2012 Sprint Cup Championship Odds, Predictions, Betting Tips and Free Picks – Favorites and Lines to Win the Sprint Cup Championship: Believe it or not, the 2012 Sprint Cup season is only a few weeks away and testing has already begun for the season-opening Daytona 500. Last season was a memorable one for the sport, with five drivers winning for the first time and the series title being decided via a tiebreaker for the first time. On the heels of such an unpredictable year, it is time to take a look at the top contenders and some unexpected threats for 2012 championship.

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The Favorites – 2012 Sprint Cup Championship Odds, Predictions and Free Picks

Even though he didn’t win the championship last season, Jimmie Johnson has still won five out of the last six series titles. He has set such a high standard that his 2011 season is being viewed as a total failure. However, he still finished second in the series in top-five and top-10 finishes and posted the third-best average finish. In other words, he was still one of the top drivers in the sport despite having the worst year of his career. Johnson is still in his prime, and his window of opportunity is far from closed.

Last year, Carl Edwards got as close as any driver ever has to winning a title, only to walk away empty handed because of a tiebreaker. That being said, he finished the season with the most top-five and top-10 finishes, along with the best average finish in the series. Edwards also posted the best average finish in Chase history, albeit in a losing effort. He has now been runner-up for the championship twice in the last four years, and with a new long-term deal to stay with Roush Fenway Racing under his belt, it seems like a matter of when and not if Edwards wins the title.

The Dark Horses – 2012 Sprint Cup Championship Odds, Predictions and Free Picks

He wasn’t the best driver from start to finish last year, but Tony Stewart went on one of the greatest hot streaks in the sport’s history when it mattered most. Thanks to a record-setting five wins during the 10-race playoff, Stewart won the Sprint Cup title for the third time in his career. Stewart may not be the consistent title threat he was 10 years ago, but he has won 11 races in three seasons as an owner/driver. More importantly, he showed he can still perform in the clutch as well as any driver in the series. Don’t sleep on the defending champ just because he turned 40 last year.

During the past two seasons, no driver has been more reliable than Kevin Harvick. His 10.1 average finish during the stretch is the best in the series, and he has finished third in the final standings in back-to-back years. His recent improvement at the intermediate ovals has transformed him from a perennial playoff contender to a perennial title contender, and Harvick showed no signs of slowing down last year. He was close in 2010 and 2011, and he could get over the hump sooner rather than later.

Sleeper Special – 2012 Sprint Cup Championship Odds, Predictions and Free Picks

Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup title in 2003, but he has been up and down since winning his only series championship to date. However, he appears to have turned a corner the last two years, finishing in the top five in the final standings in 2010 and 2011. In fact, the two-year stretch has been the most productive of Kenseth’s career. After a three-win campaign that included 20 top-10 finishes last year, all the pieces are in place for Kenseth to contend in 2012.

Drivers to Avoid – 2012 Sprint Cup Championship Odds, Predictions and Free Picks

No driver led more laps or had a better driver rating last season than Kyle Busch. Despite the impressive stats, he was nowhere to found when it came time to decide the championship, and it is a disturbing trend that bettors need to be aware of. Busch has tons of talent behind the wheel, but he is an intense, emotional driver that seems to struggle under pressure. He has just one win during the Chase in his career, and he has never won a race in the Chase when he has been eligible for the title. It is a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away, and it could prevent Busch from ever winning a championship at the Cup level.

It was a rough offseason for Kurt Busch. The 2004 champion has been a regular Chaser during his time with Penske Racing, but several incidents off the track caused the organization to release him after the 2011 season. Busch landed with Phoenix Racing – a single car operation with limited funds. Bettors are used to Busch being a constant to threat to win races and compete for the series title, but that isn’t going to happen in 2012.

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