Oddsmaker: Jimmie Johnson favored over Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon to win 2015 Sprint Cup crown

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Two days after Kevin Harvick celebrated his 2014 Sprint Cup championship at the annual NASCAR Awards Banquet, Las Vegas bookmakers have already set odds on who they think will be the 2015 Cup champ.

One of the biggest oddsmakers, Bovada, is going all in on Jimmie Johnson to rebound from a disappointing season to win what would be a record-tying seventh Cup championship in 2015.

Bovada puts Johnson at 5/1 odds.

But that’s not to say Bovada doesn’t think Harvick can make it two in a row in ’15, either.

Bovada picks both Harvick and Jeff Gordon as having the second-highest odds to win the Cup crown at 6/1.

Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski (7/1) and Joey Logano (8/1) are the next highest picks, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, both at 10/1 odds.

Bovada expects a strong season from Carl Edwards in his first campaign with his new team, Joe Gibbs Racing. In fact, Edwards and new teammate Kyle Busch are both 12/1 odds, while the other JGR driver, Denny Hamlin, is at 14/1.

There are some surprises when it comes to longshots, both good and bad.

Odds are good for Kyle Larson, who begins his second full Sprint Cup season at 18/1 odds.

Odds are not so good for several veteran drivers, however.

Three-time champ Tony Stewart comes in at 22/1 odds, followed by Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch (both 25/1).

Ryan Newman gets the least amount of respect from the Bovada stats crew. Even though Newman finished second in the championship to Harvick this season, he’s a distant 33/1 odds for 2015.

From that point, it just goes further downhill, with Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray all at 40/1, Austin Dillon at 50/1, Brian Vickers at 100/1 and AJ Allmendinger at 200/1.

Among those that did not make Bovada’s list: 2014 Chase qualifier Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick, Richard Petty Motorsports newcomer Sam Hornish Jr., Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Gilliland, Trevor Bayne and David Ragan.

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.