Greatest in JJ's sights

Feb 27, 2008 1:50 AM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

Jimmie Johnson
 Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson
Matt Kenseth
 Matt Kenseth
Sterling Marlin

Jimmie Johnson is already the defending two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, but should he win this Sunday’s UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he’ll be put into an entirely new category.

A victory will enable JJ to share history with the greatest names in NASCAR. Johnson has won the last three Vegas races. Two of the wins were on the older flatter configuration. Last year’s triumph was on the brand new dynamic, faster version of LVMS.

Only five times in the history of the Cup series has a driver won four consecutive races over four straight seasons. Richard Petty did it twice, once at Martinsville and the other at Richmond where he won five straight years.

Darrell Waltrip won the same Bristol fall race four straight seasons and totaled seven wins in a row at the Tennessee oval, including the spring races. Jeff Gordon won four straight Bristol spring races and four straight Southern 500’s at Darlington, S.C.

Those are some pretty big heavyweights Johnson has an opportunity to join this week. He would become the only driver to win four races in a row at a track that has only one race a year. Greg Biffle attempted the feat last year at Homestead, going for his fourth consecutive win, but his teammate Matt Kenseth took the checkers.

In reality, Las Vegas has only one true King, and that is Elvis. But Vegas has always made room for excellence in talent and the city especially loves winners. The Rat Pack, Wayne Newton, and Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels have always been loved and revered by visitors and locals alike. Over the last 10 years Vegas has evolved into a motorsports city. Johnson is fast becoming the closest to being King of Vegas, other than the King himself.

The scary thing about just how good Johnson races is that he was so dominant on the intermediate tracks with the old car. Now he’ll be running the new car, which he won with five times last season. Last week’s race at California was the first ever using the Car of Today (COT). Last season the Hendrick team led by Johnson and teammate Jeff Gordon dominated the entire field in COT races.

Hendrick spent the most time, money, and effort to be the best with the new car and it paid off with a championship. However, it was tough pill to swallow for many fans having the same two drivers dominate so easily every week.

It is likely that some of the other teams have caught up and closed the gap between Hendrick and everyone else. We saw evidence of that last season when Roush-Fenway Racing collectively ran well later in the year as they acquired more data from races – as did DEI, Childress, Penske, and Evernham.

However, you have to believe that Hendrick is just as ready for this new stage of intermediate track racing. When the new car first came out last season, they won the first five COT races.

In preseason testing at LVMS, Juan Pablo Montoya rolled out with the fastest speed of the two-day sessions. It shows that Chip Ganassi teams may be onto to something with the new car on the intermediate track. Further supporting evidence was Reed Sorenson ripping out the fifth fastest time of the sessions.

Last week’s events at Fontana will go a long way in determining just how good Hendrick Motorsports and all the rest of the top NASCAR teams will do in Vegas. However, the rain throughout the weekend ruined much of the practice and qualifying sessions at California.

My formula for sizing up Vegas is:

• 25 percent of what happened in California last week.

• 40 percent of what happened all last season in the COT.

• 20 percent of what happened in last season’s Vegas race.

• 15 percent from preseason Vegas testing.

Shake it all up and "give me Jimmie Johnson!"

The high profile races of Daytona and Las Vegas create so much more action (as in proposition bets) than a regular NASCAR race at area sports bKoks.

Mandalay Bay has the entire Lowe’s Home Improvement Racing team staying with them, so they are offering an extra dose of Jimmie Johnson props. The feature matchup is the Home Improvement grudge match between the Home Depot Toyota driven by Tony Stewart and the Lowe’s Chevy driven by Johnson. Who will finish higher? Lowe’s is a -150 favorite to finish higher.

The Palms Sports Book will be offering a variety of props linking the drivers that participate in the both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series. Drivers like Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards will be participating at a high level in both series.

Caesars Palace will offering a team-based index prop among many of their other regular propositions. They will take all the cars within a team and ask what order they will finish in. It will be like a Superfecta in horse racing.

Station Casinos books have several different props such as over-under margin of victory, winning car number and exacta wagering

The newest prop has a territorial flavor to it involving the Busch brothers. The prop is if Nevada or North Carolina, will have the better finish. N.C. is a slight -120 favorite.

Here are some other popular props:

• Will a Hendrick driver win the 400? NO -330, YES +250
• Will a former Vegas Cup champ win? NO -240, YES +190
• Will the lap leader win? NO -160, YES +130


UAW-Dodge 400 predictions

from Las Vegas sports books 

Jay Kornegay – Las Vegas Hilton: Kevin Harvick

Kelly Downey – Green Valley Ranch: Jeff Gordon

Bill Walkowski – Santa Fe Station: Tony Stewart

Fred Crespi – Palms: Denny Hamlin

Bert Osborne – South Point: Dale Earnhardt Jr

Jackson Meeker – Boulder Station: Jeff Gordon

Tony Miller – Golden Nugget: Jimmie Johnson 

Karen Ray - Circus Circus: Tony Stewart

Zach Goldberg – Sunset Station: Matt Kenseth

David Grisar – Caesars Palace: Jimmie Johnson

Chuck Esposito – Caesars Palace: Matt Kenseth

Jay Rood – Mandalay Bay: Kyle Busch

Hugh Citron – Mandalay Bay: Jeff Gordon 

Jeff Motley – Las Vegas Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon