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Handicapping the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup 

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What a crazy week this has been. I admit my initial reaction was 100% wrong, I still don’t place that much blame on Bowyer. While he is at as much fault as anyone for actually following through, Michael Waltrip Racing is the key offender. While I can’t blame them, their young team wanted to get another car into the Chase. They didn’t exactly think it through though, by talking their strategy on the radio in a rather clear way. NASCAR came down with a penalty mostly because of radio conversation between Vickers and his crew chief, not because of Bowyer’s spin.

Brian Pattie, Bowyer’s crew chief was in on the fix. Whether it was him just thinking for the team or whether he was told to do so, MWR attempted to manipulate the system.

I am glad NASCAR dropped the hammer on them. I understand when drivers let other drivers go by for the lead to lead a lap. But when you are determining the ultimate season long title, you are crossing the line. Yes those laps led adds a point to the season total, but that isn’t the same as agreeing to pay a team to let you pass them for an extra point. It’s not the same as a teammate spinning out to change the way the race is trending.

In my opinion NASCAR proved once again that they are the best realistic minds in sport today. They react right away not after the season is over. While they may have taken until after the drivers had taken some practice laps to make the decision to put Jeff in, they have changed The Chase for the second time in a week. There is nothing to compare it to in sports. They are the best in the business at making on the move decisions. From a camera falling out of the sky in Charlotte, to this Richmond debacle, they are the best.

Here are the drivers, in order of standings. I will break them down in order to figure out which are the best bets, and which have the best chance to win The Chase...

13. Jeff Gordon -15 points (+2500 to win the title)

Sometime after the first practice at Chicagoland, Jeff found out he would be included as a 13th car in The Chase. That may be just what Gordon needed to get himself headed in the right direction. A little bit of luck for a team that has had nothing but trouble all season long. Gordon has been in all but one postseason and has accumulated more Chase points than anyone not named Jimmie Johnson. Jeff’s recent struggles seem to be in large part due to the lack of wins and general consistency. He will need both to race his way to his 5th championship.

My odds: 25-1

12. Ryan Newman -15 (+3400)

In the same boat as Jeff, as far as catching a break and being let into The Chase could swing some momentum in his favor. He has reach the postseason four time before earning just two wins and seven top 5’s in those 40 races. He hasn’t been consistent enough this year to win this thing. However, the tracks do set up nicely for him to do well, he should find himself somewhere in the middle of this thing when it’s all said and done.

My odds: 30-1

11. Kasey Kahne -15 (+1000)

Kahne has a legit shot at winning this thing. He is great on 1.5 mile oval tracks, he just needs to overcome the trouble he continues to find. While the schedule should be a huge benefit for Kahne, he always seems to get himself into some trouble at some point. There’s a reason he had to get into The Chase as a wildcard. He won twice this year and probably could have won another couple races, he just hasn’t gotten over the hump as an elite guy yet. I would like to bet him as a sleeper but the value isn’t quite there at 10-1. They were smart with this line.

My odds: 10-1

10. Kurt Busch -15 (+1600)

Kurt did a great job racing his way in at Richmond. I thought he might force something late but he never did. He never got himself into trouble and rode around up front for most of the night. Kurt has eight top 10’s in the past eleven races, so he has some momentum on his side. But with the late news of him leaving that one car team for SHR, I think that may end up affecting that team. Which may result in Kurt trying to force things a bit. Of the two guys in The Chase to be leaving their current team for SHR, Kurt didn’t set himself up for a great exit, and he has a worse chance to win this thing because of it.

My odds: 15-1

9. Dale Jr. -15 (+2250)

I’m not so sure even the footy pajama wearing Jr. fans actually think he could win this. While he has been really consistent the past few years, to win the title you need to win some races, just ask Carl Edwards.

My odds: 30-1

8. Clint Bowyer -15 (+1500)  

The good news for Clint is that NASCAR put Jeff into The Chase, the bad news is that, karma is a bitch.

My odds: 20-1

7. Greg Biffle -12 (+4500)

Greg Biffle has made five of these things, with his worst finish being 7th and his best finish being 3rd back in 2008. While he doesn’t necessarily have championship type experience, he is a wily vet that is really good at these 10 tracks. He has won four times in NASCAR’s playoffs with 17 top 5’s in his 50 Chase races. He is a great sleeper pick to win, especially at 45-1.

My odds: 20-1

6. Joey Logano -12 (+1350)

Joey Logs is the hottest driver coming into the dance. With the exception of nearly choking last week with a 22nd place finish, he had finishes of 2nd, 5th, 1st, 7th, 7th, and 8th prior to that to get him in. Unfortunately there is a driver in the #11 car with nothing to lose, that may not want to see Logs win a title. Being his first Chase, he lacks experience and even if he is in the hunt, Denny’s back won’t allow Logs to win a title. +1350 is a joke by the way. Who the hell is betting that? Can you really see Logs raising the Sprint Cup trophy at Homestead with guys like Jimmie Johnson being the competition? Yah, I didn’t think so.

My odds: 50-1

5. Carl Edwards -9 (+1200)

Lost in the shuffle at Richmond, was that Carl won the race. Carl is a real dark horse in this thing. He has come as close to winning a title, without winning, as you can be. He should know what it takes to get over the hump after finishing second in this thing twice. With the win at Richmond he has some momentum behind him and 12-1 is great value.

My odds: 10-1

4. Kevin Harvick -9 (+1350)

This may be my favorite play on the board. While Harvick is leaving that #29 team, it has been long enough to not really hang over their heads. Next year RCR will have two new drivers, so they should have a sense of urgency to win a title now, because it may be awhile before they are in this kind of position again. Also, while being the only driver, on your team, may not be ideal, it should assure the best RCR has to offer working on winning a title for that #29 team.

My odds: 6-1

3. Kyle Busch -3 (+400)

Kyle has made five of these things before, yet despite his immense talent, has never won a race in the postseason. It’s hard to believe he has only finished better than 10th twice in his career. However, last year he choked so bad that he missed The Chase and now has something to prove. With his four wins he has proven he has as good a chance as anyone to win this thing. Normally at this point Kyle really looks drained from all the extra races he has run. But this year he still looks fresh. He looks ready to make a run at this thing. However, his inexperience at really competing for a title may bite him in the ass. I don’t think this is his year, but as soon as the 2014 odds are up I may be placing a nice wager on him to win it all.

My odds: 5-1

2. Jimmie Johnson -3 (+200)

The obvious favorite to win it all, yet again. Johnson is the only driver that has raced his way into The Chase in all ten years of it’s existence. His worst finish? 6th. Of course he has won five of these things but has also finished second three times. My favorite Johnson, Chase stats… He has nearly 3,000 more Chase points than the second place guy, Jeff Gordon. The drivers with the second most wins in the Chase, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, have tallied eight wins. In his 90 Chase races, Johnson has accumulated 22 wins and 49 top 5’s. That’s right, he has finished inside the top 5 nearly 60% of the time, in The Chase. That’s just silly good.

My odds: -200

1. Matt Kenseth (+450)

The number one seed, in large part thanks to Johnson suffering some bad luck allowing Kenseth to win a couple extra races. That’s no knock against Matt, he has been stellar this year. If there is any reason to doubt him, it would be his slight inconsistency this season. While he has won five times this season, his average finish is 17th in the 21 races in which he did not win. While he does have a championship under his belt, it was in 2003 and it was the reason the Chase was created. He has never won a title in The Chase era, but did finish 2nd in 2006. He is absolutely worthy of a nod as a top favorite but I just don’t see it happening this year. He is on a new team that hasn’t worked together in The Chase before, though he has succeeded this year largely in situations where he struggled in the past. That could mean he bursts onto the scene this year and wins this thing. But Jimmie Johnson and his 55% top 5 rate is going to be tough to beat.

My odds: 5-1  


Saturday, September 14, 2013

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