We are a little over a month away from the start of another NASCAR Sprint Cup season with the running of the Daytona 500 on Feb.24 to kick things off with a bang.

2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Futures

The following is a brief look at the favorite, contenders and top valued longshot to win this season’s title according to BetOnline’s current odds.

The Favorite

Image previewBrad Keselowski may have shocked the racing world last season with his impressive run to the 2012 Sprint Cup title, but the betting odds are not in his favor repeat as champion this year. That honor belongs to five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmy Johnson at +400, who held the title from 2006 to 2010 before relinquishing the crown to Tony Stewart in 2011. Johnson bounced-back from a very disappointing 2011 campaign with a third-place finish in the final point standings last season. The No.48-car posted five victories to go along with 13 other top-five finishes in the 36-point race schedule. A 32-place finish in the second-to-last race of the season at Phoenix all but mathematically eliminated him from a chance to win his sixth title, but he was the only other driver to remain in the hunt right until the bitter end.

The Contenders

My top driver in this category is Denny Hamlin at +800. He ended-up sixth in the final point standings but still has to be pleased with his team’s overall results having tied both Johnson and Keselowski for the most checkered flags in 2012 with five. The No.11 car posted a total of 14 top-five finishes and ended-up in the top 10 in almost half the races it ran last year. What adds even more value to Hamlin’s odds is the consistency he has shown over the past three seasons. Going back to 2010, he remained in the thick of the title race with eight victories on his way to a second-place finish in the standings. He suffered a bit of a downturn in 2011 but still managed to finish ninth in the standings.

Another top contender at +800 and someone to tail with your NASCAR Picks to win his first career Sprint Cup title is Kasey Kahne. He raced his way to a fourth-place finish last season and appears poised to be the next young gun to make a run all the way to the top this year. The No.5 car remained in the title picture deep into last season’s 10-race Chase, but a tough 25th-place finish at Texas in the third to final race of the year ended his chances. Kahne posted two victories and 10 other top-five finishes in 2012, but he will need to develop a bit more consistency over the course of the whole season to improve his chances to win it all.

The odds for a few other drivers in this category have Kyle Busch at +800 along with Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth all at +1000.

The Longshot

There are a number of intriguing possibilities in this category including Tony Stewart at +1200 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at +1500, but my top value play with longer odds is Kevin Harvick at +2000. The No.29 car got off to a strong start last season and did finish eighth in the final point standings but there were just too many dry spells in between. What really makes Harvick’s odds so attractive is his cumulative performance over the past three seasons. Going back to 2010, he remained in the thick of the Chase to the title with Johnson and Hamlin heading into the final race of the season at Homestead. In 2011, he finished third overall again with four victories and a total of 19 top-10 finishes.