After nearly four years of writing a weekly column, there are some weeks when the articles almost write themselves. You have the basic idea, for example: “Why Carl Edwards will be the driver to unseat the champion,” and you find yourself able to riff your way to a thousand words with hopefully some salient and pertinent points that support your case. Of course, if in doubt there’s always Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is an endless source of column topics. Frankly, you could probably write about the correlation between the length of Junior’s scruff (beard) and his race finishes and a ton of people would read it.
Some weeks, though, it can be much more difficult; akin to having your wisdom teeth pulled without anesthesia. This week being just such an example. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the race at the Brickyard this weekend–I did. Nor is it that I don’t want to write about Paul Menard–great win, by the way. Nor do I want to write a “list” style column, it’s too easy. So what to do? Well, in times like this, I find it’s time to turn to Twitter, and that’s what I did.
Now as any aficionado of the micro-blogging site knows, you can pack a fair amount of information into just 140 short characters, and NASCAR drivers and writers are particularly prolific with these morsel sized chunks of information. One such example is Nate Ryan, the _USA Today_ motorsports correspondent who, according to the stats on the site, has tweeted a smidgeon under 21,000 times. Seems like a lot to me but there you go, perhaps I’m just not that interesting. Today, though, Mr. Ryan helped me out massively by posting the latest betting odds on who will win the Sprint Cup crown in 2011, which got me thinking about this column.
Back home in England there is a bookmaker on every high street of every city, town and village. Sports betting is ingrained in the national conscience: as much a part of the culture as tea, sympathy, keeping calm and carrying on. Anyway, Mr. Ryan’s tweets on the latest “odds” got me thinking, and not in small part, about the oft used expression back home, “The Bookies Never Get it Wrong.” With that in mind, you’ll probably be not surprised to see the man with the lowest odds is old Five-Time Jimmie Johnson who is listed at 4-1. (This, for the uninitiated, means that for every dollar you place on Jimmie to win you get four dollars – plus your stake – in return, provided he picks up an unprecedented sixth straight crown.)
In second and third place respectively are Carl Edwards (9-2) and Kyle Busch (5-1). Jeff Gordon is a shade behind in fourth place (6-1) reflecting his uptick in form this year as he tries again for a fifth crown. Not far behind are Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin locked together at 8-1 with Kurt Busch a little further back (10-1) and the still winless Tony Stewart in eighth place with odds of 12-1. Given the format of the Chase, those are pretty reasonable odds for the two-time champion if he can string together a terrific run of ten races. It’s interesting, too, that these odds for the first eight drivers are so close to Johnson. Perhaps recognizing that despite the No. 48 being the presumptive champion, there is a chink in the usually impenetrable armor given results on the year to date and associated issues with the revolving over-the-wall team.
After the top eight mentioned above there is a sizeable jump to the next highest rated driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who you can pick to win the title with odds of 30-1. Given my earlier point about the bookies not getting it wrong, this reflects the fact that while he’s improved, he’s still a long way off genuinely challenging for a title. Behind Earnhardt, you can get 35-1 on the Rocket Man, Ryan Newman and 40-1 odds on both Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer. In the case of the latter, those odds seem pretty generous, given how well he’s done when he’s made the chase. Kasey Kahne is even further back at 60-1 with Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan and now after Sunday, Paul Menard at 75-1. At this point you’re just wasting your money, barring a racing miracle. Joey Logano, Mark Martin, AJ Almendinger, Martin Truex Jr and Brian Vickers all come in at 100-1, with Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Burton at 300-1, which is book maker speak for, “We are happy to take your money if you are that stupid.”
Finally you can get everyone else at 500-1, for which see my previous comment. So with six races to go before the Chase starts, there’s still plenty of time to get your money on your favorite driver. Who knows, maybe someone not named Jimmie Johnson will get it done but until that happens I’d say go with the price offered on the champ. You’ll likely not be disappointed.
*One Quick Final Point:* Wasn’t it great to hear the dulcet tones of Gentleman Ned Jarrett in the broadcast booth yesterday? Is the Worldwide leader in sports sure they can’t tempt him out of retirement on a more regular basis? Form is temporary, class is permanent and in the case of the two-time champion (1961 and 1965) and Hall of Famer, there couldn’t be a much truer expression than that.
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