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Sprint Cup Odds – Hamlin should wrest Sprint Cup title away from Johnson

Posted by Lee-Roy Buckles on 2/9/2010 1:38:04 PM

Jimmie Johnson has been an online betting player’s dream over the last four years as he’s dominated the Sprint Cup recently, and will be going for his fifth straight title. However, the reigning champion will have a big chance thrown into his schedule this summer, and if he stumbles, Denny Hamlin will be there.


NASCAR Odds – Jimmie Johnson favored at +180

Martin still looking for first championship
Stewart, Gordon hope to add to title count
Hamlin has talent, but needs to keep temperament in check



Of course, the conversation has to begin with Johnson when you’re talking about sportsbook candidates, and he’s the favorite at +180 after winning his fourth straight championship, something that has never been done in NASCAR. What is the key to Johnson’s success, besides crew chief Chad Knaus, the money at Hendrick Motorsports and his outrageous skill? His performance at the Chase tracks. Johnson won four of the Chase races last year, including three of the first five.

After Johnson, there’s Mark Martin at +700, and the 51-year-old may have had the best season of his career in 2009, finishing second in the title race for the fifth time. Martin won five races and a series-high seven poles, which is where he’ll start at Daytona this week.

After another season with the No.5 team, Martin should be even stronger in 2010.

There’s a crew of challengers at +800, including Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. The latter two drivers were the trendy picks to unseat Johnson last year, but Busch didn’t even make the Chase, and Edwards failed to win a race while participating in the Chase with a broken foot. Two-time champion Stewart had a brilliant first season as a driver/owner, pacing the regular-season standings before finishing sixth, and Gordon had another consistent season, but ended up in third behind Hendrick teammates (and four-time champions) Johnson and Gordon.

If you’re looking for some value, Juan Pablo Montoya (+1400), Kurt Busch (+1500) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+1900) would be your best bets. Montoya figured it out last year, but a few terrible finishes in the Chase relegated him to eighth. 2004 champion Busch finished fourth, and now has a new crew chief in Steve Addington, who worked with baby brother Kyle last year. Earnhardt Jr. could have the best shot because he has the best equipment at Hendrick, but he looked like he had the world on his shoulders in 2009. We know “Junior” can drive, but there’s a lot of pressure that comes with being the most popular driver in NASCAR, as well as the son of a late, great Hall of Fame legend.

If you want to take some bigger risks, Matt Kenseth (+1800) and Kevin Harvick (+2500) are two former Daytona 500 wins who didn’t make the Chase last year. Kenseth, who was the 2003 champion, won last year’s Great American Race and then the next week at California, but he had just seven top-10s the rest of the season, although he finished with some good runs. Harvick finished with four top-10s in the Chase, and then he won last week’s Budweiser Shootout race. These guys have all the talent in the world, but it’s the equipment (Kenseth at Roush Fenway, Harvick at RCR) that has to catch up.

Lee-Roy’s Pick: Johnson is the easy choice for championship No.5, but he could have a huge midseason adjustment to make as his wife is due to give birth to their first child in July. Gordon has said how much his life changed after his first child was born (coincidentally, Gordon’s wife will have their second child in August), so Johnson will have to change his routine, which could leave the door open for the rest of the series. The driver who should take advantage of it all is Denny Hamlin at +1000, even though the JGR driver has a torn ACL that he’ll have surgery on after the season. Hamlin didn’t appear to be limping much during Speedweeks, and he said it didn’t bother him in the car. The No.11 driver won four races in 2009, including two of the last five, and he ended the season with four top-three finishes. He has the talent, he just needs to keep his temper in check, and that has improved in recent years. Take Johnson if you want to be safe, but if you want value, go with Denny Hamlin.  

Check Lee-Roy each week in the Betting Edge at BetOnline as he gives you the top sports betting picks in NASCAR.

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