Chase likely down to Gordon, Johnson

Oct 9, 2007 5:12 AM

Six races remain in the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup season with a clearer picture forming after four races into the Chase for the Championship.

What once started out as a nice wide open race where the separation between several drivers was by a mere five points has turned into a two car chase. Jeff Gordon leads Jimmie Johnson by 9 following his Talladega win last week. Further back its Clint Bowyer trailing by 63 and then Tony Stewart is 154 behind.

Bowyer is a fine driver and has exceeded everyone’s expectations, but the Las Vegas odds tell the whole story. They show Bowyer with less of a chance to win it all than Stewart. Gordon has been moved from a 2/1 favorite down to 6/5. Johnson has been moved from 3/1 to 2/1. Bowyer, despite being the closet to the Dynamic Duo is placed at 20/1.

Part of the equation at this point for the disparity in prices is that it’s all about supply and demand. Many books have a huge write on the Hendrick drivers that carries the burden of large liability when and if one them win it all.

Bowyer doesn’t really have anyone in his corner bankrolling support for him at the books. The books, in an attempt to see how far they can go before they lure a bettor, will raise his number. True odds of a driver of Bowyer’s stature, sitting in third against the Dynamic Duo with six races to go, make him maybe 10/1. In this situation late in the year most books have a nice profit on Bowyer and would prefer to see him win over the Hendrick duo.

However, when two drivers to combine to win 11 of 30 races on the season and have been virtually on top in points all season long its hard to believe that they’ll collapse down the stretch like the 2007 New York Mets. Machines seem to have a less vulnerable psyche than humans, and Gordon and Johnson have the best machines.

This week they roll into Charlotte for a Saturday night race, which is a nice change from years past when they ran Sunday. The best part of it all is that ABC is running the show and has eliminated any real competition to occupy my viewing attention.

Traditionally on Saturday nights, ABC usually has two or three of the best college football games of the week showing on regional telecasts. This week it looks like my viewing will be that of NASCAR and playoff baseball. On the week of honoring Christopher Columbus, what is more American than that on a Saturday night?

Charlotte’s sponsorship of their track is Lowe’s Home Improvement. Since taking over the name rights, an amazing coincidence has occurred on the NASCAR circuit. Apparently, part of the initial deal was that the Lowe’s sponsored car driven by Jimmie Johnson had to win every race. He hasn’t won every race, but he’s taken five wins in his last nine starts there.

Last season Johnson had to settle for two second place finishes behind Kasey Kahne who swept the season. Johnson had swept the previous two seasons. While Kahne lost that car that dominated the 1½ mile high banked tracks somewhere, Johnson has continued his great consistency. Tracks that are similar to Charlotte in size and banking are Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Charlotte. Johnson has won two of them this year already.

In the first race this season during Memorial day weekend, Kurt Busch dominated the race before being in an accident. That entire race was goofy with one wild thing happening after another until Casey Mears finally took the checkered flag for the first time in his career. Check out the big name drivers who finished right behind Mears; J.J. Yeley, Kyle Petty, Reed Sorenson, and Brian Vickers.

Look for normalcy to occur with the top Charlotte drivers finishing up front. Jeff Gordon has four Charlotte wins in his career but none since 1999. What is strange is that Gordon has not been good at Charlotte since giving up his own dominant fast DuPont cars to start Johnson’s Lowe’s team. Johnson has been the best ever at the track while Gordon hasn’t finished better than 24th in his last five starts there. In May, Gordon got involved in an accident early on and finished 41.

1. #2   Kurt Busch 12/1
2. #48   Jimmie Johnson 4/1
3. #20   Tony Stewart 8/1
4. #31   Jeff Burton 17/1
5. #17   Matt Kenseth 12/1
35 20 95 of 175