Favorites usually profitable at LVMS


The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its 16th visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway today, and most sports books have gone full throttle with their menu for wagers.

Here are some of the best value opportunities based on the premise that four-time Las Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson will continue to be strong, last week’s Phoenix winner and two-time Vegas winner Carl Edwards is going to run well, and Kevin Harvick might finally win at the track where he made his Cup debut.

ODDS TO WIN

The best value on Johnson to win was offered at Aliante and William Hill books at 6-1. Edwards was 11-1 at William Hill, and Harvick was 18-1 at Cantor Gaming.

This is a track at which the favorite usually wins. The reigning Cup champion has won this race four times, and six times the Las Vegas winner went on to capture the season championship. Bottom line: Expect no surprises today.

If you must take a crack at someone with long odds, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (50-1 at Cantor) was outstanding in practice Saturday and looks to have the same quality setup as fast teammates Edwards and Greg Biffle. The best overall value when combining odds to quality of car is Harvick.

WHICH MANUFACTURER WILL HAVE MORE TOP-10 FINISHERS? FORD AND TOYOTA PLUS-130 VS. CHEVY (CANTOR)

By the numbers, you’ll see you have an edge with 26 cars being either a Toyota or Ford against 17 Chevys. Chevy’s legitimate number of contenders becomes lighter when considering all four Hendrick cars, maybe two from Childress and possibly two Stewart-Haas cars have a chance to run well. That’s only eight Chevys and a small window of opportunity to get six of them in the top 10 that it would take to lose this wager.

Six Chevys finished in the top 10 at Daytona, where anyone has a chance, and five finished in the top 10 at Phoenix. This looks like a spot in which the worst-case scenario might be a push with five Fords and Toyotas finishing in the top 10, but there is much more upside with the MWR, Gibbs, Roush and Penske teams to have six, and since it’s offered at plus-money, the bettor has an edge.

WINNING CAR NUMBER WILL BE? NO. 24-99 (PLUS-125) VS. NO. 1-23 (LVH)

You get Johnson and Edwards in this prop, and they have combined to win six of the past eight LVMS races. In all, 10 of the 15 Vegas-winning car numbers have been 24-99.

Mark Martin drove the No. 6 to a win in the first race in 1998, but now drives the quality No. 55 car. You also get Harvick (No. 29), who looked most impressive during Thursday’s testing, 2001 Vegas winner Jeff Gordon (No. 24) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88).

DRIVER MATCHUPS

Jimmie Johnson minus-130 vs. Kyle Busch (Cantor)

Johnson not only has the best career track average finish at 9.8, but he also has beaten Busch head-to-head the past three years at Las Vegas. In Busch’s nine starts at LVMS, Johnson has beaten him seven times. Busch had the better practice Saturday, but there’s just more stability with Johnson when considering Busch’s past tendencies and recent Gibbs engine troubles.

Kevin Harvick minus-110 vs. Martin Truex Jr. (LVH)

Harvick has averaged a 13th-place finish at Vegas compared with Truex’s 17.6. But the main edge is what Harvick showed in Thursday’s testing, when he was the fastest on 10-consecutive lap averages. His speeds carried over into Saturday’s practice with similar results.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. minus-130 vs. Danica Patrick (Cantor)

Not only did Stenhouse win the Nationwide Series race here last season, but he’s also driving the No. 17 car that has won twice in Las Vegas. Stenhouse was outstanding in Saturday’s practices, showing speed in short and long runs.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights on the race, go to The Linemakers on SportingNews.com or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7.

MICAH ROBERTS’ SPRINT CUP driver RATINGS

Kobalt Tools 400

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

11:30 a.m. today, Fox (5); race starts at noon


Rating/Driver Odds Test 1* Test 2* Practice 2 Practice 3

1. Kevin Harvick 15/1 3rd 5th 4th 17th

Best finish: runner-up (2010); should be one of fastest cars in latter half of fuel windows


2. Carl Edwards 11/1 2nd 4th 5th 2nd

Two-time winner; 10.3 average finish; fresh off Phoenix win and full of confidence


3. Jimmie Johnson 6/1 11th 2nd 8th 4th

Four-time winner; track-best 9.8 average finish; uncharacteristic fast start to season


4. Greg Biffle 12/1 15th 1st 2nd 10th

13.4 average finish; career-best third place twice, including 2012; using Kansas chassis


5. Kyle Busch 7/1 9th 20th 3rd 3rd

2009 winner; 15.9 average finish; best 10 consecutive lap average in Saturday practices


6. Denny Hamlin 10/1 10th 25th 6th 16th

Four top-10s in seven starts; 12.9 average finish; outstanding on long runs in practices


7. Clint Bowyer 16/1 6th 11th 13th 6th

Runner-up in 2009; using second-place Homestead chassis that also tested at Charlotte


8. Mark Martin 28/1 8th 3rd 20th 5th

1998 winner; 10 top-10 finishes in 15 starts; one of four drivers to start every Vegas race


9. Kasey Kahne 13/1 18th 23rd 1st 8th

Runner-up in 2004, one top-five since; best five consecutive lap average in Practice 3


10. Matt Kenseth 12/1 1st 28th 19th 11th

Two-time winner, last coming in 2004; 12.5 average finish in 13 starts


* NASCAR ran two test sessions Thursday to better prepare teams with the new Generation-6 car and tires on downforce tracks.

Note: Friday’s practice and qualifying were rained out. The starting lineup will be based on 2012 owner points.

Odds courtesy of William Hill sports book

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights on the race, go to The Linemakers on SportingNews.com or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7.
 

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