Earnhardt the 4th driver to win two races this season

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the fourth driver to win two races this season with his first career victory at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.

In the eight seasons from 2005-13, Junior never had more than one win in a season and took the checkers only four times. Now he’s got some rhythm going, a great car weekly, a great crew chief in his final year, and Las Vegas sports books are taking notice.

When Earnhardt Jr. first came onto the Cup scene in 2000, I was positive that he would win a championship. He won at least two races a season during his first five years and won six times in 2004, but the closest he got to winning a championship was third in 2003.

Because he was so popular among the fans and bettors, his odds to win the title were always low in the 6-to-1 range. But after signing with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, a move that was supposed to enhance his career, he did just the opposite.

Junior floundered and got a reputation in Las Vegas sports books as being a driver that didn’t have what it takes to be a champion. He let other drivers bully him and whenever he had a chance to win a race, he seemed soft. His odds to win the title were still low at 15-to-1, but that was only because of supply and demand from the public, who were still betting him regardless.

Now after his Pocono win, sports books like the LVH are starting to believe in Junior a little more. Last week Junior was 12-to-1 to win the title. After his win Sunday, he’s now 8-to-1. Two wins in the first 14 races is good reason to believe that Junior has a shot this year.

This week’s Cup race takes us to Michigan International Speedway, a place where Junior got his only two wins for Hendrick Motorsports until this season. He won there in 2008 and again in 2012, and despite finishing 37th and 36th in the two races there last season, he should be expected to be competing for the win this week.

Carl Edwards is a two-time winner at Michigan with a track best 8.3 average finish over his 19 career starts. It’s been six races since he last had a top-5 finish there, but this is Roush Fenway Racing’s home track and the team always gets fired up when coming home in front of all the automobile manufacturer executives from nearby Detroit.

Greg Biffle has been one of those Roush drivers that have excelled at Michigan with four wins over his career, including two of the last three events. He’s only had two top-5 finishes this season, but he should present great value on the odds board at 18-to-1 or higher.

Kevin Harvick has been fast everywhere this season so there’s no reason to think he’ll be any different this week. He won there in 2010 and finished second in both races last season while driving for Richard Childress.

Tony Stewart has always been good at Michigan but hasn’t won there since 2000. He’s finished ninth or better in six of his last seven starts and we’re finally starting to see Stewart look like the Stewart we all know after breaking his leg last season. A win is coming soon for the No. 14 team.

Michigan has shut Jimmie Johnson down over his career. No wins, which amazing considering all his greatness on the down force tracks. He’s been close several times, but has always had some kind of misfortune happen late to keep him out of victory lane.

Joey Logano won at Michigan in the fall last season and should be considered one of the drivers to beat. His Penske team has been one of the best horsepower providers all season and Michigan’s 2-mile layout requires lots of it.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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