It’s one week into our NASCAR withdrawal period and some of you may be a little edgy. But at this point, we all have to remember that the 2014 season really isn’t all too far away.
And as if to remind us of that very fact, the first odds to win next year’s Sprint Cup title have already been released by the William Hill sports books in Nevada.
According to the Sporting News, the newly-crowned six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and his 2013 title rival Matt Kenseth are atop the first list.
Johnson is listed as the favorite for 2014 at 3-to-1 odds, while Kenseth sits at 11-to-2 odds – a fair reflection of their solid respective seasons.
Next up is Kyle Busch, who has his title bid derailed at Kansas but hung tough with four Top-10s in the final six races to claim fourth in the championship at season’s end.
“Rowdy” has been placed at 13-2 odds by William Hill, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. right behind him at 7-1 odds after putting together a fine post-season stretch of his own following his blown engine in the Chase opener at Chicagoland.
Rounding out the Top 5 is Jeff Gordon at 10-1. The four-time champ’s big win at Martinsville catapulted him into the title picture with three races left, but a wreck at Texas forced his “Drive For Five” to continue into 2014.
Other notables include Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and the returning Tony Stewart each at 15-1 odds; rookie of the year Ricky Stenhouse and Austin Dillon both at 75-1; Kyle Larson at 150-1; and Danica Patrick at 250-1.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.