Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kurt Busch favored this week for first time since 2006

Who are the top road courses aces now?
LAS VEGAS — After 15 Sprint Cup races with only left turns, we get to see a few right turns in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway's 1.99-mile, 12-turn road course. It's the ultimate test of a driver's skill set, and the elevation changes of Sonoma's unique course make it even more challenging than the average road course. Some drivers love the roads while others can't wait to leave town, and it's real easy to identify who those drivers are just by looking at past results.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened Kurt Busch as the 5-to-1 favorite to win, which makes it the first time he's been favored by Las Vegas in a Cup race since 2006 at Bristol after he had won for the fifth time on the half-mile track. The Las Vegas native is well deserving of being tagged the favorite.

Let's take a look at all the drivers odds and how they have fared at Sonoma over their careers:

Kurt BUSCH 5/1 - With Jeff Gordon retired, Juan Montoya in IndyCar, Marcos Ambrose in Australia and Tony Stewart on the down side of his career, Kurt has taken over as the ace road course driver in the series. He tops NASCAR Loop Data with a 109.3 rating at Sonoma that takes into account several categories such average running position, average green flag speed and laps running in the top-15 — Kurt is best in all of those. His 197 laps led and seven top-five finishes are the most among active drivers. He's on a run of finishing fourth or better in his past five starts there, which began with a 2011 win. He loves the road races, especially Sonoma's technical course.

“Sonoma has always been a sentimental favorite to me — I think that track helped put me on the map when I won there in a Southwest Tour race in 1999," Kurt said. "The garage area sometimes grumbles when we go to road courses. I think that mentality has changed. Everybody has to accept that road courses are part of the NASCAR culture. There are the few who still think Sonoma is a tough track and they don’t find it quite as appealing as Watkins Glen. For me, I grew up racing there, so it’s easy for me to see it as part of the NASCAR culture.”

Jimmie JOHNSON 7/1 - There was once a time when you could get him at odds of 30-to-1 on the road courses. They were tough on him and he struggled to match his excellence from the ovals. But over the past seven seasons he's become very good at Sonoma, finishing ninth or better, including a 2010 win. In NASCAR's Loop Data, he's rated second behind Kurt Busch.

“Sonoma is so tricky," said Johnson, who led the most laps (45) in last years race. "Track position is so, so important there. It’s a quirky race and the last two times there we have been one of the better cars but just haven't had it work out, so I’m optimistic that we can get everything right over the course of the event. If you can save fuel it usually creates more opportunities. Last year it came down to tires and I was the only guy on old tires and it cost us the race. As a California native, I’m always happy to get back there."

Read More Here.....all the drivers odds posted on

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