Harvick hard to beat at Dover

By Jeff Cogliandro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

As the NASCAR drivers move past the wild events of the Roval last weekend, they are left with only 12 playoff contenders. Jimmie Johnson, in a valiant attempt to get his first win of the year at the inaugural Roval race, took himself out of the playoffs by getting into the backend of Martin Truex Jr. As they struggled to restart and correct themselves, Ryan Blaney (20-1) scrambled across the finish line and won the race in dramatic fashion. The Roval did indeed live up to the hype and, in the process, cemented its existence, at least the near future.

As the second round of the playoffs begins Sunday at Dover (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon join Johnson as championship spectators. With the field being trimmed to 12 for the second round, let’s take a look at the current South Point odds to win the title. The points total reflects their position as they try to qualify for the round of eight.

Kyle Busch 5/2 (+47)

Kevin Harvick 5/2 (+42)

Martin Truex Jr 7/2 (+30)

Brad Keselowski 7/1 (+17)

Kyle Larson 15/1 (-7)

Chase Elliott 15/1 (-5)

Joey Logano 20/1 (+6)

Clint Bowyer 20/1 (+7)

Kurt Busch 20/1 (+6)

Ryan Blaney 25/1 (+5)

Aric Almirola 70/1 (-12)

Alex Bowman 300/1 (-13)

At 15-1, Kyle Larson provides value. Although he will have to get himself into a better spot just to advance to the next round, Larson has been running well over the past several weeks. Further, if he were to make it to Homestead, then he would likely be considered the favorite to win. Getting past Martinsville could be the biggest hurdle for Larson should he make it that far. There will likely be better clarity after Talladega as to who is in a good spot to advance from the drivers who are currently close to elimination

When they last visited Dover in May, the race was dominated by Kevin Harvick as he swept all three stages. While many things have changed since then, Harvick is still a race favorite to win this weekend. Since qualifying was rained out, the drivers will lineup based on owners points, which puts Kyle Busch on the pole. Just to Busch’s outside will be Harvick.

Let’s take a closer look at the contenders:

Kevin Harvick (5-2): Lined up in the front row is Harvick, who appears to have one of the best cars so far this weekend. He has all the tools to dominate this race in the same manner as he did earlier in the season. He is a well-deserved favorite to sweep Dover this season. If picking one driver to win, Harvick is the choice.

Kyle Busch (3-1): In his last five races at Dover he has one win, two top-5 finishes and two DNFs. Starting from the pole and having the premiere pit stall help his cause on a very narrow pit road. However, Busch did not display the type of speed over the long run that would normally be expected to be seen during practice.

Kyle Larson (9-2): From the 10th position, Larson will try to stamp his ticket to the round of eight with a win at Dover. He has four top-10 finishes in the last five races at the Monster Mile. In that same span, he leads all drivers with 463 laps led at Dover. During happy hour, Larson admitted that his car was very strong and perhaps only second best to Harvick.

Martin Truex Jr. (5-1): Starting in the 3rd position is Truex, who is probably still pretty steamed since last week. Truex has had the best car on a number of occasions over the last several weeks, but for one reason or another has not had quality finishes one would expect. In the past six races, Truex has led the second-most laps of any driver (Larson 1st) but has an average finishing position of 16th. Truex has the best average finish (4th) of any driver over the past five races at Dover.

Chase Elliott (10-1): Starting in the 9th position, Elliott has a good recent history with four top-5 finishes in the last 5 races at Dover. Like Larson, a top-5 run would serve Elliott well in terms of dealing with the expected Talladega shuffle. Elliott was strong over the intermediate runs during happy hour, but did not seem to hold the speed on longer runs.

Brad Keselowski (12-1): Rolling off the grid in the fourth position this week is Keselowski. While not winning at Dover since 2012, Keselowski has had four top-10 finishes in the last five races there. Showing top-5 speed over the long runs during happy hour, Keselowski has to be considered a deep contender to win.

Clint Bowyer (14-1): In the fifth starting position is the runner-up finisher from the spring race at Dover. At this price, Bowyer offers value. He unloaded in great condition, and was the second fastest over the long run during happy hour. Additionally, he looks like a very solid matchup play against non-teammates.

Jimmie Johnson (25-1): Because qualifying was rained out, the seven-time champion will be forced to start 13th. He displayed top-10 speed in happy hour while running 95 laps, which is the most of any driver in the top 10. Johnson has an astonishing 11 wins at Dover, which exceeds the career win total of 28 other drivers running this weekend.

Joey Logano (25-1): Starting 6th, but also absent from the speed charts is Joey Logano. While Logano has had past success at Dover, he has only one top-10 finish in the last five races there. Of the Penske cars, it appears that Brad Keselowski’s is in the best position to win on that team.

Kurt Busch (25-1): The next of the Stewart-Haas cars to roll off the grid will be Busch in the 7th position. During happy hour, all four Stewart-Haas cars were in the top 6 over the long run, and each of them appears to have a chance to win. Busch has two top-5 finishes in the last five races at Dover.

Denny Hamlin (30-1): Hamlin will start 15th and has not displayed noticeable contending speed this weekend. It is tough to imagine him snapping out of this season’s woes at Dover, where he has an average finish of over 13th in the last five races there.

Ryan Blaney (30-1): Last week’s benefactor of the Johnson/Truex ballet was Blaney who will start 8th. Blaney has been spotty on the extended leaderboards heading into the race. He finished 8th in the Dover race earlier this year, and he appears to be well placed at current odds.

Aric Almirola (30-1): There is a lot of value on Almirola to win. Regardless of wagering format, at current odds, this wager should make the cut. He was third fastest over the longest runs in happy hour and he unloaded in typical Stewart-Haas fashion. He will start the race in the 11th position and could follow Larson into the top 5. While it would take a lot for Almirola to win, there are times at Dover where the race breaks down due to caution flags and pit road violations.

Daniel Suarez (75-1): Qualifying being rained out hurt the chances for Suarez to win. He will have to start deep in the 19th position and will be forced to claw his way to the front. So far this weekend, the Joe Gibbs cars have not been in the same class as the Stewart-Haas group.

We have a record of 54-33 in driver matchup wagers so far this season, which was helped by going 2-0 last weekend at the Roval. This weekend at Dover it appears that the Stewart-Haas cars, along with Kyle Larson and few others are in the best pre-race condition. Avoiding Stewart-Haas inter-team matchups is advised in most situations. Below are the matchups that made the cut this weekend. Please as always check the latest news and shop your lines. It does not take a lot of action to move the juice in driver matchups in comparison to other sports wagers.

Kevin Harvick (-110) over Kyle Busch (-110): Harvick has a stronger recent history at Dover, and he has been significantly better than Busch so far this weekend. We will take the defending race winner here.

The next two plays both have strong indicators but are listed as optional due to the juice.

Kyle Larson (plus 145) over Kyle Busch (-170): Like Harvick, Larson has been outstanding so far this weekend and in the recent races at Dover. While he will have to make up a number of spots to reach Busch it appears he has the car to do it as an underdog.

Jimmie Johnson (-145) over Denny Hamlin (plus 125): Johnson is the stronger car here without question. However, this is a big number to lay in a NASCAR race. The only hesitation is that Johnson could push himself in the same manner he did last weekend, which did not end well.

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