Jimmie Johnson 5/2
It is no big surprise that six-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson has been opened as the odds-on favorite to add another title to his storied career. After winning five-straight NASCAR crowns from 2006 to 2010, he added another one last season with a dominating performance from start to finish. Johnson’s victory in the Daytona 500 started things off and his first-place finish at Texas in eighth race of the Chase all but sealed the deal. All told, he won six times last season, which bodes well for the recent changes to the Sprint Cup point system during the Chase. There will be more emphasis on winning races to earn the title as opposed to just accumulating points.
Kyle Busch 7/1
Busch is another driver that should benefit by the change in the Chase rules after posting four victories in 2013. The one drain on these odds is his actual performance in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff at the end of the year. The No. 18 car started last year’s Chase on a strong note with second place finishes at Chicago and Loudon, but the best this team could do from there was few fifth-place finishes that dropped Busch to fourth in the final point standings. He will need to find a way to win late in the season under these new rules to have any shot at bringing home a title.
Matt Kenseth 15/2
If you are looking for the best value in the NASCAR odds, Kenseth would be my top pick by far. He had the most Sprint Cup victories of any driver last season with seven and he was the only one in the Chase that had a legitimate chance of catching Johnson in the standings over the final few races of the year. If not for a disastrous 23rd-place finish at Phoenix, he could have added a second Sprint Cup title to his impressive resume after winning NASCAR’s championship in 2003. The main thing I like about Kenseth’s chances to win it all is a week-in and week-out consistency that keeps him in the thick of almost every race he runs. His style is suited well to the 10 venues in the Chase as evident by victories at Chicago and Loudon last season along with four additional top-five finishes.
Denny Hamlin 10/1
If you are looking for value in longer odds to win this year’s Cup, then I would go with Hamlin. You can basically throw out his performance in 2013 after an early season injury caused him to sit out four races, so you have to believe that the No. 11 car will be back with a vengeance this year. Hamlin is another driver that knows how to win races. He almost won the title in 2010 after leading the entire field in checkered flags with eight. After a poor showing in 2011, he bounced back with five victories in 2012 to finished sixth in the final Sprint Cup standings.The odds to win the title for some of the other top Sprint Cup drivers have Dale Earnhardt Jr. listed at 10/1, followed by 2012 champ Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne at 12/1. Jeff Gordon is next at 14/1 and Kevin Harvick has been listed at 16/1. Tony Stewart, who won the Cup in 2011, missed the last 15 races of the 2013 season due to a severe leg injury and even though his racing status for Daytona remains up in the air, he has been listed at 18/1 to win this year’s title.