By Micah Roberts
Special to VSiN
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series roars through Las Vegas for Sunday's Kobalt 400 in what again will be the largest-wagered race of the season.
Just for perspective, the No. 2 race according to wagering handle is the Daytona 500 — about four times less than the Vegas race — and way down the list is the Indianapolis 500.
It's easy to create such a huge handle with up to 100,000 fans visiting the city and it being the only stop on the NASCAR circuit where wagering is legally available. With so many fans in town, the sports books are able to boost the betting menus by offering every type of wager possible that's found in a box score.
Brad Keselowski rolls in as the hot driver. He won last week at Atlanta, and he won last year in Vegas. Kevin Harvick (5-1 odds) and Keselowski (6-1) are the favorites this week.
Las Vegas’ Kyle Busch (7-1) will be a popular bet, with Daytona winner Kurt Busch (25-1) starting as a long shot.
Here’s a look at some props offered by William Hill sports books:
Manufacturer to win: Ford plus-160, Chevy plus-180, Toyota plus-200
Ford won the first three races at Las Vegas and has won a track-record nine times, including three of the past five. But the big reason to support Ford here, despite having only 14 cars compared to 16 for Chevy, is because the two most dominant cars in last week’s Atlanta race were Fords driven by Harvick, the 2015 Vegas winner, and two-time Vegas winner Keselowski.
Set-up requirements are similar for sister tracks Atlanta and Vegas (both 1.5-mile layouts). Also, Joey Logano has the best Las Vegas average finish (10.7) among all drivers and was runner-up last season. Kurt Busch is still looking for his first home track win, and he might offer the best long-shot odds to win.
Odds to win Friday’s pole
There's too much randomness to get real serious about a large wager, but a driver who offers some value at 18-1 is Ryan Newman, who qualified second last week. He's had 51 poles over his career, but the most important reason is the speed his team found last week and his apparent liking of the new low downforce package.
Jimmie Johnson finish position: 5.5 (Over plus-100)
Johnson has a track-record four wins and 576 laps led over 15 Vegas starts with a 10.9 average finish, but I don't see him finishing in the top five this time around. He was mediocre in his final practice last week and finished 19th in the race. And when using the similar downforce package last year in two test races, he finished 32nd at Kentucky and sixth at Michigan. The ‘over’ is the play. I also recommend betting against Johnson in driver matchups. The Westgate sports book has Johnson matched up against Logano, Chase Elliott, Keselowski and Harvick.
Denny Hamlin finish position: 10.5 (Over plus-100)
He has a 12.8 average finish in 11 career Vegas starts but has finished 12th or worse in four of his past five. Last season, he had only four top-10 finishes in 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks, and he was 38th at Atlanta last week. He's one of my favorite drivers, but I like money too, and this bet ‘over; has some value.
Winning car number: 1-20 (-130)
The two drivers I like to win the race, Harvick (No. 4) and Keselowski (No. 2), fall in this group of 15 drivers, and I also get 2009 Vegas winner Kyle Busch (No. 18) and three-time Vegas winner Matt Kenseth (No. 20).
Total cautions: 8.5 (Under -125)
There will be two automatic cautions after each of the first two stages, but even if adding those to the past four Vegas races they all would have all stayed under 8.5. The other angle that is promising is that only 39 drivers will be in the race. For years, we had 43 start and at least five of those cars were jalopies that always got in the way and caused wrecks. There's less risk now. Last week on a slicker Atlanta surface, and 100 miles more than Vegas, there were only six cautions.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director and NASCAR oddsmaker. Follow him on Twitter @MicahRoberts7.