Betting value shortens
at Martinsville

Mar 27, 2007 8:08 AM

In years past, Martinsville races were always a welcome sight for bettors because there was a great chance that a huge underdog could win the race. Now, not so much.

Over the last 10 races at the Virginia short track, either the favorite or one of the top five choices has won. In other words, there’s no value in wagering odds to win the race because betting a driver to win at 5/1 has no excitement.

Ah yes, the glory days. The good old times when you could do a little research and find a gem among all the boulders. A few of the gems I recall happened in the Jeff Gordon era of dominance where there weren’t many races he was higher than 9/2, as should be the case when a guy wins 13 races in a season.

Martinsville became the great equalizer for both the driver with great short and flat track skills along with the bettor. Players would consistently throw some cash on drivers to win other than Gordon, and found themselves on the losing end more often than not. A big score with odds of 25/1 or higher was rare, but it did happen and usually it was at Martinsville.

Don’t get me wrong, Gordon did jam it right back into the bettors with three Martinsville wins in a four-year span (1996-99). However, in that magical Gordon year of ’98, not one of those 13 wins came at Martinsville. That paved the way for some great success at the window. Bobby Hamilton went wire to wire in the spring and cashed nicely at 25/1. In the fall, Ricky Rudd battling the flu and having the tough assignment of being an underfunded car owner/driver, took home the checkers at 50/1.

Since then, there have been a few others that paid very well such as John Andretti and Ricky Craven. Following the Craven win it’s been all favorites or "downhill" since.

Perhaps 2007 could be different. All the favorites are listed as such, but there is a bit of the unknown due to the new Car Of Today (COT).

A couple of drivers we can key on as possible long shot winners hail from Virginia. Chesterfield native Denny Hamlin had a fantastic run last week at Bristol. Hamlin may not be in the high odds range as some others but flat track expertise commands the respect to make him a favorite to win. Look for odds in the 12/1 range or hopefully higher.

South Boston (Va) native Jeff Burton is a past winner at Martinsville. Because of two poor runs last season there, he could close 15/1 or higher. His last top 5 was a fifth in the fall of 2005. Last week’s strong run in the COT surely won’t raise his odds any higher.

The favorites to win this week’s race have plenty of credentials to support their worth.

Jimmie Johnson has a 4.1 average finish position in his last nine Martinsville races. He’s had two wins over his career on the track. In his last three attempts, he’s done no worse than third.

Gordon has seven wins at Martinsville over a career spanning 28 starts. That is quite easily the most active wins there by anyone. In his last eight starts there, he has an average finish of 3.25 in part to the four victories.

Tony Stewart is a two time winner at Martinsville in his 16 career starts. Over his last three starts he is tied for the best average finish among all drivers.

For overachievers. Bobby Labonte drives for one of the worst teams outside of Tokyo. Yet last year he proved an ability to wheel anything at Martinsville, finishing third in the fall. Labonte has a six-year streak of at least one top 5 Martinsville finish. That’s quite an accomplishment considering the two terrible cars he’s had the last four races there.



1. #11 Denny Hamlin            15/1

2. #20 Tony Stewart               6/1

3. #24 Jeff Gordon                  5/1

4. #48 Jimmie Johnson           6/1

5. #31 Jeff Burton                 18/1

EVENTS     WINS      TOP 10s

     6               4         13 of 30