Any time the Cup Series heads to the famed paperclip that is Martinsville Speedway, two drivers immediately emerge as favorites – Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Arguably the two best drivers of this era, both have excelled at the physically and mentally exhausting short track that tests a driver’s talent, endurance and patience. Given Johnson’s surprising early season success he may be a no-brainer at a track he has absolutely dominated in recent years – winning five of the last seven races – but oddsmakers know he’s the guy to beat and you won’t get the type of odds you may need to drop some coin.
Gordon can be had at slightly better odds as he has not won at Martinsville since 2005. In the eight races since his last win he has not finished worse than fifth, so at least you know he’ll be in contention for the win come Sunday.
Short-track events are always difficult races to bet, but if you follow this week’s practice sessions and can make a wise pick come Sunday morning, go for it. Below is a list of a sure-fire picks, sleepers and drivers to avoid based on previous Martinsville events and observations from the early 2010 season.
All odds are taken from BetUS.com as of Thursday afternoon. Note that these odds tend to change throughout the weekend and what you see in this column may or may not be the odds you see at the time of your bet.
As I mentioned earlier, Gordon (6/1) and Johnson (5/2) are the guys to beat this weekend, but I don’t like to touch guys at these kind of odds. If you have a gut feeling one or the other is going to win, by all means go for it, it’s just not for me. Give me Mark Martin who is in the same equipment and has a pair of top 10s in his two Martinsville races with Hendrick at 15/1 odds or one of the guys below:
Play the odds
Ryan Newman had a pole and a pair of top 10s last year for Stewart-Haas at Martinsville and is at 30/1 as of Thursday. This is my bet of the week. Follow practice speeds on Dale Earnhardt Jr. (25/1) and Clint Bowyer (20/1) as both have a slim shot at a win – but a shot nonetheless. Jeff Burton (18/1), Kurt Busch (16/1) and Juan Pablo Montoya (15/1) are in the same boat, but don’t have as good of odds. Again, follow practice speeds and decide if any of these drivers are a better bet than the other.
Long-shots worthy of a flier
Just like last week the Gibbs cars have a history of success at Martinsville and Joey Logano can be had at 40/1 – for the second straight week I like these odds. You can also take Logano to finish in the top three at 12/1 odds. I don’t think Brad Keselowski, Scott Speed or AJ Allmendinger have a shot to win, but stranger things have happened and are all are available at 80/1.
Drivers I DON’T like this weekend
I have lost faith early on this season on Denny Hamlin (5/1) and Kyle Busch (15/1). I won’t touch either again until they start to show consistency at the front of the field. Don’t fall for Busch at 15/1… it won’t happen. All of the Roush cars can be had at relatively good odds, but a Hendrick car WILL win this weekend. I expect Tony Stewart (9/1) to have a good run this weekend, but I don’t like him enough to win at those odds.
While all of the Vegas money will be on Gordon and Johnson, and rightfully so, it will be teammate Martin who picks up his first win of the season at much better odds than his stable mates.