NASCAR’s Chase to this season’s Sprint Cup title takes the series back to Martinsville for the running of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.
Jamie McMurray is not even in this year’s Chase, but he certainly made his presence felt with an upset win at Talladega this past Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced his way to second place and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took third. Our value pick for this race at +1500 was Kasey Kahne but he was never a factor with a dismal 36th-place finish after starting 28th in the field.
The following is a look at a few of the top favorites for Sunday’s race along with our top value pick based on odds provided by the sportsbooks.
Jimmie Johnson won five-straight Sprint Cup titles from 2006 to 2010 and he is back in the driver seat to add a sixth title to the resume after regaining the lead in the standings. With just four races left in this year’s Chase, the No. 48 car is holding a slim four-point lead over the only other real contender to the title, Matt Kenseth. Johnson has been opened as a heavy +180 favorite to extend that lead with a win this Sunday and for very good reason. He has already won at this track earlier in the season and he comes in as the defending champion of this race. His average finishing position at Martinsville is an impressive 5.3.
The second-favorite to win this race is Jeff Gordon at +600 for our sports picks. The longtime Sprint Cup veteran stumbled to 14th in last week’s race after posting three-straight top-ten finishes. The No. 24 car is currently fifth in the standings with 2220 points but a distant 34 points out of the lead. This deficit is not mathematically insurmountable, but anything short of a victory this Sunday will pretty much end this team’s shot at a title. Gordon has raced well at Martinsville throughout his storied career and recent form at this track adds some solid value to these odds. He finished seventh in last year’s race and took third in the first race here this season.
Another driver whose title hopes are hanging on by a thread is Kyle Busch. He is currently in third-place in the standings with 2228 total points, which is 26 points in back of Johnson. He has been opened as a +700 third favorite to claim his first victory in this season’s Chase. The No. 18 car does have four previous point-race titles to its credit this year and five top-five finishes in the first six races of the 10-race playoff to the Cup. Busch came dangerously close to winning this event last season with a second place finish and he ended-up fifth in the first race at Martinsville this year. Despite a few close calls, he has yet to win a point race at this track over the course of Sprint Cup career.
Top Value Pick
Given that Matt Kenseth is the only other driver with a legitimate shot at winning this year’s Sprint Cup title, we are jumping all over his +1000 betting odds as our top value pick to win this week. The No. 20 car fell out of the lead in the standings with last Sunday’s 20th-place finish at Talladega. However, this team has already won the first two races of this year’s Chase to go along with another five checkered flags this season. The main reason for the long odds on Kenseth is his past performance at Martinsville. His average finishing position is 15.8 and he has never won a Sprint Cup race at this track. Despite these results, his motivation and current form still make Kenseth a very attractive play for our NASCAR betting.