Nascar in wine country might make some Sprint Cup drivers whine with frustration this weekend.
Certain drivers plain don’t like road racing. After looking at the odds for Sunday’s Toyota Save Mart 350, there may be added reason for those drivers to dislike road racing after Sunday.
Because of the new Chase format, teams aren’t bringing in as many road race ringers to compete. Still, two of the top six favorites are on the outside of the Chase standings. Marcos Ambrose is the favorite at 5/1. Tony Stewart is 8/1.
Among drivers with the best average finish at Sonoma over the last five years, three of the five don’t have a win this 2014 Sprint Cup season. Ambrose and Stewart are joined by Clint Bowyer, who is 18/1 even though his has a win and five top-5 finishes in just eight career starts at Sonoma.
Should any of these three win, it secures a Chase spot and bumps out someone at the bottom who hasn’t won. If they can’t win, Greg Biffle, Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne will probably be pulling for the other favorites this Sunday.
Jeff Gordon has the highest average finish among active drivers and is 6/1. Kurt Busch, who has six top-5 finishes in 13 careers starts, joins Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson at 7/1.
After having won five straight Sprint Cup races, those going with the Hendrick or bust approach should know Kasey Kahne is 18/1. He does have a win at Sonoma.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. does not. He also doesn’t have a top-5 or a top-10. The #88 is 60/1.
A Wild Card:
Danica Patrick is 300/1. Her actual races in 2014 have been forgetful. Just seven drivers who have started all 15 races have fewer points than Patrick, who sits 28th in points.
Patrick has road racing experience and knows Sonoma better than most. When she contended for a Nationwide Series win, it was on a road course. Will Patrick win? Probably not. Could Patrick lead a lap? Definitely. Could crazy fuel strategies put someone unexpected in a position to win the race and make the Chase? Absolutely.
For every Martin Truex, Clint Bowyer or Aric Almirola or other driver who has endured a tough 2014 Sprint Cup season, wine country might be the place to erase some bad memories. It may also serve as the place where another precious Chase spot gets swallowed up by a surprise winner. Here’s how your favorite driver stacks up Sunday.