There are just two races left until the start of this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series Chase starting with the running of the Oral-B USA 500 this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Sunday night’s race is slated to get underway at 4:30 p.m. (PT) and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Last Saturday night at Bristol, Joey Logano joined some pretty elite company by winning his third Sprint Cup race of the season. Brad Keselowski pushed him for the win and finished second while Matt Kenseth rounded-out the top three. My value pick for this race at 12/1 betting odds was Dale Earnhardt Jr, but in one of his rare finishes this year outside the Top 10, he fell all the way to 39th place.
The name at the top of Bovada’s betting odds for this race is veteran NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon at 11/2. He is enjoying one of his best seasons in years with three point-race victories and five other top-five finishes. He has raced so well that the No. 24 car is on top of the current Sprint Cup standings with 845 points. What really makes Gordon’s odds so attractive this week is a solid performance over the past few years at this track. He won this race in 2011 and followed that up with a second-place finish in 2012 and a sixth-place finish in last year’s race.
There are a trio of drivers listed as 6/1 second-favorites to win on Sunday night starting with another three-time winner this season; Jimmie Johnson. The No. 48 car has been extremely quiet ever since it reeled-off three victories in a four-race span from late-May to mid-June. That appears poised to change after last week’s fourth-place finish at Bristol. It is hard to keep a good race team down this time of the year, especially one that has six previous Sprint Cup season racing titles. Last year’s run at Atlanta was one to forget with a 28th-place finish, but Johnson has won three Sprint Cup races at this track and he finished third in 2010 and second in 2011.
The other two drivers listed at 6/1 odds to win this week are Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, but I am going with the 2012 Sprint Cup winner and his No. 2 race team as one of my top three favorites this week. Current form speaks for itself after last week's second-place run, but this team has also posted three Sprint Cup victories this season to go along with seven additional top-five finishes. It is holding down third-place in the standings with 776 points. Keselowski finished 35th in last year’s race due to engine trouble, but prior to that he was sixth in this race in 2011 and third in 2012.
Top Value Pick
Desperation is starting to run wild for some high-profile drivers who will probably need a win in one of these next two races to earn a spot in this year’s Chase. Matt Kenseth falls into that group which adds some tremendous value to his 10/1 odds to win this week. He obviously came close last Saturday night at Bristol and the No. 20 car has now placed in the top five a total of nine times this year. Kenseth led all Sprint Cup drivers last season with seven checkered flags. He could only manage a 12th-place finish in last year’s race at Atlanta, but keep in mind that he placed in the top-10 in eight of his previous 11 trips around this track in a Sprint Cup race.