Michigan, the last coming in 2001, when he beat Ricky Rudd by 0.085 of a second, which remains the closest margin of finish in track history. Harvick has a long way to go to catch Gordon’s track record of eight second-place finishes. Gordon has also led 990 laps at Michigan, the most among active drivers, including his 36 laps led in June when he finished sixth.
Prior to this season, Michigan was the only venue at which Dale Earnhardt Jr. had won for Hendrick Motorsports, finishing first in 2008 and again in 2012. Now he’s got three wins on the season and looks like one of the favorites to win the Sprint Cup. He finished seventh in June and is listed at 8-to-1 odds to win this week.
Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne are both listed at 10-to-1 odds. Kahne’s objective, with four races to go before the Chase starts, is to claim one of the four remaining spots in the field. He currently sits 18th in points, 12-points behind Clint Bowyer, who occupies the 16th and final position. It’s a close enough margin to race for points and hope for the best, but if one of the winless top-30 drivers wins a race, Kahne’s chances of getting in on points dwindles with each race.
Kahne is one of the many desperate drivers this week trying to get a win, but outside of rookie Kyle Larson, he is way more capable of winning on Sunday than any of the others. Matt Kenseth (13th in Chase standings) has been consistent, but hasn’t been fast enough to capture a win. Ryan Newman (14th) has only two top fives on the year, and Clint Bowyer (16th) has three top fives but doesn’t look close to visiting victory lane any time soon.
Then you have drivers, like Kahne, on the outside looking in, such as Biffle, Austin Dillon, Brian Vickers and Paul Menard, who appear to need rain or irregular pit cycles to win over the next four races. Kahne, the 2006 Michigan winner, looks to have enough urgency mixed in with horsepower to make him a solid selection to win this week.
As for Larson, this kid just continues to impress each week. He’s finished 11th or better in his last four starts overall and was eighth at Michigan in June. And for whatever it’s worth, he was second on Michigan’s 2-mile sister track at Fontana in March. Larson is 18-to-1 this week.
Tony Stewart is listed at 15-to-1, but there is uncertainty about whether or not he’ll drive this week. If he doesn’t race, the driver of his No. 14 ride – maybe Regan Smith, who is racing Saturday at Mid-Ohio in the Nationwide series – will be part of the betting 'field' at 75-to-1.
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