Jimmie Johnson Fantasy NASCAR
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

If, at the beginning of the 2014 NASCAR season, I would have told you that you could get 28-to-1 odds on Jimmie Johnson to win the championship, I don’t think there’s a bettor in the world that wouldn’t have put some money down. A simple $100 bet would pay out a whopping $2,800 if NASCAR’s elite team and driver brought home their second consecutive (and seventh overall) Sprint Cup championship. Well, because of NASCAR’s new Chase format, those are the exact odds that you can get on Jimmie Johnson winning the title this year.

With just one race remaining in the Contender Round–after which NASCAR will eliminate the four lowest remaining Chase drivers in points–Jimmie Johnson finds himself 11th in the points standings, 26 points behind the 8th-place cutoff spot. A win on Sunday at Talladega would guarantee Johnson a spot in the next round of the Chase and keep his championship hopes alive, although we all know that nothing is guaranteed at a track like Talladega. “Six Time” has won twice at this track, the most recent victory coming in 2011.

Nothing But Drama…And We’re Only Halfway

To deem NASCAR’s new Chase format anything other than a success thus far would be unfair to say the least. The emphasis on winning has never been more important as it is now, and it’s shaping up to be one wild race at Talladega on Sunday. Previous Sprint Cup champions Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, and, of course, Jimmie Johnson are on the outside looking in right now, and it’s possible that all three of them could have their 2014 championship hopes crushed on Sunday. Actually it’s very possible. Meanwhile fan-favorite–and one of the best drivers in the regular season–Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is currently tied for dead-last in points with Johnson, meaning they’re both probably going to need a win to advance to the Eliminator Round. And in case you didn’t know, there can only be one winner on Sunday. Earnhardt has five career victories at Talladega.

Emotions got the best of a few drivers last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, specifically Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, who are both on the outside looking in on getting to the next Chase Round as well (Kenseth by one point, Keselowski by 19). The Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday is shaping up to be exciting to say the least. In previous years, this event has always been quite tame (for a restrictor plate race), but now there are quite a few drivers with more on the line than ever–and there’s only one way to keep your championship hopes alive: get to the finish line first.

The Shifting Lines

As mentioned before, Jimmie Johnson is currently listed at 28-to-1 odds to win this year’s Sprint Cup championship at Bovada. Some sports books might have different odds but they’re all pretty close to that number. Only three drivers (Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, and Kasey Kahne) have worse odds that Johnson to win this year, and interestingly enough they are all currently “in” to the next Chase round via points–although that could definitely change on Sunday. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is currently listed at 25-to-1 odds to take home this year’s trophy, with Brad Keselowski clocking in at 12-to-1.

Just to show you how much the betting lines have moved, I went back and checked out the 2014 championship odds before the season started (from William Hill): Johnson was at 3-to-1 while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was listed at 7-to-1. When you look before the season at the drivers that had similar odds to what Johnson and Junior have now, you come up with Martin Truex, Jr. and Kurt Busch (30-to-1).

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR

Now obviously comparing betting odds from the beginning of the season to now (week 32) isn’t the best. However, let’s look at the odds to win the championship from just two weeks ago, when the Contender Round started. Jimmie Johnson was listed at 9-to-2 odds to win this year’s championship with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. coming in at 10-to-1. I haven’t been keeping track of the odds on a week-to-week basis, although that is something I will start to do. I do know that I locked in with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at 20-to-1 odds before last week’s race at Charlotte, and I took Denny Hamlin at 18-to-1 odds back in September after the first race in this year’s Chase. Bovada has Denny down to 14-to-1 odds going into Talladega.

Excitement in the Betting World

It will be interesting to see how the Geico 500 plays out this Sunday, and just what happens to the betting lines. It is still possible that NASCAR’s top talent–guys like Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Brad Keselowski–could still advance on to the Eliminator Round of the chase, and betting on them now with odds like 28-to-1 could really pay off in November, because all three would still be forces to reckon with for this year’s championship–as long as they can get through to the next round. It’s all about survival with this year’s Chase, and right now there are some big names on the outside looking in. Personally, I’ll put a small bet on a guy like Jimmie Johnson with 28-to-1 odds any day of the week, no matter how big of a long shot it is.

For those interested, here’s the current 2014 Sprint Cup championship odds via Bovada:

Driver Odds
Kevin Harvick 2-to-1
Jeff Gordon 3-to-1
Joey Logano 4-to-1
Kyle Busch 8-to-1
Brad Keselowski 12-to-1
Denny Hamlin 14-to-1
Matt Kenseth 18-to-1
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 25-to-1
Jimmie Johnson 28-to-1
Carl Edwards 33-to-1
Ryan Newman 33-to-1
Kasey Kahne 40-to-1