NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series is coming off a three-race West Coast swing and it will return to some more familiar settings back east with this Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The green flag for Sunday’s race is set to wave at 10 a.m. (PT) and it will be broadcast nationally on FOX Sports.
Brad Keselowki made his way to the Winner’s Circle for the first time this season with last Sunday’s victory at Fontana, while Kevin Harvick remained white-hot with a second-place finish in that race. Kurt Busch ended-up third after starting this race from the pole position. Jimmie Johnson was my top valued favorite to win this race at +600, but fell to ninth in the final finishing order.
Top Valued Favorite
It is hard to go against Kevin Harvick this week as a 9/2 second-favorite after five-straight finishes in either first or second place in his first five races this season. This streak actually goes back eight point races to last season’s Chase when the No. 4 car finished 2-1-1 in its last three events on the way to the 2014 Sprint Cup title. Some value in this week’s odds may be lost given that Harvick only has one career victory at Martinsville in a Sprint Cup race and that he has failed to crack the top five in his last six trips around this track, but current form more than makes up for this.
Top Valued Contender
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is off to another solid start with three top-five finishes in his first three races and a sixth-place finish last Sunday at Fontana. He is coming off one of his best seasons in the Sprint Cup series in which the No. 88 car laid claim to four checkered flags and 10 more finishes inside the top five. Junior’s betting odds to win this race as my top valued contender have been set at 10/1. He adds some tremendous value to these odds considering that he placed third in last season’s race and then followed that up with a victory in the second race at Martinsville in 2014. The No. 88 car has now finished in the top 10 in seven of its last nine Sprint Cup races at this track.
Top Valued Longshot
I am going down deep on the list for this week’s top valued longshot with a play on Martin Truex Jr. at 33/1. The main reason I like his chances to break through this Sunday with a win is the current form of the N0. 78 racing team. It is still searching for its first checkered flag in a Sprint Cup race since the 2013 season, but it has come close a number of times this year with a second-place finish at Las Vegas to go along with four other finishes in the top 10. Martinsville has not been one of Truex’s favorite tracks in recent years with five-straight finishes outside the top 15, but that comes with the territory when you are picking longshots.
Betting Odds for other Notable Drivers
The top favorite for Sunday’s race is Jimmie Johnson at 7/2 and for good reason. He has eight career victories at Martinsville in a Sprint Cup race and he finished second in last year’s event. Jeff Gordon is high on this week’s list as an 11/2 third-favorite and Denny Hamlin rounds-out the list of favorites at 6/1 betting odds. Kurt Busch won last season’s STP 500 and his odds to win against this Sunday have been set at 10/1.