From the straight to the strange, bets abound in Vegas

Updated: March 11, 2006, 2:17 PM ET
By Rupen Fofaria | Special to ESPN.com

The action's in Las Vegas this weekend, so what's your bet?

Author commentary: Don't bet on when the wreck's going to happen. That's just silly.

Brave enough to choose just one driver? Matt Kenseth, perhaps? He does have two of the last three victories at the track. But, then again, Carl Edwards did fall just short last season. Maybe he's a better choice. Of course, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson (the 2005 race winner), Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch all average a running position of better than fifth at Vegas. Why not them?

Yeah, picking any driver at Vegas is a long shot. Better to go with the field? Eh. This year's "field" choices include Sterling Marlin, Kenny Schrader, and Hermie Sadler -- none of whom average better than 30th-place runs in Las Vegas.

With 43 drivers, all with varying fortunes at Vegas, picking a guy -- or even the field -- is just too darned risky. Why not whittle down the numbers … after all, this is Vegas.

How about a matchup bet, taking two drivers and picking the one to finish best.

Some of this year's offerings at the Vegas sports books:

  • Old School head-to-head with the No. 43 vs. the No. 21. It's not Richard Petty vs. David Pearson, anymore, but Bobby Labonte does appear to have the 43 running well. He's actually a safe pick against the No. 21 driver -- Schrader. That's why tabbing him doesn't pay out so high.

  • How about Gordon vs. Gordon. Take Jeff in that matchup and you're giving Robbie 25 spots at most sports books. Doesn't sound so safe. You're giving away fewer spots to Dale vs. Dale, but did you know that it's the Jarrett pickers who are giving Earnhardt Jr. 10 positions? Look at the numbers and it makes sense. Jarrett averages a running position of almost 17th at Vegas. Junior is more like 42nd. But don't let the digits fool you, getting 10 on that deal is plenty with Junior back in form.

  • True risk-taker? Maybe Kasey vs. Casey is for you. Kahne and Mears are head-to-head on the matchup even though Mears runs a better average spot than his counterpart.

But head-to-head is a 50/50 shot. Vegas doesn't pay big for those kinds of risks. That's a mutual fund in a room full of small-cap stocks. Still, you know Vegas -- if choosing from 43 is too tough and going head-to-head is too easy, how about a group bet.

This year's offerings are creative as ever.

  • Take, for instance, the battle of alliteration: Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson or J.J. Yeley. If you're asking me, I think J.J.'s out -- that's a sneaky inclusion there. And I'm going with Johnson, because with the odds he's surmounted so far this year it'd be nuts to bet against him.

  • Here's one for the ladies. A choosing among the sexiest men of NASCAR: Junior, Kahne, Edwards, Johnson or Jamie McMurray. What, no love for cosmetically-improved Kurt Busch? I'm not touching this one.
  • How about best of the Jeff's … Burton, Gordon, or Green. I'd take Burton, just because choosing Gordon doesn't pay out very well.

  • But here's my favorite, a salute to NASCAR's truest journeyman. Of every car number Sterling Marlin has sported on his roof, which will finish highest: No. 14 (current), No. 40 (2003-2005 and 1998-2002) driven by David Stremme, No. 4 (1994-1997) driven by Scott Wimmer, No. 8 (1993) driven by Junior, No. 1 (1986) now driven by Martin Truex Jr., or No. 17 (1983) now driven by Kenseth.

In that same vein, here are some interesting alumni group offerings.

  • hich No. 1 alum finishes highest: Martin Truex (current), Jeff Green (2003), Dale Jarrett (1988), Sterling Marlin (1986), Kyle Petty (1982).
  • No. 4 alum? Scott Wimmer (current), Sterling Marlin (1994-1997), Mark Martin (1983), Joe Nemechek (1993), Kevin Lepage (2001, 2003-2004).

  • No. 8? Dale Earnhardt Jr. (current), Jeff Burton (1994-1995), Sterling Marlin (1993).

  • No. 18? J.J. Yeley (current), Bobby Labonte (1995-2005), Dale Jarrett (1992-1994).

  • No. 21? Kenny Schrader (current), Elliott Sadler (1999-2002), Michael Waltrip (1996-1998), Dale Jarrett (1990-1991), Kyle Petty (1987-1988).

  • The action runs the gammut, but the big money pay-out is on the dark-horse winner.
  • My pick from the unfavoreds? Joe Nemechek. He pays 50-to-1. Dave Blaney's a good pick, too, but he's grouped in the field. Pays 40-to-1.

Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at rfofaria@yahoo.com.