Two weeks ago at Michigan, AJ Allmendinger was listed at 500-1 odds at the Westgate Las Vegas to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. This week he’s 7-1.
Why such a disparity? It all rests with his skills on the road courses, and the series races in Northern California on Sunday with the Toyota/SaveMart 350 on Sonoma Raceway’s 1.99-mile, 12-turn layout.
Allmendinger’s 2014 win at Watkins Glen International, the other road course on the schedule, propelled him as an automatic qualifier into his first Chase. That victory is the only one of his career.
The road courses are all about the driver — who can enter and exit the turns fastest. And it can be argued that he’s the best, especially now that Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya are no longer in the series.
The deficiencies Allmendinger’s team has in the 34 other races trying to compete with the power teams are made up for in the two road courses just because of his ability. Many other drivers aren’t as comfortable making right turns.
Matt Kenseth, from the powerful Joe Gibbs Racing organization, is usually around 8-1, but this week, because of no top-fives in 16 Sonoma starts, his odds are 50-1. Brad Keselowski also is 50-1.
Should Allmendinger win on his home track Sunday, he would become the 11th different winner in the past 12 Sonoma races and also would make the Chase. He starts second behind Carl Edwards.
KURT BUSCH STATISTICALLY BEST
Since NASCAR started keeping its Loop Data in 2005, Kurt Busch tops the charts with the highest Sonoma rating (109.3). Jimmie Johnson (101.0) is the only other driver with a rating over 100.0.
Busch leads the series with the top average running position (9.6), average green flag speed (90.22 mph) and laps (955) in the top 15. He’s also No. 1 in laps led (197) and top-five finishes (seven), and his 9.2 start position is best among drivers with at least three Sonoma starts. He has finished fourth or better in four of his past five starts at Sonoma, which began with a 2011 win.
The Las Vegan is the 5-1 favorite Sunday, the first time since 2007 at Bristol he’s been the lone favorite.
STARTING UP FRONT IMPORTANT
Qualifying well is important, as 19 of the 27 Sonoma winners have come from a top-10 start position. Eight have come from the front row, with the pole sitter winning five times.
Joey Logano had his best finish at Sonoma last season, then won at Watkins Glen a few weeks later. He’s been getting better each time out on the road courses, and 15-1 is a nice price to cash among the nonfavorites.
Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson also have value at 30-1. Larson grew up 80 miles from the track in Elk Grove.
Micah Roberts, a former Las Vegas sports book director, has been setting NASCAR odds since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MicahRoberts7