Sprint Cup Series arrives at Martinsville

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Is it too late for Jimmie Johnson to mount a serious challenge and win his sixth consecutive Sprint Cup Series title? At the very least he’ll get to race at a track where he’s had plenty of success in the past on Sunday when the series takes on Martinsville Speedway in the Tums Fast Relief 500 (1:30pm ET, ESPN).

Johnson owned Martinsville from 2006 to 2009, winning five of the eight events held there over those four seasons of racing. And to get back into contention for the Sprint Cup Series title this year Johnson will need another high finish this weekend at Martinsville in the 33rd of 36 races this season.

That’s because some middling results lately have Johnson 50 points back of first-place Carl Edwards in the standings with just four races left in the Chase, which makes him a +4000 underdog on the NASCAR odds board at Oddsmaker to win the title this season.

Edwards is the -150 favorite to win the Sprint Cup championship next month, followed by Brad Keselowski at +300, and Matt Kenseth at +350. Keselowski is actually in third place in the Sprint Cup standings heading into the Tums Fast Relief 500, 18 points back of Edwards, while Kenseth is 14 points behind the leader and in second place in the standings. Here’s a look at the updated standings heading into this weekend:

01 Carl Edwards (Leader)
02 Matt Kenseth -14
03 Brad Keselowski -18
04 Tony Stewart -19
05 Kevin Harvick -26
06 Kyle Busch -40
07 Jimmie Johnson -50
08 Kurt Busch -52
09 Dale Earnhardt Jr. -74
10 Jeff Gordon -82
11 Denny Hamlin -84
12 Ryan Newman -88

Tony Stewart is at +450 to win the title this season, with Kevin Harvick at +800, and Kyle Busch starting the second tier of contenders at +2200. After Johnson at +4000 it’s Kurt Busch at +5000 then the real longshots: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+15000), Ryan Newman (+20000), Jeff Gordon (+20000), and finally Denny Hamlin (+30000).

Hamlin and Gordon, though, have combined for 11 career Sprint Cup wins at Martinsville Speedway and look to be in the running at the Tums Fast Relief 500 on Sunday afternoon. Hamlin won there four times between 2008 and 2010, while Gordon will be looking to get his first checkered flag at the track since 2005.

In the first race of the season at Martinsville – the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 in April – Harvick edged Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch for the trip to Victory Lane, while Juan Montoya and Gordon rounded out the top five drivers at the event. Kenseth finished sixth that day, Johnson was 11th, Hamlin was 12th, Kurt Busch was 16th, Edwards was 18th, and Keselowski had to settle for a 19th-place result. Stewart, a two-time Martinsville winner, was well back in 34th place in the 2011 Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

Oddsmaker will have all your NASCAR betting lines and props for this week’s event.

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