Oddsmakers pick Marcos Ambrose as Sonoma favorite

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There’s nothing like putting a little pressure on Marcos Ambrose.

Okay, make that a LOT of pressure now.

It’s tough enough for Ambrose as he’s doing his best to make this year’s expanded 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But now Ambrose has even more pressure on his shoulders after the Las Vegas Hilton sports book, one of the biggest in Sin City, has anointed the Australian native as the man to beat in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

According to a report and video on SportingNews.com, the LVH has made Ambrose a 5-1 pick to win Sunday’s race.

Being picked to win is a pretty lofty selection for a guy who has never won at Sonoma (although Ambrose has two career Sprint Cup wins at the other road course on the schedule, Watkins Glen).

What’s more, Jeff Gordon (five wins) and Tony Stewart (two wins) are the winningest active drivers at Sonoma.

Ironically, while there have been nine different winners in the last nine races at Sonoma, including first-timers Kurt Busch in 2011, Clint Bowyer in 2012 and Martin Truex Jr. last season, Gordon and Stewart dominated before that stretch, combining for seven wins in the previous nine starts there (before 2005).

Kevin Harvick has knocked on victory’s door numerous times at Sonoma, always to come up short. But because his car has indeed been so freaky fast this season, he’s a potential contender to win for the first time at the serpentine track.

Six-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, who has won three of the last four Cup races, has only one win at Sonoma, but the momentum he brings in could potentially lift him to his second career there – and 4th win in 5 starts, if he has his way.

Drivers with VERY long odds to win include Dale Earnhardt Jr. (60-1), Denny Hamlin (60-1), rookie Kyle Larson (75-1), road course ringer Boris Said (100-1), Danica Patrick (300-1) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (500-1).

Ouch, 500-1, really? That has to hurt that the oddsmakers have so little faith in Stenhouse on the Sonoma road course.

Still, for now, Ambrose is the man to beat, according to LVH.

 

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Here’s a complete look at the Sonoma odds offered by the LVH and The Linemakers and SportingNews.com:

Marcos Ambrose 5-1

Jeff Gordon 6-1

Kevin Harvick 7-1

Jimmie Johnson 7-1

Kurt Busch 7-1

Tony Stewart 8-1

Brad Keselowski 12-1

Joey Logano 12-1

Kyle Busch 12-1

Kasey Kahne 18-1

Clint Bowyer 18-1

Jamie McMurray 30-1

AJ Allmendinger 30-1

Carl Edwards 35-1

Martin Truex Jr. 35-1

Brian Vickers 35-1

Greg Biffle 50-1

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 60-1

Denny Hamlin 60-1

Paul Menard 60-1

Ryan Newman 60-1

Kyle Larson 75-1

Matt Kenseth 75-1

Justin Allgaier 75-1

Austin Dillon 100-1

Boris Said 100-1

Aric Almirola 300-1

Casey Mears 300-1

Danica Patrick 300-1

David Gilliland 500-1

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 500-1

Field 100-1

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

 

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.