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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Bettin’ the Horsepower: Texas-Sized Gamble Not to Put $ on Hendrick/Roush

For two races, NASCAR’s new spoiler has done little to influence the outcome of competition. But in our first trip to the Lone Star State this season, expect many teams’ days to be “spoiled” by the way it makes these cars handle on an intermediate.

The speeds down south will approach 200 mph, throwing a curveball we haven’t seen on the short tracks of Martinsville and Phoenix to date. Teams will be forced to utilize notes from the Charlotte test in March, showing us who made the most of NASCAR’s gift of extra time and who made the mistake of goofing off. But there’s a certain group of cars that should expect a little extra edge based on stuff they’ve done inside the race shop. Who are they, and how will it affect your betting?

Read below to find out:

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

Jeff Gordon comes to Texas knocking on the door, defending champ of the race and armed with seven runner-up finishes during the 12 months since. The No. 24 team finally has this place figured out, and at 8/1 odds seems a reasonable bet for the win on Sunday. Even if he doesn’t win, considering his spate of top-3 finishes as of late makes a 2/1 bet in that category the closest thing to a guarantee you’re going to get.

Kurt Busch has been a contender at virtually every intermediate track we’ve visited this season. Add in his fall win at Texas, and 8/1 odds seem reasonable for a guy that’s likely to be there at the end. For while Busch has had his moments, he seems a great head-to-head matchup guy over virtually anyone.

Mr. Busch aside, this weekend with the new spoiler gives drivers at Hendrick and Roush the edge in head-to-head matchups. They have access to simulation software and other in-house tools others don’t, ones that give them a leg up with this type of major adjustment to the race car. Bet accordingly, as this race is the type of one where you could see eight, maybe more Hendrick or Roush-supported cars inside the top 10.

Play the Odds

Yeah, Mark Martin seemed to shake his slump with a fourth-place finish last week at Phoenix. But it’s not like he ran up front, running at the back of the top 10 most of the night with a car and team that dominated the very same race last year. With 8/1 odds to win, it’s not that bad of a pick, but monitor practice times on Friday and Saturday before you’re fully convinced.

Considering the way the team’s run this year, Jeff Burton (15/1 odds), Kevin Harvick (15/1), and Clint Bowyer (18/1) aren’t bad picks to win it. But Burton especially has been open in recent weeks about how much the new spoiler change could throw Richard Childress Racing a serious curve at intermediates. If any of these guys qualify in the top 10, they’re worth taking… but we’d take a “wait and see” approach that could even last through Happy Hour on Saturday before plopping down some cash.

Long-shots Worthy of a Flier

It’s hard to call Carl Edwards a long-shot, but that’s what happens when you haven’t led a lap this season. Still, every slump has to stop at some point, and 12/1 odds are pretty exceptional for a guy who holds the record for the most victories down at Texas (three). Let’s not forget, Edwards also almost won this race last year before untimely pit penalties left him suffering at the back of the pack. Even if you think winning’s a stretch, 4/1 for a top-three finish ain’t half bad, either.

Another guy who almost won this race last season was Greg Biffle, until he ran into the same of pit road boo boos that doomed his teammate at the No. 99. Considering his Texas track record (three top 10s, 95 laps led the last three races) we’d go for those 25/1 odds on the win in a heartbeat.

If you’re looking to take a real stab at somebody, David Reutimann led 40 laps here in his No. 00 Toyota last year. The Michael Waltrip Racing stable hasn’t run worth a lick as of late, but you’d figure their number one driver would get back on track at some point. 50/1 odds to win and 12/1 for a top-three finish are good if you’re looking to take a major gamble.

Don’t Touch…

If there was ever a time to hit “ignore” on Jimmie Johnson, it’s now. The odds to win are only 7/2, surprising considering the last time Johnson came here the No. 77 of Sam Hornish Jr. sent him hard into the outside wall by lap 15. It’s just not worth the risk, even though he was runner-up in the spring race the last two seasons running.

Kasey Kahne has 20/1 odds to win and 5/1 for a top-three finish this week. But do you really think the No. 9 crew will be itching to send him to victory lane just days after announcing his imminent departure? Four words for this bet: avoid at all costs.

Considering he’s wrecked in two of his last three Texas starts, Juan Pablo Montoya’s an awful selection at 12/1. Honestly, his aggressive style typically makes him a tough play in any gambling scenario; the dreaded DNF risk even makes him vulnerable in head-to-head matchups.

Our Prediction

Johnson needs a rival, and it’s time someone else steps up to the plate. After knocking on the door all season, look for Matt Kenseth to pull a breakthrough and head to victory lane, a slight surprise at 10/1 odds.