With the stock car season about to put pedal to the metal, many NASCAR Sprint Cup betting fans find themselves in a quandary familiar to gamblers who pursue golf betting or tennis betting; whether to back the overwhelming favorite at an unattractive price or try to beat him with an unpredictable longshot at a much more predictably long price.
Such is the dilemma for NASCAR Sprint Cup betting devotees as the figure of Jimmie Johnson, like Tiger Woods and Roger Federer in golf and tennis, respectively, looms over the opening of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which starts with the Daytona 500, Feb. 14. Technically, the betting season begins Feb. 6 with the Budweiser Shootout, an event that will count in the wallets of betting fans, if not the point standings.
With future books now open for the 36-race schedule that runs through Nov. 21, let’s take a look at the leading contenders to win the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship:
Jimmie Johnson (5/2): The reigning and defending champion has won four straight Sprint Cup titles, breaking the record for consecutive series titles that he shared with Cale Yarborough. For the second straight year, Johnson won seven races and again earned $7.3 million, both tops on the circuit. His 16 top five finishes and 24 top 10 finishes were better than he did the year before, indicating that the Californian, if anything, is getting even more consistent and again will be very difficult to dethrone.
Mark Martin (15/2): A 20/1 shot a year ago, Martin now is the second choice in futures after finishing as the runner-up to Johnson last year, losing the title by 141 points. Martin won the most poles last season, seven, and finished second to Johnson in victories with five. At 50, Martin, who has finished second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup five times but has never won, seems to be getting better with age.
Jeff Gordon (8/1): Like the aforementioned Johnson and Martin, as well as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Gordon is part of the powerful Hendrick Motorsports racing team. A four-time champion (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001), Gordon finished third in the Sprint Cup standings last year but won just once, which was one more victory than he had in 2008. Gordon’s 25 top 10 finishes led the circuit.
Carl Edwards (8/1): After finishing second in the Sprint Cup Series in 2008 while notching nine wins and more than $8 million in earnings, Edwards slipped to 11th place last year, which accounts for his move from a future book 7/2 second choice in 2009 to his 8/1 odds in futures this year.
Tony Stewart (10/1): The 2002 and 2005 champion is renowned for his temper but no one disputes his talent. A champion in IRL before moving to stock cars, Stewart is coming off a 2009 season in which he won four events, had 15 top fives, 23 top 10s and earned $6.8 million.
Denny Hamlin (10/1): Just 29, Hamlin, who finished fifth in the standings a year ago, should continue to improve.
Kyle Busch (10/1): Busch finished only 13th in the Sprint Cup Series but his victory in the Nationwide Series last year may signal that the 24-year-old is ready for a big season.
Others in the hunt include Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Montoya is offered at odds of 14/1 after finishing eighth in the standings; the elder Busch is listed at odds of 16/1 following a season in which he finished fourth without a single trip to Victory Lane; Biffle, 22/1, was seventh in the standings but like Busch, did not have a win on the circuit; while Earnhardt, a disappointing 25th last year, remains popular at both racetracks and sportsbooks.
In addition to straight betting—and, of course, betting on every individual event on the NASCAR schedule—several sportsbooks also are offering proposition bets matching individual drivers in the category of victories.
Gentlemen, it’s time to start your NASCAR Sprint Cup betting engines.