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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Bettin’ the Horsepower: Bet Johnson at Any Odds This Weekend

With batteries recharged, the Cup Series returns to action this weekend in the Phoenix desert for the sport’s first primetime event of the season. When the lights and cameras come on Saturday night, expect the usual cast of characters to shine – led by the man who has no problem thriving in the spotlight. Just like at the series’ last event in Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson absolutely owns Phoenix, with 11 top 10s in his 13 starts, including four wins in his last five. He was the favorite in Virginia, but couldn’t find victory lane – you have to decide if this is the week he returns.

As always, Johnson can’t be had at any odds worth betting unless you’re almost positive he’s going to win, but you can’t deny he’s the favorite come Saturday. In today’s edition of Bettin’ the Horsepower, we take a look at the drivers who are some of the better bets in Phoenix.

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

As I mentioned earlier, Johnson is the guy to beat again this weekend. I almost hate mentioning him in this column week after week, but it’s inevitable. If you’re betting to win Johnson is obviously logical. I’m still split on whether Johnson is worthy of betting to win at 4/1. On one side those odds aren’t great compared to some of other drivers who have a chance to win, but on the other side he’s one of 5-10 drivers who has a shot to win any given weekend and given his dominance, those odds ARE good compared to other sports. This is one of the races I say if you’re going to bet him, do it.

Mark Martin won this very event last year and is at 7/1, along with Jeff Gordon. Both are solid plays as usual.

The one guy I expected to be a good play this weekend – but Vegas is all over – is Jeff Burton (10/1). Despite RCR’s struggles at the beginning of 2009, Burton still managed a top 15 in the spring event and finished second in the fall.

Kurt Busch (7/1) has three consecutive top 10s in Phoenix and finished third in this event last year. His team appears much improved this season and could easily take the checkered flag Saturday.

Play the Odds

Tony Stewart had two top 10s in Phoenix last year in his first season with his new team and led 19 laps in this event last year. He can be had at 10/1 I’d like to see those change a little bit before you throw some money on him.

I said last week I’m not betting the Gibbs guys until they show me something, and suddenly Denny Hamlin had a breakthrough in Martinsville. Will this translate to Kyle Busch? I’m not sure enough to bet him at 9/1.

Long-shots Worthy of a Flier

Marcos Ambrose had two top 15s in his two starts in Phoenix last season and finished 18th there in a spot start in 2008. Obviously he’s not a favorite, but at 80/1 odds why not take a chance?

Given Kurt Busch’s recent success in the dessert I expect teammate Brad Keselowski to also have a strong showing. You may not like the guy, but at 80/1 he could be your favorite driver by the end of Saturday night. If I had to choose between my two long-shots I give Keselowski the better chance to win. He’s been at 80/1 all season thus far which will pay dividends to whoever gambles the week he actually finds victory lane.

Don’t Touch…

Hamlin. I know he’s good in Phoenix and won at the series’ last stop, but I don’t like the status of his knee. He surprised many by winning with a torn ACL in Martinsville, but racing on a recently surgically repaired knee is a different story. At 12/1 it’s just not worth it.

My Prediction

I’m sorry to say, but this is as good of a weekend as ever to bet Johnson (4/1). Hopefully he won’t let me down like he did in Virginia.

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