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

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How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).