Through the Gears: Kevin Harvick favored to win NASCAR championship. What else is new?
Don't look now, but the Daytona 500 is less than five weeks away.
That's right. The NASCAR offseason is barreling toward the finish line, with the Busch Clash and Daytona Speedweeks so close you can almost hear the haulers rolling down I-95.
While teams will spend the first three weeks of 2021 in Florida, the grand prize this NASCAR season is again in Phoenix, which will serve as November's championship race. And if you want to make some money, the smart people in Vegas are saying Kevin Harvick is your man ... again.
FIRST GEAR: Last week, BetOnline named Harvick the betting favorite to win the '21 championship at 5/1 odds, followed by a slew of guys at 7/1, including Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
This isn't anything unusual, either. In fact, since 2016, Harvick has entered the season the betting favorite in various sports-books every year except 2018, when Kyle Busch was the pick. Unfortunately, any futures bet didn't exactly pan out, as Harvick hasn't won a title since 2014.
So what does it all mean? Well, nothing, really. Harvick probably should enter the year as the favorite after winning nine races last season, and the 45-year-old will almost certainly be in the championship race next November (lightning can't strike you twice, can it?). But, perusing this year's list of favorites, some names do stick out.
Kyle Larson sits at 12/1, and will be making his NASCAR return in a Hendrick car and with a chip on his shoulder. Alex Bowman caught fire early last season and fizzled out toward the end, but at 28/1 he could worth a flier. Same can be said about Bubba Wallace, who is way down the list at 66/1 but will be in a new car, with (presumably) better horsepower and an owner who knows a thing or two about winning championships.
One more name to watch? Austin Dillon. He sits at 100/1 and is coming off his best Cup season where he advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
SECOND GEAR: This is a big week for many in the racing industry, with the ever-popular Chili Bowl underway in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A dozen NASCAR drivers are entered in the 2021 event, including: Larson, Elliott, Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Brett Moffitt, J.J. Yeley, Garrett Smithley and Ryan Ellis.
Larson won last year's main event while Bell won the previous three years.
THIRD GEAR: Think people are excited about the Bristol Dirt race in March? The Speedway announced last week that grandstand seating capacity has already been reached, while a limited number of premium seating options still remain.
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The Speedway also released a picture last week of the first batch of dirt arriving at the track and a layer of sawdust being laid down. Who knew dirt could be this exciting?
FOURTH GEAR: Front Row Motorsports announced last week that Anthony Alfredo will drive the No. 38 Ford Mustang this season in his first full-time venture at the Cup level. Alfredo, 21, replaces John Hunter Nemechek, and has just 13 Truck races and 19 Xfinity races under his belt.
He's also nicknamed "Fast Pasta" and has an official logo that shows him eating a giant bowl of spaghetti. To bring this full circle, that alone should make him the betting favorite to win Rookie of the Year.