Top oddsmakers unanimous: Dale Earnhardt Jr. favored to win at Talladega

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With 36 races on the schedule, let’s face it: odds on who is going to win a particular race are pretty much the same from race to race.

(And it’s usually Jimmie Johnson – or it just seems that way.)

But every so often, the oddsmakers and their predictions catch our eye for big races like the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and the spring race at Talladega.

Well, it’s spring and this weekend is the Aaron’s 499 at NASCAR’s largest high-speed oval (2.66 miles), and one of the biggest oddsmakers – Linemakers.com – is picking Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the 10-1 favorite in Sunday’s race.

No surprise, Junior won NASCAR’s last restrictor plate race, the season-opening Daytona 500.

But what is surprising is that Junior is the odds-on pick to win even though he hasn’t reached victory lane at ‘Dega in nearly 10 years!

(It sure doesn’t seem that long – unless you’re a long-suffering Junior fan, and then it probably seems like 10 decades, not years.)

Despite his nearly decade-long winless streak at ‘Dega, Earnhardt has a career-best five wins in 28 starts at Talladega (coming in his first 10 starts there), along with four runner-up finishes, including last fall’s race there.

Linemakers.com isn’t the only big oddsmaker picking Earnhardt to win. So, too, are three of the other biggest: TheSpread.com, Bovada.lv and the Glantz-Culver Line, all who also have Junior at 10-1 odds.

Before we get to some of the key picks for Sunday’s race, let’s not forget that Talladega can produce some real longshots taking the checkered flag, like David Ragan in last spring’s race there (he was a 75-to-1 shot), and Jamie McMurray at 20-1 in last fall’s Chase race there.

Here’s Linemakers.com’s driver odds for winning Sunday’s Aaron’s 499:

10-1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10-1

12-1: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart

18-1: Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer

20-1: Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle

25-1: Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray

30-1: Brian Vickers

40-1: Michael Waltrip and Paul Menard

50-1: Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

75-1: Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan, Casey Mears, Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick

100-1: Trevor Bayne and David Gilliland

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Sage Karam, Tony Kanaan fastest in Monday’s practice for Indy 500

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In the second-to-last practice session of the week, Sage Karam paced the 33 drivers qualified for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 on Monday.

Karam had a field-best speed of 226.461 mph, followed by Tony Kanan (225.123 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.820), Charlie Kimball (224.582) and Alexander Rossi (224.507).

Sixth through 10th fastest were Will Power (224.445), Helio Castroneves (224.368), Marco Andretti (224.148) and rookie Zachary Claman Demelo (224.91) and Scott Dixon (223.966).

Power and Castroneves ran the most laps of all drivers at 120 and 118, respectively.

Two other Team Penske drivers struggled to get speed out of their cars. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was 28th-fastest (221.982 mph) and Simon Pagenaud, who was the slowest (220.902 mph) of the 33 cars on-track.

Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th-fastest with a best speed of 223.573 mph in a 100-lap effort.

Most drivers were in race trim or were testing things for Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing such as fuel mileage, chassis setup and more.

Rookie Matheus Leist missed most of the session with an apparent electrical problem that kept him to just 19 laps.

There was one incident of note during the 3 ½ hour session: IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens crashed coming out of Turn 2 during the first hour of practice.

Wickens appeared to skim the outside SAFER Barrier, went left and then violently turned hard back into the outside retaining wall.

MORE: Wickens wrecks during Indy 500 practice

The Honda-powered machine for the Canadian driver suffered heavy damage to the right side, particularly the right front tire and the right side of the front end.

There will be no further on-track activity for the Indy cars until Friday’s final practice to fine tune things for Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

We’ll have the full practice speed chart, as well as What Drivers Said, shortly. Please check back soon.

Follow @JerryBonkowski