AND, THE EXPERTS SAY...

Feb 15, 2005 2:15 AM

Here’s a look at how some of Las Vegas’ top NASCAR oddsmakers like to win this week:

Jeff Sherman (Las Vegas Hilton): Jeff Gordon: He finished the year strong last season and will carry that momentum into this season, not to mention that he won the last points race at Daytona in July.

Fred Crespi (Palms): Jimmie Johnson: The resurgence of Hendrick Motorsports last year in plates races should carry over into this season. It’s his turn to win a plate race after pushing Gordon twice to wins last year. DEI and Junior are no longer the only players in town.

Tom Stauffer (Mandalay Bay): Jeff Burton: Should have a good race driving a Chevy for Childress. I think he’s ready to turn things around this year.

Chris Chavez (Stardust): Jamie McMurray: This is the stage where he breaks through and becomes a big star, joining the likes of Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson as one of the best young drivers in NASCAR. I think he’ll have a great race and carry it to a season long championship run.

Bert Osborne (Coast Resorts): Dale Earnhardt Jr: Sure, he’s the chalk, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The guy has dominated the restrictor plate races the last four seasons so how could I choose anyone else to win?

Kelly Downey (Green Valley Ranch): Martin Truex Jr. This is shot in the dark, but I think it has a lot of merit. He’ll be driving a DEI car and will likely be the driver Dale Jr. buddies up to in the draft, not Michael Waltrip. Dale Jr has taught Truex almost everything about driving in the draft, both on and off the track. Once you make it to the end with the final pack, anything can happen. I think he can be there.

Jeff Stoneback (Excalibur): Jeff Gordon: He’s a 5 time winner at Daytona, including last years Pepsi 400. His last Daytona 500 win was in 1999. Factor in that his team is much better in plate races now, along with his great drafting ability, and I think he presents great value to win.

Kelly Airgood (Boulder Station): Jimmie Johnson: I think he carries all that momentum from last season into this year. He’s got all the tools it takes to win including teammates, of which he’ll have four. He is going to be one of the greats of the sport and to do so, you’ve got to win the Daytona 500. Now’s as good a shot as he’s ever going to have.

Johnny Spot (Barbary Coast): Kevin Harvick: The Childress car has really done some great things in the past and I think this will be their race, finally on a Superspeedway.