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Early odds


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Things I want to get out of the way before the NFL season ends, and the PREMIER American racing season season begins. That's right folks...I'm talking Nascar! Not Champ, Indy, or TransAm racers. These series are to Nascar what Arena Football is to the NFL. An extremely weak sister. Why else would their drivers be defecting in such numbers? :rolleyes:

My early predictions...

Top ten drivers to compete for the Cup:

#1: Jeff Gordon. Playing second fiddle for the second time to his team mate last season will fuel his fire.

#2: Matt Kenseth. Was the 1st Ford driver to figure out the COT, and his team will continue to do so.

#3: Kurt Busch. Same as above, but with Dodge.

#4: Jimmie Johnson. Reigning Champions don't usually drop too far.

#5: Clint Bowyer. This drivers rookie run into the chase was no fluke.

#6: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Like the article says below, he'll fare much better with some dependability.

#7: Martin Truex Jr. Again this guy will be DEI's only bright spot. Theresa Earnhardt is to them what Mike Brown is to the Bengals.

#8: Juan Pablo Montoya. A former open wheeler who knows how to adapt. I love this guy.

#9: Kasey Kahne. Had an off year, but will be back.

#10 Tony Stewart. Toyota will finally find the winners circle, and Smoke will be driving that car.

It isn't even 2008 yet, but sports books in Las Vegas already have posted their odds for the upcoming Sprint Cup season. To the surprise of absolutely no one, back-to-back champion Jimmie Johnson is the favorite to win the series title.

It also comes as no surprise that Joe Gibbs Racing's switch to Toyota has lengthened the championship odds on Tony Stewart to 10-1 at most books.

Inspired by the oddsmakers, I've decided to express my take on the upcoming Cup season in terms of betting propositions, some of which you might actually find at a Vegas sports book.

• Odds that Johnson will win a third consecutive Cup title: 4-1. That was the number I had in mind before I looked at the Vegas odds, which show a range from 4-1 to 7-2. During the past two years, the No. 48 team has been the strongest unit within stock-car racing's strongest organization, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson's willingness to drive on the edge with the title on the line impressed everyone in the sport in 2007.

The only thing arguing against a third consecutive title is history. Only one driver, Cale Yarborough (1976-1978), has won three consecutive championships.

• Odds that Chad Knaus will serve another suspension: 15-1. Johnson's crew chief will be on his best behavior in 2008 in light of NASCAR's track record of vigorous prosecution of offenses involving the new racecar. On the other hand, Knaus sat out the first four races of the 2006 season, and Johnson won the title. Knaus served a six-race suspension in 2007 for taking liberties with the front fenders of the new car, and Johnson won his second championship. Is there a trend here?

• Odds that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win at least one race: 2-5. Earnhardt's prestige and credibility are on the line, and the same goes for owner Rick Hendrick. They'll get to Victory Lane in 2008, come hell or high water.

• Odds that Earnhardt will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup: also 2-5. In Hendrick equipment, Earnhardt is as close to a can't-miss proposition as you can find. Last year, his Chase run degenerated into an episode of Mission Impossible.

("Your mission, Mr. Earnhardt, should you decide to accept it, is to run your butt off and challenge for the lead. Your engine will self-destruct with six laps to go.")

Improved reliability alone will assure him a spot in the Chase this year.

• Odds that Toyota will win a race: even. The logic is that all three Gibbs drivers -- Stewart, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin -- won't be shut out of Victory Lane in 2008. And don't rule out the possibility of a win for Hall of Fame Racing, Bill Davis Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing or Team Red Bull. The addition of Gibbs engine maven Mark Cronquist to the Toyota brain trust makes the Camry competitive.

• Odds that an open-wheel interloper will win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award: 1-9. There's strength in numbers, and four open-wheel stars -- Sam Hornish Jr., Jacques Villeneuve, Dario Franchitti and Patrick Carpentier -- are battling Regan Smith for top rookie honors. Just don't expect any of the 2008 rookie crop to duplicate the 2007 performance of Juan Montoya, much less Hamlin's memorable run in 2006.

• Odds that an open-wheel rookie will win a race: 20-1. Again, no member of the gang of four appears to be as quick a study as Montoya. If I had to pick a rookie to win a race, it would be Carpentier at Infineon or Watkins Glen.

• Odds that there will be no first-time winners in 2008: 3-1. With Hendrick drivers claiming 18 of the 36 races in 2007, there were only four first-time winners last season, all with established teams: Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., Montoya and Clint Bowyer. Who's left? My top two picks for possible breakthrough wins are Reed Sorenson and Dave Blaney.

• Odds that either David Ragan or Robby Gordon will cause the first caution of 2008: 6-1. Statistics don't lie. According to numbers compiled by USA Today, Ragan and Gordon led the Cup Series with 22 and 16 incidents/spins, respectively, in 2007. Together, they were involved in more than 15 percent of the 240 wrecks and spins that took place during the 2007 season.

The over-under on the last time a broadcaster refers to the Sprint Cup Series as Nextel Cup or the Nationwide Series as the Busch Series: November. Old habits die hard.

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