NASCAR drivers make their Super Bowl picks

January 31, 2014, Kenny Bruce,

Informal poll of drivers at Sprint Media Tour reveals Denver Broncos as favorite

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Brendan Gaughan will be one of several NASCAR competitors either attending Sunday's Super Bowl or watching on TV.

This year's game features the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, and will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Gaughan, driver of the Richard Childress Racing No. 62 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, has more than a casual interest in the contest. His family owns and operates South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas.

"I'll work the sports book window at the South Point that morning," Gaughan said. "As soon as that ball kicks and the windows close, I'll turn around, look at … our sports book director and say, 'who do I need?'

"So I have a very vested interest, because that could pay for a few more races or it could cost me a couple of races."

Gaughan and teammate Ty Dillon make up the RCR Nationwide effort this season. South Point is the primary sponsor of Gaughan's team.

More bets are placed on the Super Bowl than any other sporting event, and according to The New York Times, Nevada sports books kept more than $7 million of the nearly $99 million that was wagered in the state's books last year.

"I grew up … knowing the value of what sports betting is to our business, it's a very large chunk of it," Gaughan said. "When it comes to the Super Bowl, me betting $70 on a team, say, or me liking this player so I'm rooting for that team definitely gets outweighed by the hotel that can gain or lose a million dollars on a game.

"So I stick with what the hotel needs."

Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick will attend the game on behalf of Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch InBev produces Budweiser, the sponsor of Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet, and Bud Light.

Gaughan's RCR teammates Ty and Austin Dillon, Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing also are scheduled to travel to the game, as is NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.

Count Clint Bowyer among those making the trip as well. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver said he was leaving Thursday evening and "I'm going to freeze my ass off."

"But nonetheless, I think we're going," Bowyer said.

"Peyton -- what a great story," Bowyer said of Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback. "Probably could've, should've retired and would've had a huge legacy and impact in the sport. You hear all these things about other players, that man changed everything. He went to a completely new team and is right back on top, competing for a Super Bowl again. It's a great story and he represents the sport well."

Bowyer, who hails from Kansas, likens six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson to Manning for what Johnson has accomplished on the track as well as off of it.

"Jimmie -- he is a champion, not only in the car but out of the car," he said. "He represents the sport in the right way for kids growing up racing, that's what champions need to do. Peyton certainly conducts himself well.

"It was so funny, I saw on Twitter somewhere they were comparing (Manning's) interview to, who was the other idiot that did the … [someone interjects, "Richard Sherman."] Yeah, that guy. It was a huge difference in those two interviews."

Sherman, the Seahawks defensive back, drew much attention for a post-game interview following Seattle's victory over San Francisco for the NFC Championship. Sherman batted away a pass in the end zone to help seal the win.

"(Manning) did beat the Chiefs twice," Bowyer said. "I wasn't very happy with him over that, but nonetheless, that's who my pick is."

Matt Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR Cup champion, is a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. With his team out of the running, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said he’d like to see a Broncos victory, also largely in part due to Manning.

"Peyton Manning's kind of my sentimental pick because he prepares really hard, works really hard," Kenseth said. "From watching at a fan standpoint, it appears he doesn't have the physical attributes he used to have, and he still figures out how to have the best year a quarterback's ever had in the league.

"I really admire his work ethic, how hard he prepares, the example he sets to his teammates, how hard he works in the offseason when he's not required to -- I really admire all that, so with that being said, I'd like to see him get another win in the Super Bowl, especially with a different team."

Regan Smith, who previously drove for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, will be pulling for Denver and said he hopes to get to the game.

Smith, who now competes for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, remains close to his former Furniture Row teammates, often dining with them when he returns to the Denver area.

"I'm a huge Broncos fan so I'm excited about the Super Bowl," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to get there. I've got something to do on Saturday (for NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day), and as soon as I can be on a (plane) headed north, I'm outta here."

Kasey Kahne, who hails from Enumclaw, Wash., is hoping for a Seattle victory. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is scheduled to join Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for a charity event later this year.

"It's pretty exciting being able to team up with Russell Wilson for a charity golf tournament out in Seattle," Kahne said. "It's right after the Sonoma (Cup) race. He's going to get the Seahawks to be involved; I'm going get a couple of drivers involved … and hopefully have a really nice event out there for a good cause."

Kahne won't be at the game, but he does have a prediction.

"Seahawks win, that's my prediction," he said. "Maybe about 30-24, Seahawks."

Kahne and fellow driver Kyle Busch (JGR) have a friendly wager on the contest.

"My Super Bowl prediction of course is the Broncos -- I'm a huge Broncos fan so the Broncos are going to win and Kasey Kahne is going to wear a (Broncos) jersey down at Speedweeks in Daytona," said Busch. Other than that, as far as the score goes -- I don't know, the weather seems to be OK, it's going to be about 30 (degrees) so that's not bad. No snow or rain or anything like that so I'm going to say that it might be a pretty good scoring game so I'd go with like 31-27. They're going to beat the spread and the Broncos are going to win."

Busch's team owner, Joe Gibbs, won four NFC Championship titles and three Super Bowls as head coach of the Washington Redskins.

He also likes the Broncos in Sunday's matchup -- but said weather conditions could alter his choice.

"I told everybody that if I had to pick one, I'd probably pick Denver, unless there's a strong wind," Gibbs said. "If it becomes a really windy day, I'd probably switch my pick."

Put Chip Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray in the group pulling for Manning and the Broncos as well. McMurray said he met Manning about a decade ago when the then-Indianapolis Colts QB came to the team hauler at Indianapolis Motor Speedway looking for driver Sterling Marlin, a former McMurray teammate.

"I was sitting in the lounge and I heard somebody come walking up and it was Peyton and two other ball players," McMurray said. "And of course they couldn’t even stand up in the trailer because they were so big. I had no idea who it was.

"Really, since getting to meet him, I pull for him. And I think the story of him playing for Colts, not able to come back, and then going to Denver, I think it would be really cool to see the Broncos win the Super Bowl just because of that. I think it’s a great story."

Other NASCAR drivers chiming in on this weekend’s game:

"Seahawks! I'm a Seattle guy. I'm not going, there's a lot of logistics and I'm so busy. We're testing, got a lot going on." -- Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing No. 16 Ford

"I'm going to root for the Broncos. I was rooting for the Patriots, but that didn't work out, but I am a Peyton Manning fan. I think he's awesome. I love watching him play, so I'm rooting for him." -- Joey Logano, Team Penske No. 22 Ford

"I want Seattle to win. I met Russell Wilson last year -- super nice guy, huge race fan and so it'd be cool to see him have some success and win that, especially on his first try, being fairly new to the NFL. I think it'll be fun to watch him, and I think it's going to be a very good Super Bowl. I think the Broncos may win, but I want Seattle to win." -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford

"I've got some friends over in Colorado, so I'm going to go for the Broncos." -- Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Ford

"I've always been a defensive guy. When I played football, I was a middle linebacker for seven years. I'm a defensive guy, so Seattle." -- Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet

"My Falcons didn't make the Super Bowl this year so I was a bandwagon Carolina Panthers fans and they didn't either. So I'd like to see Peyton Manning and (head coach) John Fox win a Super Bowl. He's a good coach and a pretty good guy. And Peyton came from Tennessee, my boss' alma mater so I'm pulling for Denver and hope they can win. It's going to be a good game." -- David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford

"Four (Tennessee) Vols on the team. I'm going Broncos!" -- Darrell Wallace Jr., Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54 Toyota