NASCAR Hits the Brickyard

After taking last week off NASCAR’s Sprint Cuppers restart their engines Sunday with the running of the Brickyard 400 at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1:15 pm Eastern, ESPN).

Two weeks ago Ryan Newman led a race-high 119 laps on his way toward winning the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire. In doing so Newman provided his financial backers at Bodog, at least those who got down early, with a payout of 40/1.

Tony Stewart, who went off as a 5/1 favorite on Bodog’s Lenox 301 betting board, placed second; Denny Hamlin, off at 13/2, showed third; Joey Logano, at 25/1, finished fourth; and Jimmie Johnson, off at 15/2, took fifth.

Carl Edwards finished 13th at New Hampshire, and in the process re-took the lead in the Sprint Cup standings. Edwards is now seven points up on five-time defending champion Johnson, 11 up on Kurt Busch, 15 up on Kevin Harvick, 20 up on Kyle Busch and 26 ahead of Matt Kenseth. Jeff Gordon at -65, Newman at -66, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at -75 and Hamlin and Stewart at -82 round out the top 11.

Remember, the top 10 in the points standings after race No. 26, five weeks away at Atlanta, make the Chase for the Cup field. As do the two drivers in the next 10 with the most wins. As of right now one of those would be David Ragan.

Last year Jamie McMurray took the lead on a late re-start and led the final 11 laps in winning the Brickyard 400. Harvick took second, Greg Biffle third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Smoke Stewart fifth. Juan Pablo Montoya led a race-high 86 laps but got mixed up in a late crash and finished 32nd.

Over the last five Sprint Cup races at Indy Mark Martin, with three top-ten finishes, owns the best average finish at 7.0. Stewart, with a win and three other top-tens, comes next at 8.0, followed by Edwards at 10.2, Harvick at 11.0 and Gordon at 11.2.

Johnson has won three of the last five races at Indy, but a 39th and a 22nd have hurt his recent average finish.

As of Friday morning is listing Johnson as a 6/1 favorite on its Brickyard 400 betting board. Edwards is the second favorite at 7/1, followed by, among others, Stewart at 15/2, Kyle Busch at 9/1, Montoya at 10/1, Hamlin, Gordon, Harvick and Kurt Busch at 12/1, Kenseth at 13/1, Biffle at 18/1, Bowyer, Dale Jr. and Kasey Kahne at 25/1, Newman at 30/1, Brad Keselowski and Logano at 35/1 and Ragan, David Reutimann, Jeff Burton, Martin and Martin Truex, Jr. at 40/1.

It’s hard not to take Johnson to win Sunday’s race, and 6/1 on a favorite ain’t bad odds. But in looking elsewhere for a better price we’ll take a chance on Harvick at 12/1 and Bowyer at 25/1.

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Donald Phillips

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