We have passed the halfway point in the regular season of NASCAR and the Monster Energy Cup Series playoff picture is beginning to clear up.
For several years, it was the Big 3 and everybody else.
Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr were the class of everyone and we all knew one of those three was going to win nearly every race ran.
That was until sometime last season when Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano emerging top 5 drivers themselves and Logano even winning the Monster Energy Cup Championship in November.
While those two were emerging as superstars and legitimate threats week-in and week-out, we witnessed the regression of Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.
The 40 plus year-old Harvick has yet to return to form. He may not ever, but the man clearly has nothing left to prove to his owner, crew, fellow drivers, and fans.
The New Jersey-native Truex Jr, though, has experienced quite the resurgence in his career.
Joining Team Joe Gibbs alongside Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin has been key for him, in my opinion.
His former team is no defunct if that means anything.
While this team is performing very well, it hasn’t been domination by any means.
It’s 10 wins to 5 in favor of Gibbs over Penske.
Kyle Busch has struggled a bit lately, albeit if struggling means not winning every third race like we are used to seeing from him but his new teammate Truex has emerged as the new favorite to win the Championship.
The current betting odds don’t reflect that, but all the more reason to climb aboard the train to Jersey and back Martin Truex Jr at 6-1.
With all that being said, today I want to focus on some sleepers with 16-1 or greater odds win the whole thing.
The way the playoff system works, a driver can win the Championship by taking the checkered flag only once all year, that being the final race of the season in Homestead, Florida.
The system is a bit complicated and the previous link will take you to NASCAR’s official website that explains the system very well.
The synopsis is that there are 16 drivers who make the playoffs with their season-long point total wiped nearly clean minus points for season victories and stage wins.
After that, 4 drivers are eliminated each race until there is a Final Four winner-take-all contest in South Florida that will decide the Cup Champion.
This format opens up the potential and possibility of lower-seeded drivers getting hot in the playoffs and “stealing” the Cup, per se.
Hey, there is undoubtedly a certain amount of randomness and unpredictability in every car race.
Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano could be in the Final four alongside say, Alex Bowman, for example, and the three of them are involved in a crash entirely not their fault and we end up crowning Alex freakin’ Bowman the current king of NASCAR.
No, it’s not likely but that doesn’t erase the value in the betting odds nest to their names.
Here are 4 underdog sleepers that could win the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Championship in 2019.
Clint Bowyer: +2500
The Ford Mustang driver for Stewart-Haas Racing from Kansas just celebrated his 40th birthday less than a month ago.
Okay, it’s not that bad. 40-year-olds have won championships before, even in prize fighting.
So if that can be done, I have faith someone sitting down in a car can make it happen as well.
In fact, when we see those ominous storm clouds, what normally comes next?
Yes, cue the Imagine Dragons…
Lightning and the thunder, thunder!
The Fords are said to have up to 50 more horses running under the hoods of their cars than the Toyotas or Chevys.
I don’t know if I’m buying all of that but they definitely aren’t slower than the rest.
They occupy 7 of the top 13 spots in the Cup Series points standings with the previously mentioned two companies supplying 3 vehicles each.
Clint is currently residing in 12th position in the playoff points standings of 16, 4 spots ahead of the playoff cut line.
He is also 12th down on the list of drivers’ odds to win the championship.
If he can make it to Miami still in the playoffs, he has a decent shot.
In just 13 starts there, he has 7 top ten performances including 3 top-five finishes.
I’m not really paying much attention to top ten finishes for this season’s statistics, though, but he has 5 top five placings on the year.
That’s the same amount as Kevin Harvick who is just second down on the list of betting odds behind the favorite Kyle Busch.
He’s worth a few bucks at 25-1.
Alex Bowman: +5000
This young Hendrick Motorsports driver has been one of the fastest Chevrolets on the track this season minus his teammate Chase Elliott, who I really don’t hate as a pick to win it all either.
Elliott’s betting odds don’t really cry out sleeper, though, but with Alex paying at 50 to 1, we have to take a look.
He went through a great stretch, albeit a frustrating one, last month where he placed 2nd three weeks in a row then came in 3rd at the All-Star Open in Charlotte.
Since then, he has placed inside the top 15 in five races with 3 top tens.
Other than Elliott, he doesn’t really have to play second bluegrass violin to anyone on his team.
He outperforms William Byron and yes, Jimmie Johnson is still there but is he really?
If Stewart Haas racing wants to contend with Penske and Joe Gibbs in the future, they need more success with the younger generation.
Hopefully, the owners realize this and younger stars like Alex Bowman get that proverbial push they need to succeed.
20 bucks to win a stack?
I’ll take it.
Kurt Busch: +2000
Hey, it’s not all about the yutes.
The yutes, your honor.
I did just finish mansplaining to you the advantages of taking a younger driver to win this but just like the aforementioned Clint Bowyer, you can’t count out good ‘ol experience.
Kurt Busch has that going for him, for sure, and one thing he has up on Bowyer is a great deal of past success.
The Las Vegas is currently sitting in 8th place in the Cup Series standings and only 34 points outside of the 5th spot.
The wins are few and far between nowadays for him. His little brother has passed him up for all-time success as well.
I’m not sure how cool he is about that but the man knows how to drive and has at least been consistent the past few seasons.
He has a victory in Miami and his statistics there mirror those of his uber-successful little bro.
What grabbed my attention and made me add Kurt to this list wasn’t just his name or the long odds but the fact that he has finished every race he’s run.
There are a few other drivers who have completed all 16 of the contests they began in 2019.
We know almost for certain, though, that he will make the playoffs and playing it safe might not be the worst strategy if some of the younger drivers become a bit overzealous.
Denny Hamlin: +1600
Okay, some of you might be saying “Hey, he’s not a sleeper. That’s Denny Hamlin!”
I hear ya, believe me.
He’s 6th in the points standings right now with 2 victories as well including an emotional one at Daytona to kick off the season.
Chase Elliott is just behind him at 7th in the points but is 7 betting points ahead on the odds list at (+900).
I love Elliott and I think he can make some noise for sure but Denny is the much more experienced driver.
The Virginia-native is the only active driver with more than one victory in Miami and has been on the pole on three different occasions.
He’s also placed in the top 10 there in 9 out of 14 starts.
He seems to come up big in big situations under the lights and the pressure.
While it isn’t uncommon for his peers to have nerves of shiny iron, Denny stands out in that area to me.
There are only 3 drivers with more wins this season and just 2 with more top-five finishes.
You can’t argue with the value you’re getting at (+1600) here with Denny Hamlin.
There’s still plenty of racin’ to be done before we get to the playoffs at the end of the summer but I see this as an opportunistic time to place some bets on a few underdogs to win the Cup Series Championship when the playoffs conclude in November.
After 16 regular season races thus far, we now know a few things.
Martin Truex Jr is back!
I would grab him up at (+600) right now because the closer we get to Fall, he is likely going to be at 4 or even 3 to 1.
My sleepers aren’t a bunch of kids, though, as NASCAR mostly runs on the good ole boy system.
Go figure, right.
Drivers must pay their due but it’s not impossible for a little stupid courage and a desperate team in need of a new star to lead to someone like Alex Bowman being there in the end.
Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer are both 40-years-old but haven’t shown any signs of slowed reaction time, and their experience and the former’s championship level of past success could place either in the Final Four.
My other guy should be considered a top five favorite, in my eyes.
Denny Hamlin is as clutch as anybody, runs Miami as well as anyone, has the experience the younger drivers don’t, but isn’t over the metaphorical hill either.
Boogity boogity, let’s go to the betting window!