Wednesday, March 25, 2015

STP 500 odds: Johnson favored to win ninth Martinsville race

Expect to see Hamlin and Gordon running up front at Martinsville
LAS VEGAS -- There's been nothing that can slow Kevin Harvick down so far this season. He's been dominant to the point that he's finished first or second in all fives races. If we take it back to last season, he's got a streak of top-two finishes that's currently at eight straight. It's one of the most incredible runs we've seen in NASCAR history, especially for the modern era.

However, none of those eight races were on the flat half-mile layout at Martinsville Speedway like Sunday's STP 500 will be. He's had only three top-five finishes in 27 starts with a 16.4 average finish on the track.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook knows all too well about Harvick's Martinsville history, which is why he isn't listed as the favorite. This is the case for the first time since the season opening Daytona 500, where anyone has a legitimate chance to win.

Let's take a look at all the drivers' odds offered by the Westgate along with how they have fared at Martinsville over their careers.

JIMMIE JOHNSON 7/2: It seems like an eternity since the last time he won here, but only three races have passed since winning in the spring of 2013. It's just because for a decade, no one was better, including his teammate Jeff Gordon. In 26 starts, he's averaged a 6.2 finish that includes eight wins. He's got a long way to go to catch Richard Petty's track record 15 wins, but consider that Petty had 67 starts, or one win in every 4.4 Martinsville starts. Johnson gets one win in every 3.2 starts, and that means he's due here after failing in his last three starts which is part of the reason he's the easy favorite this week.

KEVIN HARVICK 5/1: It's amazing that Harvick hasn't fared better over his career here because he grew up racing on the short flat tracks. It's the type of racing that shaped the no-nonsense attitude that we all have grown fond of. He did win in the spring of 2011, and then finished fourth in the fall of the same year. It really is astonishing that he's only had one other top-five finish in all 25 other starts, including 33rd last fall. The only reason his odds are as low as they this time around is just because he's currently in a zone, and the books aren't doubting that he can win despite history saying he most likely won't.

JEFF GORDON 5/1: Just like Johnson, Gordon's house can be quite noisy at the top of the hour with eight grandfather clock (Martinsville trophy) bells chiming away. In 44 career starts, he's had an average finish of 6.8 aided by 28 top-five finishes. It's the one track that he has remained dominant at throughout all phases of his career between different crew chiefs, and even two different wives. It would only seem fitting if he closed out his final season of Sprint Cup racing with at least one more Martinsville win, and the good news for Gordon backers this week is that he's using the same chassis that finished second here last fall.

DENNY HAMLIN 7/1: There was a time when he was one of the co-favorites with Gordon and Johnson for every Martinsville race. During one stretch, the trio won 18 of 22 races, with Hamlin contributing four wins, but that last win came in 2010 when he swept the season. Last fall, there were signs that he was back to being himself again at the track he grew up racing on, only three hours from his Chesterfield, VA home; he finished eighth, but led twice for 68 laps. We'll get a better idea during Friday and Saturday practices where Hamlin stands with the elite, but expect a top-5 start position like last fall, which will be a good sign. Start position is huge at Martinsville where 71 percent of all races have been from a top-10 qualifier.

DALE EARNHARDT JR 10/1: He's always been good at Martinsville, but he just happened to get stuck in the wrong generation with all-time greats like Johnson and Gordon hogging all the wins. After 30 starts, he finally got his grandfather clock last fall. He'll be using that same winning chassis this week and offers pretty good value at 10-to-1. It might be his turn to start reeling off some wins for Hendrick Motorsports who have gathered a track record 22 wins.

Read More Here....Odds/write-up for every driver

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