NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series remains out west this week for the running of the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the third point race of the new season. Sunday’s race is scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m. (PT) and it will be broadcast nationally on FOX.
Kevin Harvick held off a hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. last Sunday at Phoenix to notch his first victory of the year. Brad Keselowski finished third for the second week in a row and our value pick for last week’s race, Matt Kenseth at +1000 could only manage a 12th-place finish after starting 20th.
The following is a look at a few of the top favorites to win this Sunday’s race along with my top value pick based on odds provided by Sportsbook.
Jimmie Johnson finished fifth at Daytona and sixth in last Sunday’s race in Phoenix, so you get the feeling he is due for a win this Sunday in Las Vegas. The Oddsmakers tend to agree by opening him as the favorite at +500. The No. 48 car was in solid position to win both of those races so the team’s current form is a plus for this race. Johnson’s past record at Las Vegas adds even more value to these odds with four previous victories and an average finishing position of 9.5. He last won here in 2010 and since then he finished second in 2012 and sixth in last year’s race.
One of two second favorites at +700 to take the checkered flag on Sunday is Matt Kenseth, who was last season’s runner-up to Johnson in the final Sprint Cup point standings. While a sixth-place finish at Daytona combined with last Sunday’s run at Phoenix might be considered a solid start for an average driver, the No. 20 team cannot be happy about its current seventh-place spot in this year’s standings, not to mention the fact that this car has not led a lap in the first two races after leading 1,783 laps last year. The added value in these odds lies in Kenseth’s record at Las Vegas which includes a victory in last year’s race. All told, he has made his way to victory lane three times at this track over the course of his Sprint Cup career.
The other driver listed at +700 to win this week’s race is Kyle Busch. He was one of the top three favorites to win last week as well, but fell to seventh after a solid run. This followed a disappointing 19th-place finish at Daytona. While current form right out of the gate might drain these odds a bit, the No. 18 car is always a legitimate threat to win as long as it remains on the lead lap. Busch is coming off a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas in last season’s race, which was the first time he cracked the top five here since taking the checkered flag in 2009. This will be his 11th career Sprint Cup race at this track and along with that lone win he has a four additional top-10 finishes.
Top Value Pick
I would be tempted to ride Dale Earnhardt Jr. at +1000 as my value NASCAR pick after a first and second-place start in his first two races, but I am opting for the same odds on Brad Keselowski, who is almost as hot with his two third place finishes at Daytona and Phoenix. The main point of difference with why I would go with the No. 2 car over Dale Jr.’s No. 88 is that its driver is due for a win. Keselowski won five times in his run to the 2012 Sprint Cup title, but that number dropped to just one point-race victory in a very disappointing 2013 season. He almost won this race last season with a third-place finish after starting on the pole and I am banking on him getting it done this time around.