Odds for Top Contenders to Win the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2013

Odds for Top Contenders to Win the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup

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    The 2013 Sprint Cup Series regular season has come to a close. Carl Edwards won the race in Richmond, but the two biggest winners were undoubtedly Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. who each eked their way into the playoffs by the slimmest of margins.

    As the series heads to Chicago this weekend, 12 drivers are now officially eligible to race with a chance at winning the series championship.

    The points have been reset, and the 12 contenders are all separated by just 15 points. By virtue of his five regular season wins, Matt Kenseth leads the standings by three points over Kyle Busch and four-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.

    But just because he led the series in wins doesn't make Kenseth the odds-on favorite to win the title. That honor belongs with his teammate.

    At this point, every driver has a realistic chance of winning the title. Some drivers enter the playoffs as heavy underdogs and are given a far less chance of winning than some of their peers. But how big of underdogs are certain contenders?

    In the slides ahead we will answer that question and look at all 12 Chase drivers and give you the odds that each of them ends the season as the Sprint Cup Series champion. 



Martin Truex Jr.

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 40-1

    Martin Truex Jr. has a lot to overcome if he is going to win his first series championship.

    First and foremost is his injury. Truex suffered a broken wrist in a crash at Bristol two weeks ago. It hasn't caused him to miss any time behind the wheel, but it has forced him to wear a cast while driving.

    He posted back-to-back top-10 finishes with the injury to earn his spot in the Chase.

    The other thing that Truex will have to overcome is his lack of success in Chase races. Since becoming a full-time driver in 2006 he has only scored 24 top-10 finishes in 70 playoff events.

    If Truex has any chance of winning the championship he will need to drastically improve his results. Scoring a win or two wouldn't hurt anything either.

Joey Logano

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 30-1

    For the first time in his young career, Joey Logano is one of the qualifiers for the Chase for the Championship. As a first-timer in the playoffs don't be surprised if Logano struggles early on, as he adjusts to the added pressure of being in the title hunt.

    Logano is in the midst of his best season in Sprint Cup competition. Through 26 races he has posted 14 top-10 finishes, which is just two away from tying his personal best for a season. The eight top-fives he has posted and the 216 laps led are already new career highs for a single year.

    While Logano would certainly be a surprise champion, seeing as how his previous best points finish was a 16th-place effort, anything is possible. After all, the defending series champion is his Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski.

Greg Biffle

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 30-1

    Greg Biffle was the winner earlier in the year at Michigan. Other than that it has been just a mediocre year for the driver of the No. 16 Ford.

    Of the 12 championship contenders, Biffle ranks last in both top-10 and top-five finishes. He is the only driver to post less than three finishes of fifth or better.

    Biffle is in the Chase for the sixth time in his career. He has finished in the top five in the points three times before, so you can never completely count him out as a contender.

    But the lack of quality finishes makes Biffle a real underdog as the playoffs get under way. For him to have any chance at the championship, he had better have saved his best for last.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 25-1

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. has qualified for the Chase for the third year in a row. He is one of three drivers in this year’s playoffs who have yet to score a win.

    The lack of wins has plagued Earnhardt for the entire duration of his Hendrick Motorsports career. Since joining the team in 2008, he has scored just a total of two wins, both coming at Michigan which is not one of the 10 tracks in the Chase.

    The five top-five finishes that Earnhardt has posted is better than only one other driver that he is competing against for the championship. The 146 laps that he has led are better than only two others.

    If Earnhardt is to finally break through and win his first championship, he needs to find a way to get into Victory Lane on a more consistent basis. While anything can happen in the playoffs, an Earnhardt championship feels like a long shot.

Kurt Busch

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 20-1

    The biggest Cinderella story of this year’s Chase is undoubtedly Kurt Busch. He has led his Furniture Row Racing team into the Chase for the first time in their history and has transformed them from a middle-of-the-pack team into a weekly race winning contender.

    While Busch is one of the three Chase qualifying drivers who has yet to post a win on the year, his top-10 and top-five finish totals are either at or above the average of the rest of his competitors.

    Other than his lack of wins, the primary hurdle that Busch will need to overcome if he is to pull off the major upset is his team's inexperience.

    While Busch winning the championship would make for a great story, the likelihood of it happening is not good. What this team has already accomplished in 2013 is amazing, in today’s NASCAR, a single-car team winning the championship is almost unthinkable.

Kasey Kahne

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 15-1

    Kasey Kahne has won twice this season, and made it into the Chase as one of the two wild cards.

    This marks the fourth time in Kahne's career that he has qualified for the Chase. His best showing was the fourth-place effort that he turned in one season ago.

    Kahne is in his second season driving for Rick Hendrick and has produced similar numbers as the ones he did last year.

    Through the 26-race regular season, Kahne has scored 11 top-10s and eight top-fives, compared with totals of 13 and seven during his first year at HMS.

    He posted six top-10s during last year’s Chase en route to his career best points finish. He failed to win a Chase race, which is something he won’t be able to do again this year if he is to seriously contend for the title.

Clint Bowyer

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 10-1

    Clint Bowyer is another driver who has yet to win a race this season, but he was still able to finish the regular season third in the standings.

    Due to his being unable to secure any wins, Bowyer will have to start the Chase in eighth place in the points.

    Bowyer has posted 13 top-10 finishes and eight top-fives. Tied with Carl Edwards, his 12.3 average finish is the best among the 12 championship contenders.

    This will mark Bowyer’s fifth appearance in the Chase. Three of his previous four playoff appearances resulted in a top-five finish, including his runner-up performance one year ago.

    Though he is only an eight-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series, Bowyer has been one of the more consistent drivers in the sport, and his consistency will be the key to his championship hopes.

Kevin Harvick

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 8-1

    As he customarily does, Kevin Harvick has quietly put together another solid season. As the Chase gets underway, he sits fourth in the standings thanks to two wins earlier in the year.

    Of all the Chase qualifiers, Harvick has led the least amount of laps this season, leading just 51 circuits. His 16.7 average starting position is also ranked 12th among championship contenders, but his 12.7 average finish ranks third among his competitors.

    This marks the seventh time that Harvick has qualified for the Chase. Expect him to be a contender right up until the end, as he usually is. Four of his previous six Chase appearances resulted in a top-five finish in the standings including back-to-back third-place efforts in 2010 and 2011.

    If any of the other favorites have trouble, don't be surprised if “The Closer” sneaks in and once again becomes a factor.  

Carl Edwards

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 8-1

    If there is such a thing as momentum, Carl Edwards has it. He is the most recent winner in the Sprint Cup Series after claiming the checkered flag in Richmond this past weekend.

    The win was the second of the year for Edwards and earned him the fifth spot in the championship standings.

    On the season Edwards has scored 13 top-10 finishes and has posted a 12.3 average finish which ties Clint Bowyer for the best among championship contenders.

    Edwards has qualified for the Chase five times prior to this season and has twice finished runner-up to the title. The 2011 season saw Edwards end the year in a tie with Stewart atop the standings. Edwards lost out on the championship by a tiebreaker.

    Edwards could be a dark horse to win the title. Along with the momentum that he carries into the Chase, there are a few tracks among the final 10 that he has run very well on over the course of his career.

Matt Kenseth

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 5-1

    The 2013 season has been boom or bust for Matt Kenseth. He was the regular season wins leader with five, but he only posted one other top-five finish through the first 26 races.

    The 1,149 laps that Kenseth has led are a series best, and somewhat surprisingly, his average start of 8.8 is the second best among the 12 Chase contenders.

    While Kenseth does have a series championship on his resume, it came in 2003 under the old points system. His best Chase performance was a runner-up finish in 2006.

    If Kenseth is going to claim his second title, he needs to get back to being the consistent driver that he normally is and post some strong finishes even when he isn't able to find Victory Lane.

Jimmie Johnson

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 4-1

    Jimmie Johnson is in the midst of the worst four-race streak of his Sprint Cup Series career, but that is no reason not to consider him one of the favorites to win the title.

    Johnson is a five-time series champion and has become the master of the Chase format. He is the only driver to qualify every year of its existence, and he has never finished worse than sixth in the final standings.

    Johnson is a four-time winner this season and his 15 top-10 finishes tie for the most in the series.

    Prior to his current slump, Johnson at one point held a lead in the standings of 77 points. That is the largest lead anyone has ever held under the current format.

    Johnson has won 22 races in the Chase which is twice the amount of anyone else. Just because Johnson and the No. 48 team have struggled in recent weeks is no reason to not consider them one of the favorites, as they are always at their best when the playoffs start.

Kyle Busch

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    Odds to Win the Chase: 3-1

    No one can argue that when it comes to the Chase, Kyle Busch has been nothing short of awful. Prior to this season he had qualified just five times in eight full-time seasons.

    The five times that he did find himself in the playoffs it was a disaster. In 2007 he finished the year fifth in the standings. Other than that he has never finished better than eighth.

    Busch has scored just one career win during Chase races, and that came in 2005 at Phoenix when he wasn't even one of the 10 championship contenders.

    But forget all that. Busch is the 2013 odds-on favorite to win the title. His four wins are second most in the series, and his 15 top-10 finishes tie for the most in that category.

    Of Busch's four wins this year, three of them have come at the "cookie cutter" mile-and-a-half or two-mile ovals that dominate the Sprint Cup schedule. That bodes well for the younger Busch brother as five of the 10 Chase races are on that same type track.

    While history would tell us that picking Busch to win the championship would be a mistake, he is far too talented a driver to not have Chase success sooner or later.

    Assuming he can post a solid finish in Chicago and get the Chase started on the right foot, there is no reason to think that Busch won't be the driver hoisting the championship trophy at the end of the year.