Duck Commander 500
April 8, 2015
By Micah Roberts
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It seems like an eternity since NASCAR last raced, but it was only two weeks ago at Martinsville. The drivers and crews got a much needed weekend off for Easter Sunday after going full throttle every weekend since early February.
Just in case you may forgot what has happened so far over the first six races of 2015, here's a refresher: Kevin Harvick is rocking this NASCAR world!
Harvick has never won a Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, but he had also never won at Las Vegas until dominating that race last month. It's his current form that make him the 4/1 favorite (Bet $100 to win $400) to win Saturday night's Duck Commander 500, and that price may generous just because he has a considerable advantage over almost everyone in the series. We've seen Jimmie Johnson dominate in the past, but the dropoff to the second best competitor wasn't as prominent as it is with Harvick this year.
Harvick has had six top-10 finishes during the six races and has averaged a finish of 2.7, that includes two wins and three second-places. His string of eight consecutive top-2 finishes or better came to end at Martinsville, but that was to be expected because it’s never been his most consistent track. He may have never won at Texas, but similar tracks suggest he’s ready more than ever to cross Texas off his ’things to do’ list.
We’ve seen action already on 1.5-mile layouts at Texas’ sister tracks of Atlanta and Las Vegas and he led the most laps in each. Both tracks have strong similarities to Texas and there really isn’t a reason to suggest he won’t race well Saturday. The only thing that might stop him is if he gets involved in an accident and or has engine problems, but his chances of getting involved in a wreck are mitigated because he‘s out front leading so much.
So with the understanding that no one is in Harvick’s class for this race, is there any value in betting another driver to win?
'Value' may be a strong word to use, but we can at least make a case for a couple.
-- Jimmie Johnson has won three of the past five Texas races and has four overall. The positive with Johnson is that he won at Atlanta despite Harvick’s dominance. However, 6-to-1 odds certainly isn’t enough to get excited about and holds little ‘value’ considering Harvick’s edge.
-- Joey Logano has finished in the top-10 of all six races like Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. and won this race last season. He led 85 laps at Atlanta and finished fourth and led 47 laps at Vegas before settling for 10th. At 10/1 odds, he might be worth a poke.
-- Brad Keselowski finished third in the fall Texas race last season, but hasn’t wowed on the down force tracks like did last season. Even his win at Fontana came with lots of luck involved as his only lap led was the last lap. Logano would be the better choice among the Penske duo.
-- Dale Earnhardt Jr. grabbed his first career Cup win at Texas in 2000, but hasn’t won there since. However, when looking at his performance on 1.5’s along with Fontana’s 2-mile layout, Junior has been close to Harvick with finishes of sixth or better in all three. He offers the best value among the Hendrick drivers.
-- Kurt Busch might be the closest to teammate Harvick among all drivers, but you’re only getting 6/1 odds with him. Busch won at Texas in 2009 and the amazing thing about Busch is that even though he missed the first three races, he’s 24th in points.
-- Denny Hamlin showed lots of speed on the three down force tracks this year and the Gibbs team appears to be getting better and faster. Hamlin swept the Texas season in 2010 and has a 10.8 average finish in 19 starts.
-- Matt Kenseth is a two-time Texas winner and he’s in the same boat as Hamlin with a team that isn’t as good as Harvick, but they’re gaining weekly. Kenseth has a track-best 7.5 average finish at Texas since 2005, a span of 20 races.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #4 Kevin Harvick (4/1)
2) #22 Joey Logano (10/1)
3) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (10/1)
4) #41 Kurt Busch (6/1)
5) #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)