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Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

Field a ‘crap shoot’ with no clear favorite

NASCAR’s big show gets under way this Sunday as the 52nd running of the Daytona 500 jump starts the season. It is NASCAR’s biggest race of the season and even though it may sound a bit off from the traditions of other sports where the biggest event is normally reserved for the end of the season, it’s so perfectly perfect. There is no bigger opener in any sport.

We just saw the NFL season end with hundreds of propositions available for that game. This week for the Daytona 500, the books will do the same. There are only two races a season that are treated like Super Bowls by the books, Daytona and Las Vegas.

The handle for those two races are the best all season and because of that volume the books will offer several props that aren’t normally seen from week to week.

Winning car number, number of Ford’s in the top 10, over-under driver finishes and head-to-head driver matchups are just a few of the things that will be available at most places that aren’t for the other 34 races on the season.

The sports books have had odds on this race available since last season ended when the NASCAR award ceremonies were in Las Vegas. Kyle Busch was installed as the early 8 to 1 favorite by the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book followed by a bunch of drivers getting double digit odds or higher.

Busch has had the best restrictor plate car over his last two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing. The Las Vegas native only has two wins in eight attempts, but should have had a few more, including last year’s Daytona 500.

The one thing about Daytona though is that the favorite rarely wins. Because of the nature of the draft and so many cars being close together as the finish nears, it really is a crap shoot to who will win, unlike many of the other races where the possible winners are narrowed to about seven legitimate candidates.

Kyle Busch is the best on paper, but for this race it may be wise to look deeper into the pool for other candidates that will fetch the best payouts.

A driver like Jeff Burton at 30 to 1 offers a nice price with his new and improved Childress car as does his teammate, Kevin Harvick, who won last week’s Bud Shootout. Burton has one restrictor-plate win in his career. Harvick is listed at 20 to 1 and has always excelled in the plate races, winning the Daytona 500 in 2007.

Jamie McMurray has looked good with his new ride driving for Teresa Earnhardt. McMurray has been evolving year after year in the art of the draft and finally won last season in the fall Daytona race. McMurray is 25 to 1.

After looking for some of those longer shot drivers, we have to go back and look at their odds in the 12-15 to 1 odds.

Jimmie Johnson is 12 to 1 to this race which are odds a little higher than when he won the 2006 Daytona 500. Tony Stewart has been one of the more complete plate drivers over the last four seasons. He’s won at Daytona three times, but has yet to capture the big one in the season opener. Stewart is listed at 12 to 1.

Then we have everyone’s favorite, or who used to be, Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is at 12 to 1 also. Junior has taken a lot of heat for his lack of performance while driving for the best team in NASCAR. He’s had many in his Junior Nation jump ship for a more competitive driver, but that should all change this year.

Come on folks, hop back on the wagon. Junior is ready to roll again after having his entire set of chassis’ set and done the Hendrick way. For the last two seasons Tony Eury Jr. Junior’s cousin, was his crew chief. Junior brought him over from his old team and Eury Jr. never got into a rhythm. He tinkered with a good Hendrick set-up and negated the advantage Junior would have had by having just left it alone.

Earnhardt Jr. now has it altogether with the entire organization backing him up with the best in technology. He shares a garage with teammate Mark Martin and should have cars equally as good as what Martin will have every week.

This week, both Martin and Junior will be good along with their other teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

Whenever there is a small change in rules, Hendrick will always be the first ones to capitalize on how to be ahead of everyone else. The hole in the restrictor plate is larger giving the drivers more throttle response and while it may take the drivers a few laps to get used to it, it’s a good bet that the Hendrick crews already have their plan down to take advantage of it.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts

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