Consistency keyed Kenseth

Nov 18, 2003 5:39 AM

Congratulations to the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup champion Matt Kenseth who had a fantastic season and showed that winning a title is all about being consistent.

Kenseth, whose only victory came in Las Vegas, becomes only the second driver to ever win a championship with so few wins on the season.

Nextel now takes over the next generation of NASCAR stars as the new series sponsor replacing R.J. Reynolds and the Winston Cup circuit. This move may make the sport even bigger in the future.

With a tobacco company sponsoring the series, there were several Federal laws that prohibited sponsorship such as television commercials. Nextel already has a huge advertising campaign set for next season.

Kenseth opened the season at 15-1 to win the championship. Tony Stewart was 7-2 and Jeff Gordon next at 4-1. The fan favorite was Dale Earnhardt Jr, who started off at 12-1. Junior finished third in the points race after being second for most of the season.

Station Casinos and Palms sports books will have their odds on the driving championship and Daytona 500 released in December giving visiting guests a two-month head start on the February race. Boulder Station’s Kelly Airgood says the early release gets vacationers from all over the city to their properties because no one else has it up that early.

"We have done this for over five years now and each year our handle gets larger and larger weeks before the actual race season begins," Airgood said. "Vacationers know where to go to bet their favorite driver early. Whether it’s other books telling them where they can bet it or family and friends in their city knowing where to go early, we definitely have established a reputation with NASCAR fans."

Airgood already has thoughts on what who will be the favorite to win the title next year.

"Ryan Newman will likely be the favorite followed by Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.," he said. "A veterans like Jeff Gordon will probably have great value because of the parity and knowing what it takes over the long haul. Newman, if he is too seriously go after the title, may have to tone it down a bit and that may be tough for him to do. Same goes for another candidate, Kurt Busch, who I think will eventually win a title someday."

As for the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip and Earnhardt Jr will be the ones to beat again as is the case for all races that have restrictor plates. Airgood is hoping for the sake of the odds that someone else will step up at Daytona.

"We saw Greg Biffle win the Firecracker, but I think everyone still realizes that the DEI duo are still better than everyone else with the plates on," he said. "In Biffle’s case, it was seen as kind of lucky because of the pit sequences and smaller fuel cell. The reality of it was that both Waltrip and Junior can only be beat if some type of bad luck happens."

Last week’s race at Miami also closed out the season props, most of which around Las Vegas were over-under season win totals. Bill Elliott’s season win total was 11-2 under —150. A few books reported large money on the under. Elliott had only one win on the season, but was a lap away from getting his second when he blew out a tire on the last lap.

The biggest decision on the season wins was Mark Martin who had a season total of 1-2 meaning all he had to was win one race on the season. Bettors hammered the line from over —130 to over —220. Martin was able to finish second once this season.

In all, most books reported a very good season in NASCAR with both handle and win increasing from the prior year as it has done for each of the last six seasons

Overall, good Gaughan

Brendan Gaughan is Las Vegas proud this year, leading the Craftsman truck series in wins. At times, Gaughan was the circuit’s most dominant driver.

Quite an achievement for a driver, whose shop is the only one not based in the Charlotte area.

Gaughan struggled in the final event, but has vowed to come back even stronger next season. Brian Vickers captured the Busch Series championship making car owner Rick Hendrick the third owner to win a championship in all 3 major NASCAR series.