The Profit on CNBC 500 NASCAR Picks & Predictions

David Schwab

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 6:42 PM GMT

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 6:42 PM GMT

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series is coming off last week’s thrilling finish at Daytona with a trip out west to Phoenix International Speedway for the running of The Profit on CNBC 500. This Sunday’s race is slated to get underway at 12:15 p.m. (PT) and it will be broadcast nationally on FOX.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped his year and half winless streak in a big way with a victory in last Sunday’s Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin also got his season off to a strong start by taking second and my top value pick for this race, Brad Keselowski at 12/1, finished third.

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 Bovada.

Favorites

It is almost a given that last season’s Sprint Cup title winner Jimmie Johnson will be one of the favorites in just about every race he runs this season and this week is no exception at 13/2 odds. He is coming off a fifth-place finish at Daytona after winning both Sprint Cup point races at that track in 2013. This was still quite an accomplishment considering the wrecks the No. 48 car was involved in during Speed Week. Johnson adds some solid value to these odds with four previous victories at Phoenix and an average finishing position of 6.3. He placed in the top three in both races here last season as part of an amazing streak of 13 top-five finishes in his last 15 runs around this track.

The other co-favorite at 13/2 to win this week is Denny Hamlin. The 2013 Sprint Cup season was mostly forgettable for the No. 11 race team after their driver was knocked-out of four events while recovering from injuries sustained in an early season wreck at Fontana. The team did finish on a strong note with a victory at Homestead and they started off this year with a win in the Sprint Unlimited before taking second in the Daytona 500. Hamlin won this race in 2012 and he finished third in last year’s race. Adding even more value is an average finishing position of 10.9 at Phoenix that includes seven top three finishes in 17 career Sprint Cup point races at this track.

The third-favorite to win on Sunday is Kyle Busch at 15/2. He actually led the Daytona 500 for 19 laps, but he fell all the way to 19th in the final running order. The No. 18 car is always a threat to win anytime it is on the lead lap. Last season it ended-up fourth in the final Sprint Cup point standings with four checkered flags and 12 additional top-five finishes. Busch could only manage a 23rd-place finish in this race last season, but he bounced-back with a seventh-place finish in the second race at Phoenix late in the year. He has one career Sprint Cup victory at this track back in 2005 to go along with a second-place finish in this race in 2011.

NASCAR Odds & Predictions for 2014 Sprint Cup Championship

Top Value Pick

Looking at a few drivers with longer odds to win this race, I have locked-in on Matt Kenseth at 10/1. He is another driver that knows how to win point races and he is coming off one of his most productive seasons in the Sprint Cup series after besting the field with seven victories in the 36-race schedule. He came up short on total points to finish second in the final standings. The No. 20 car remained competitive throughout last Sunday’s numerous rain delays to finish sixth at Daytona. The reason for the higher odds on such a quality driver is an average finishing position of 17.4 at Phoenix. He has never won a point race at this track, but he did place seventh in last year’s race.

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