NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Bettin’ the Horsepower: Avoid Temptation When Betting for Champion

With the Cup Series off for Easter, those of you who follow this column and like to drop a few bucks down on bets each weekend may be looking for something to pique your interest on what will be a race free Sunday. We are far enough into the 2010 season now that we can get a good feel for those who are contenders for the Cup, so why not take a look at some odds for becoming the Cup Series champion?

This will be a rather informal look at who I feel are the favorites for the title and the odds you may be able to find them at. It’s still early, but it’s never too early to look into the crystal ball and prognosticate the future champion – and maybe win some money in the process!

Unlike betting races there are only a handful of guys who have a realistic shot at the championship – something that takes a unique combination of driver talent, equipment and luck – so make sure you bet with your head and not your heart when it comes to a 36-race title holder rather than a 500-mile winner.

All odds are taken from BetUS.com as of Thursday afternoon. Note that these odds tend to change throughout the year and what you see in this column may or may not be the odds you see at the time of your bet.

Solid Bets

Do I even have to mention who the championship favorite is this year? Jimmie Johnson has the best team, the best crew chief and most importantly, the best luck. It’s almost unimaginable to see Johnson winning a fifth consecutive championship in Miami come November, but if the first two months is any indication, it can happen. Now obviously Johnson can only be had at (5/2) odds, but if you’re one of those who just has that sneaky feeling that Johnson can pull it off again, don’t be ashamed to throw some money on him – at least you know he’ll be in contention.

Two guys that have really stood out to me early this season are Kevin Harvick (9/1) and Kurt Busch (8/1) – both of which can be had at the same or better odds than Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon (5/1) and Mark Martin (8/1). They make solid plays, as do Roush teammates Greg Biffle (8/1) and Matt Kenseth (10/1) who have quietly raced their way into the top three in points.

These guys may not stand out as title favorites right now, but when betting the championship you have to get drivers before they make that breakout run that hurts their odds.

Play the Odds

Closely watch the Joe Gibbs Racing boys as they started to show signs of life at Martinsville. None currently sit in the top 12 in points and all have question marks, but at any point Kyle Busch (15/1) or Denny Hamlin (18/1) can go on a tear. Joey Logano (30/1) is an intriguing option, but could you see him winning the title? I don’t. Save your money.

I wouldn’t touch Carl Edwards at 8/1, but if those odds start to fluctuate – which they very well may – he makes a solid sleeper pick waiting to break out. Clint Bowyer (15/1) is a solid bet right now, but I want to see a little more from him first. I have faith in Jeff Burton (10/1), but I won’t touch him at those odds.

Long-shots Worthy of Flier

As I said in my opening, only a select few drivers can contend for a championship, making longshots seemingly impossible. But there is one I like. Juan Pablo Montoya (60/1) sits 25th in points, but he’s had some quick cars this season – he just hasn’t had any luck. If you remember his surprising run for the title last season and think he can do it again – I for one do – take this bet… now!

DON’T MAKE THESE BETS

I’m sorry Junior Nation, but let’s be honest – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (18/1) is not ready to win the championship this season. I know you love the guy, but save your money. Paul Menard (100/1) is off to a start, but we all know he won’t win the championship. Avoid him… no matter how much Vegas tries to sucker you in with those odds.

My Prediction

My gut says Kurt Busch will ultimately win the title, but my head says Johnson. I’ll go with Johnson… boring, I know.

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