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New NASCAR package paves way for long shot to win Pennzoil 400

Updated February 28, 2019 - 4:48 pm

Bettors who’ve banked on a long shot to take the checkered flag at Las Vegas Motor Speedway are running on empty after 22 NASCAR Cup Series races there.

Favorites have dominated at LVMS since it hosted its first Cup race in 1998. Only five active drivers have won at LVMS and all are former Cup Series champions: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

“If you’re betting drivers over 20-1 in Las Vegas, you haven’t cashed. It just doesn’t happen,” handicapper Micah Roberts said. “It’s always been an elite team winning and an elite car winning. The cream always rises to the top.”

But that might change in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, where NASCAR’s new competition package — which reduced horsepower from 750 to 550 — promises to produce more competitive racing than in past years.

“The new car opens it up to a whole new cast of characters who have the ability to win,” said Roberts (Sportsline.com). “No one’s going to run away with it. There will be a lot more passing.

“It’s more wide open than it’s ever been in Las Vegas’ Cup Series history.”

Live long shots

Roberts, a former Las Vegas sportsbook director, said a case can be made for up to 20 drivers to win, including Ryan Blaney at 12-1, Aric Almirola and Erik Jones at 20-1, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin at 25-1, Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at 50-1 and Ryan Newman at 80-1.

“Suarez can win because of his affiliation (with Stewart-Haas Racing and teammates Harvick, Almirola and Clint Bowyer),” he said. “Fifty-to-one on Suarez is pretty good.

“He was one of the guys last week in Atlanta who was real effective passing and making up (ground) in traffic.”

The wagering handle on the Pennzoil 400 dwarfs every other NASCAR race besides the Daytona 500, which like the Masters is open for betting months beforehand.

“It generates a tremendous amount of action and interest,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “We always have a pretty good vested interest.”

Battle of Busches

Las Vegas books offer an expanded menu of props and driver matchups for the Pennzoil 400, including a matchup of the homegrown Busch brothers: Kyle is a minus 220 favorite over Kurt (plus 190).

Kyle Busch also is a minus 200 favorite to win Friday’s Strat 200, the 6-1 favorite Friday to win the Pennzoil 400 pole and the minus 125 favorite to win Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300.

He’s the 5-1 second choice to win the Pennzoil 400 behind Harvick, the 9-2 favorite who won at LVMS in March 2018 for his second victory in five races there.

Finish position by Chase Elliott: Over 12½ (-110)

Roberts likes Elliott to finish in 13th place or worse in Sunday’s race.

“He’s wrecked in three of his four starts in Vegas’ Cup Series races and the new package for his car didn’t look very competitive last week in Atlanta,” he said. “And there’s a lot of crossover between Atlanta and Las Vegas.”

Finish position by Brad Keselowski: Under 6½ (-120)

Keselowski won at Atlanta on Sunday and won at LVMS in September.

“He’s won three of the last six races here, has stayed under 6½ in six of his last seven in Vegas and he won last week and had the fastest final practice session in Las Vegas (on Feb. 1),” Roberts said. “He has everything going for him. He should be the favorite, not Harvick.”

Keselowski to win Pennzoil 400 (6-1)

Keselowski is the 6-1 third choice to win the Pennzoil 400 and a victory would tie him with Johnson (30-1) for the most Cup victories at LVMS with four.

“He’s just dialed in, plus he loves the track and he’s dominated on this track,” Roberts said. “He puts on the best show in Vegas in NASCAR since Jimmie Johnson was dominating. If he wins, he takes over as Mr. Las Vegas.”

More betting: Follow at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sportson Twitter.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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