Single digit odds show Larson's climb
March 21, 2017 3:07 AM
by Micah Roberts
Four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races are completed with four different winners. Sunday’s paid the longest odds of all with Ryan Newman taking the Phoenix checkers.
The Westgate SuperBook had Newman posted at 80-to-1 odds – only four bettors took him – in what was his first victory since 2013 (Brickyard). It was also Richard Childress Racing’s first win since Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix in 2013 and jumped ship to Stewart Haas Racing.
NASCAR completes its three-race West Coast swing this weekend at Fontana’s wide two-mile layout, which is the sister track of Michigan International Speedway. The significance of Michigan coming into the conversation this week is because we’re all still getting used to how the new low downforce package will run. Last season this same package ran on a trial basis at Kentucky and Michigan.
Although the two tracks are almost identical, the results from each of the tracks rarely resemble each other. What I have seen in recent years is a lot of the drivers who fare well on 1.5-mile tracks also do extremely well at Fontana where speeds down the straightaway get over 200 mph.
We’ve seen two races already this season on 1.5s, and then we also have Michigan from last season to reference so we’ve got a lot to dissect. It begins with new points leader Kyle Larson, who has finished second in his last three starts. The kid is fast everywhere and the second win of his career is coming soon. His first win came in the Michigan race using this new package.
Good luck finding double-digit odds on Larson this week. Those days are long gone because he has just jumped into the upper-echelon of championship contenders who have the goods to win every week. Ironically, in his first start at Fontana in 2014 he finished second.
Last season it was Jimmie Johnson who won at Fontana, which came three weeks after his victory on Atlanta’s 1.5-mile layout. Johnson looked good last week at Phoenix, but didn’t appear like his typical self on 1.5s the previous two weeks at Atlanta and Las Vegas. However, no one is better than Johnson at his home track. The El Cajon native holds the track’s record with six wins, 13 top-fives and 980 laps led in 22 starts. His first career win happened there as a rookie in 2002 and his 6.5 average finish is his best among any track.
Brad Keselowski won at Atlanta after Harvick led 292 of the 325 laps and then finished fifth the following week at Las Vegas after leading 89 laps. Martin Truex Jr. would win the first two Vegas stages, lead the most laps (150) and capture the win. Of course, Larson finished second in both and Chase Elliott would have top-fives in each.
Kyle Busch has three wins at Fontana, including two in his last three starts there. He had a win stripped from him late last week at Phoneix because of a late caution caused by, of all people, Joey Logano, who Busch owes a payback. Busch pitted with only four laps remaining and three drivers stayed out on old tires, one of which was Newman who had a buffer with two slower cars behind him holding up better cars on the restart.
Busch and Logano didn’t have any drama during or after the race like they did in Las Vegas, but Busch won’t let it pass, which gives Logano a lot to think about weekly.