Thursday, April 23, 2015

Harvick's dominance at Phoenix makes him easy favorite at Richmond

Maybe Jamie McMurray has another good Richmond run?
LAS VEGAS-- The first step in handicapping Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway should be analyzing results from the March 15 race at Phoenix. Over the years, the trio of flat tracks at Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire – layouts ranging from 3/4-mile to 1-mile – have consistently shown that if a driver is good on one, he'll likely be good on the others.

It all lies within the set-up and balance of the car, and if a crew chief gets that perfect set-up for one, the notes usually remain good all season. In many cases, a team brings the exact same chassis to all three tracks if performing well.

Last season, Kevin Harvick swept both Phoenix races, and Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski each won one race at Richmond and New Hampshire. In 2013, Harvick won at both Phoenix and Richmond. In 2006, he won on four of the six races between the three similar tracks. Harvick dominated last month's race at Phoenix, leading 224 of the 312 laps to win his fourth straight race there and seventh overall on the track.

Because of his Phoenix dominance, as well as leading 950 laps so far this season, it's not hard to understand why the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has posted Harvick once again as the favorite.

Here's a look at Westgate's odds for this week:

KEVIN HARVICK 9/2: I haven't had a driver-rating gap from the top Sprint Cup driver to his closest competitor as large as Harvick's since Jeff Gordon's magical season of 1998 when he won 13 times. While Harvick has won only twice to achieve such marks, he's been dominant. He needs only 50 more laps to reach 1,000 led for the season, and if he reaches that milestone this week, he would become the ninth driver in series history to do so in just nine races. He's a three-time Richmond winner with an 11th-place average finish in 28 career starts.

BRAD KESELOWSKI 6/1: He had a career year at Richmond last season, finishing fourth in the spring and winning in the fall – his first two top-five finishes in 11 starts. The precursor to that win was third-place at Phoenix and a win at New Hampshire. At Phoenix in March, he led 52 laps – as one of only four drivers to lead a lap – and settled for sixth-place. If Harvick doesn't win, it will likely be Keselowski or teammate Logano swooping in.

JOEY LOGANO 6/1: He won this race last season and was sixth in the fall. He came in as a strong candidate to take the checkers a year ago because of a strong fourth-place finish at Phoenix five weeks prior. In March, he led twice for 35 laps before finishing eighth.

KURT BUSCH 7/1: He won in 2005 while driving for Roush Fenway Racing and has been runner-up twice, but what makes him a contender this week was his strong Phoenix run. He finished fifth in what was his first race of the 2015 campaign after being suspended the first three races.

JIMMIE JOHNSON 8/1: He's won three times at Richmond, but the last victory came in 2008, which was his third win in four races there. It's been 12 races there since that win, and he was a non-factor in an 11th-place finish at Phoenix. That doesn't give any comfort in picking him to win this week, even though he's matched Harvick's two wins this season.

MATT KENSETH 10/1: In 30 career starts at Richmond, he has a 16.3 average finish and a 2002 win to his credit. He was very ordinary at Phoenix in March, finishing in16th place, but the Joe Gibbs Racing stable appears to have vastly improved on all types of tracks over the past month since that Phoenix race.

JEFF GORDON 10/1: In 44 career starts, he's won at Richmond just twice and the last time was in 2000. Some of the loudest roars ever heard out of the rowdy Richmond crowd came during Gordon's glory years when any other driver knocked him out of the way, like Rusty Wallace did in 1998. Last year, Gordon finished second and fifth at Phoenix and was runner-up in both Richmond races. He finished ninth at Phoenix in March.

Read More....complete list odds Richmond odds

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