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NASCAR Notebook for February 13th

by Dave Grayson
Friday, February 13, 2009

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Excitement builds for Daytona 500
The excitement is mounting as racing fans await the start of the 2009 great American race and, with equal importance, the start of the new NASCAR racing season. The big question remains: who can defy the Daytona odds, by surviving a full afternoon of intense three wide racing, to claim that giant check in victory lane?

When it comes to defying the odds on any NASCAR Sprint Cup race I usually listen to the words of wisdom from a group of people who spend a considerable amount of time studying the numbers and calculating the possibilities. That would be the Las Vegas sports bookies. But first we need the official disclaimer that says NASCAR does not condone betting on their events and encourages its fans not to do so. But if you're going to do it anyway, and many of you will, then you might as well be armed with all of the needed information.

According to Sports Book Dot Com, one of the foremost authorities on these matters, Dale Earnhardt Jr is rated at five to one odds to win Sunday's Daytona 500. Considering his expertise at restrictor plate racing this is both a logical choice and a very safe bet. (A brief pause here while the Junior Nation launches a celebration by consuming mass quantities of beverage manufactured by Earnhardt's former sponsor.)

The odds makers are rating Kyle Busch, and his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, at six to one odds which is also a very good call. Busch looked terrific during last Thursday's Gatorade Duels and proved he can drive defense as well as he can launch one of his famous offense attacks. He's still raw over the team's complete collapse during last year's Chase For The Championship so look for him to come on strong this Sunday.

Jeff Gordon is rated at seven to one odds to win his next Daytona 500. Gordon spent the winter off season constantly being reminded that he failed to win a race last year and his last trip to victory lane was in October of 2007. He ended that drought, and earned the right to yell "I told you so", last Thursday with an outstanding performance in the Gatorade Duels. His seven to one rating is decent but maybe needs to be lowered a bit. This is a driver that's hungry to get back to his winning ways and set his sights on that fifth championship. "Strive For Five" is going to be the DuPont team's battle cry this year and that process could begin this Sunday.   

Reigning NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson's Daytona odds have been set at nine to one. But his driving talent, combine with his very clever crew chief Chad Knaus, could turn out to be a wager buster.

"Sports Book Dot Com" doesn't seem to have a lot of faith in Ford's ability to win the great American race. Ford's top entry on their list is Carl Edwards at 12 to one odds. You have to go down quite a few names to find another Ford team on the list. Denny Hamlin, and his Joe Gibbs Toyota, also makes the list at 12 to one.

Set at 15 to one odds are a trio of drivers who impressed everyone with strong runs in the Daytona 500's preliminary events. That group includes Tony Stewart's new self owned team despite a strong showing both in Sunday's qualifying session and Thursday's Gatorade Duel. The same rating applies to Mark Martin who set the second fast time on Sunday and finished second in his Gatorade Duel on Thursday. 2007 race winner Kevin Harvick is also in this group despite winning the Budweiser Shoot Out earlier this week.

Defending race champion Ryan Newman, in his new ride with Stewart Haas Racing, is rated at 25 to one. Speed Weeks has been a little frustrating for Newman. He blew an engine last week and crashed his primary car during the Gatorade Duels on Thursday. The team will have to use a back up car which means they will have to move to the end of the starting field. But in restrictor plate racing that's really not a big deal. Newman could turn out to be "Army Strong" on Sunday and defy the Daytona odds.

Leading the 43 car field to the green flag for Sunday's race, via a strong qualifying run, will be Martin Truex Jr. He's also been strong in the practice sessions and looked good in the Gatorade Duel before he was spun out late in the race. His efforts so far has made many think that last year's merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc and Ganassi Racing may be more viable than originally believed . Despite all of this potential Truex has been rated at 33 to one odds to win the race.

IT'S WAY TOO EARLY TO THINK CHAMPIONSHIP BUT----------

Sports Book Dot Com also has some early thoughts on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. They truly believe that this will be a historic year because Jimmie Johnson is going to win his fourth consecutive championship and they're backing that with three to one odds. But they also seem to believe that it's going to be an extremely close title run with Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, at four to one odds, being major players in the final standings. Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon's championship hopes have been rated at ten to one odds. Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr are rated at 12 to one odds.

(Another pause while the Junior Nation chants four letter words combined with snake like hissing noises.) The important thing to remember here is it's way too early to start naming a champion and, by the time the Daytona 500 has concluded, Las Vegas will probably be presenting us with a different set of numbers on Monday morning.

HERE'S THE SAFEST BET OF ALL.

The 51st running of the Daytona 500 is going to be loaded with drama and jump out of your chair excitement especially during the final laps of the race. The Daytona 500 will be aired on Fox Sports at 2 pm eastern time. The green flag falls as soon as "DW" yells "boogity boogity boogity."

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