Final 16 drivers for 10-race Chase for Sprint Cup

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With only a little bit of drama attached to last week’s race at Richmond, we’ve got our final 16 drivers for the 10-race Chase for Sprint Cup Championship that begins this week in Chicago.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, formerly known as the LVH, has also looked over the field and the 10 races ahead and have determined that Jeff Gordon is the 7-to-2 favorite to win his fifth Cup title and first since 2001.

This is the first time all season that Gordon has been listed by himself as the favorite. For the past few weeks, Gordon has been a 4-to-1 co-favorite with Jimmie Johnson, who still remains at 4-to-1 along with Brad Keselowski who now has a season high four wins on the season. Right behind them is Kevin Harvick at 5-to-1, a driver that has probably had the best car of the track on the most occasions this season, but hasn’t won since Darlington in April.

Those are your top-4 candidates to win the Chase and chances are they will likely be the four drivers competing for the best finish at Homestead which plays out like a championship game. Whoever has the best finish, wins. It’s pretty simple, and also very cool.

Every three races over the next 10, four drivers will be eliminated. The winning drivers from Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover will advance and the four lowest point totals are eliminated. Then the 12 remaining drivers go through the same process at the next three tracks at Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega. And then the final eight will duke it out at Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix until four are remaining for Homestead.

The common thread on the 10 different tracks is that five of them are 1.5-mile layouts and we have seen the cream rise to the top in the six races run on those so far. Hendrick Motorsports claims three of the wins and Penske Racing has the other three.

Although Joe Gibbs Racing won in seven of the eleven 1.5-mile race last season, they haven’t been good on them this season, or at least they weren’t until Atlanta two weeks ago where Matt Kenseth finished second and Denny Hamlin third.

The JGC cars are the big wild card here and offer some interesting odds (Kenseth and Kyle Busch 12/1, Hamlin 18/1) or at least higher odds from candidates that could get their act together better than those not part of Hendrick or Penske. The key for JGR will be getting past the first three races. They should have a great opportunity to all fare well at Talladega and then if they can make the final eight, anything is possible

Here’s how I have it roughly stacked up for the next 10 races with the winner and drivers eliminated:

Chicagoland winner: Harvick.

New Hampshire winner: Keselowski.

Dover winner: Keselowski (Biffle, Allmendinger, Almirola, Kurt Busch eliminated).

Kansas winner: Johnson.

Charlotte winner: non-Chase driver McMurray steals one.

Talladega winner: Kenseth (Hamlin, Kahne, Edwards, Newman eliminated).

Martinsville winner: Gordon.

Texas winner: Logano.

Phoenix winner: Earnhardt Jr (Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Harvick eliminated).

Homestead: Gordon has better finishes than Earnhardt Jr, Logano and Johnson and wins the title.

That scenario is my best guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see four completely different drivers as the final four. If a driver has a bad race during one of the stages, and doesn’t win in any of the three races, they’re basically cooked. Season over.

This is all about consistency and staying out of trouble and the best this season so far has been Jeff Gordon. So while I’d like to make case for Denny Hamlin at 18-to-1 odds, it just doesn’t add up.

As for Sunday’s race at Chicago, I’ll give a nod to Harvick who won the first two Cup races held there in 2001-02. He finished third last season and has a 9.9 career average finish. The next group of guys are the same ones that have been running well all season on the 1.5-mile tracks.

Take your pick between any of the Hendrick and Penske drivers with a decent longshot available with last season’s Chicago winner, Matt Kenseth.

 

 

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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