Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2015 Sprint Unlimited odds: Breakdown of each drivers chance to win

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is among the best at Daytona, and is co-favorite 
LAS VEGAS -- Let's fire those engines up and begin the 2015 Sprint Cup season. The lack of January testing at Daytona and Las Vegas has left thousands of fans yearning for the sounds of NASCAR. On Friday, those cravings will be satisfied, as the series will run two practices in preparation for Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited, a 75-lap exhibition race.

Only 25 drivers will be participating in the non-points race. Among the eligible drivers are last season's Chase participants and pole winners, a well as past Daytona 500 pole winners and past event winners.

Here's a look at each driver's odds to win the 2015 Sprint Unlimited offered by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

DALE EARNHARDT JR (10/1): Heading up the list is a two-time winner. whose last victory came in 2008. Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 victory last season was his first restrictor-plate race win since 2004, but he had an impressive record besides that. From 2005-14, his 13.5 average finish at Daytona was tops among all drivers, including seven finishes of fourth or better. There is something in the bloodlines regarding the draft. Dale Sr. won this exhibition race a record six times.

KEVIN HARVICK (10/1): The short format with plates have proven perfect for his skill-set. Harvick's 2013 win in the Unlimited/Shootout gave him three, which tied him for most among active drivers. All those wins came while driving for Richard Childress. Looking back on his championship 2014 season, the plate races were the only ones he didn't dominate. Harvick's best finish among the four races at Daytona and Talladega was seventh. He's a two-time winner at Daytona (2007, 2010).

KYLE BUSCH (10/1): Busch won the 2012 Shootout and also two Bud Duel races. Like Harvick, this format suits him very well. His only win in a points-paying race was in the summer of 2008. Busch also has the benefit of having worked with new crew chief Adam Stevens in the XFINITY Series (Nationwide/Busch) for the past two seasons.

JIMMIE JOHNSON (12/1): His only Sprint Unlimited win was in 2005. He has three career points-paying wins at Daytona, including a sweep of the 2013 season. You can never count Johnson out of any race, but his success rate in plate races is considerably less than any other type of oval racing.

JEFF GORDON (12/1): He's got a NASCAR-record 12 wins in plate races over his career, not even including two wins in this exhibition race. His last win came in 1997 when it was known as the Busch Clash. He's gone 19 points races at Daytona without winning since taking the Daytona 500 in 2005. Look for him to have fun and let it all hang out in what will likely be his final Sprint Unlimited.

DENNY HAMLIN (12/1): He may offer the best value on the board just because we expect Joe Gibbs Racing to be almost as good as it was last season. In 2014, he won the Sprint Unlimited, a Bud Duel, finished second in the Daytona 500 and then captured his only points-paying race of the season at Talladega. Plate races were the only tracks on which Hamlin appeared to have an edge over most teams. If you could make just one bet, Hamlin looks to be the best.

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