Oddsmakers pick Kevin Harvick as favorite to win Sprint Cup championship

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Even though the season-opening Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s answer to the Super Bowl, Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is more akin to a true Super Bowl atmosphere.

And what says Super Bowl more than the wagering line, where NFL fans feel they can get a piece of the action monetarily.

Ditto for NASCAR’s season finale. Virtually every major sports book is placing odds on which of the four drivers – Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano or Denny Hamlin – ultimately winds up being the 2014 Sprint Cup champion.

And a first-time championship for any of the four finalists, at that.

One of the biggest odds makers in Las Vegas, TheLinemakers.com, has made its picks, per SportingNews.com.

And to no major surprise, The Line makers are picking Kevin Harvick as a 3-2 favorite to win the championship in Sunday’s race.

In the overall 35 races to date, Harvick has 4 wins, 13 top-5 and 19 top-10 finishes, including 2 wins, 5 top-5 and 6 top-10 finishes in the first nine races of the Chase.

As for Homestead, Harvick has 13 starts, five top 5s, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 8.1.

Harvick, Logano and Newman have never won at Homestead, but Denny Hamlin has. Twice, in fact.

But for whatever reason, Hamlin at 9-2 has the longest odds of the four drivers. Hamlin also has arguably the best pit crew of the four, yet he’s still looked at as the longest of the long shots.

In the overall first 35 races of 2014, Hamlin has 1 win, 7 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes. He’s where he’s at in the Chase with excellent consistency in the first nine playoff races: 1 top-5 but also 6 top-10 showings.

Hamlin’s average finish in the first nine Chase races is 12.4.

At Homestead, Hamlin has 9 starts, 2 wins, 4 top 5s, 5 top 10s and an average finish of 11.2.

In-between, Logano is the second-best pick at 9-4 odds.

Logano has 5 wins, 16 top-5 and 22 top-10 finishes in 2014, including 2 wins, 6 top-5 and 7 top-10 finishes in the Chase. He also has the best average finish of all Chase drivers of 5.3.

Homestead has not been a very good track for Logano: In five career starts on the 1.5-mile, 20-degree progressively banked, paper-clip shaped track, has just one top-10 finish and an overall average finish of 20.8.

Newman, who has the potential to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win a championship without even winning a single race in the same season, is going off at 7-2 odds, according to The Line makers.

Thus far this season, Newman has 0 wins, 4 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes, including 2 top-5 and 5 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 9.8 in the Chase.

Newman also has not had a stellar career performance at Homestead. In 12 starts, he has just 1 top-five and 4 top-10 finishes, with an average finish of 17.0.

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.