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Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas

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We have certainly had an interesting start to the NASCAR season in 2015. NASCAR clearly has some work to do with these new qualifying sessions but as far as the races themselves go, we are two for two in the entertainment department. Two of the favorites to compete for the championship have already punched their ticket to the Chase, will we see a third this weekend?

Stay Away From

Kevin Harvick 5-1

Of course Harvick is a threat to win any given race on any given day, but Vegas that first win in Vegas has eluded him. In 14 starts he has just three top 5 finishes and none since 2010. Last year he may have had the best car but suffered some mechanical problems forcing him out of the race finishing 41st. His 81 career laps led at this track is nothing to scoff at but by comparison Jimmie Johnson has started in one less race here but has tallied 455 laps led. Nobody would be silly enough to say that Harvick is definitely not going to win this weekend but it wouldn’t be smart to put money on this favorite at 5-1.

The Longshots

There are nine drivers on the board with odds of 100-1 or longer (Austin Dillon 100-1, AJ Allmendinger 200-1, Aric Almirola 200-1, Regan Smith 200-1, Danica Patrick 300-1, Sam Hornish Jr 300-1, Casey Mears 500-1, Ricky Stenhouse 500-1, Trevor Bayne 500-1). Of these nine drivers Trevor Bayne has the best average finish at 18.00 and only Almirola will be starting the race inside the top 15. These nine have a combined 40 starts at this track but have just four top 10’s between them. For those of you who like to just toss a couple of bucks on the longshots hoping for a nice payday, this is not the week to do your money.

Best Bets

Matt Kenseth 9-1

How has he not won a race since Loudon in September of 2013? Speaking of 2013, Matt Kenseth won this race that year which sparked a career year for Kenseth who won seven races that year and competed for the Sprint Cup Championship. Matt has won here three times and is hoping to get the monkey off his back this week by winning and matching Jimmie Johnson’s four trips to victory lane in Vegas. He will be rolling off sixth and at 9-1 you are getting one hell of a deal.

Brad Keselowski 10-1

Since we only come here once a year his stats seem a little skewed because he struggled mightily here in his first four trips with finishes of 38th, 26th, 26th, and 32nd. But he has more than made up for that the past two years seeing that he won here last year and finished 3rd two years ago. While his average finish of 21st looks bad on the surface make no mistake, 10-1 is great value for Brad this weekend.

Carl Edwards 10-1

10-1 for a guy looking to prove himself on a new team, a two time Vegas winner, a guy that has finished inside the top 5 in four straight Vegas races and a guy that has the best average finish at this track? Yes please and thank you.

Best Value Bets

Kasey Kahne 12-1

I know 12-1 doesn’t seem like much of a value play but I wanted to include Kahne because he has always been at his best at these mile and a half tracks. While he has never won at this particular track his average finish of 13.45 is good for sixth best among active drivers. He has won eight of these intermediate races, most recently Labor Day weekend in Atlanta last season, and has a top 10 average finish among active drivers in them. He should be in the mix towards the end of the race this weekend but I just don’t see him driving to victory lane. So maybe he is only 12-1 but if you are getting a guy who is in the mix at the end then you are making a nice value play.

Paul Menard 75-1

The faster the cars go the more Paul Menard seems to excel. I really expected big things out of him last week at Atlanta but he, like many others, struggled. I really believe that it had a lot to do with the race moving from the heat of Labor Day weekend to the cold of the end of February/the beginning of March. The track was much different than these guys are used to. This week I think Menard makes up for his run last week. While he is starting back in 24th position he knows how to race is way forward from there as he has an average starting position of 25.4 but has an average finish of 17.25. He has improved on his starting position in all but one of his eight starts the lone slide was in his first career start at this track. The past three trips to Vegas Menard has finished inside the top 10, including a 3rd place finish last year, improving on his starting position by a combined 44 positions. 75-1 is the best value bet on the board by a wide margin.

My Pick

Jimmie Johnson 6-1

Watch out world the #48 team has already found enough speed to win at a mile and a half track last week in Atlanta. Last year this team didn’t earn their first win until the Coke 600 at Charlotte at the end of May. Charlotte of course is another mile and a half track, a track type that this #48 team has dominated since Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus joined forces. At these intermediate tracks nobody has a better average finish or more wins, among active drivers, than Johnson and the #48 team. Only Jeff Gordon’s career stats can compare as he has earned the same amount of wins (24), more top 5’s, more top 10’s and virtually the same amount of laps led at these types of tracks but Jeff has started 66 more races at intermediate tracks. In other words Johnson’s career stats have been so good at these races that Jeff Gordon has needed more than two full NASCAR seasons worth of intermediate races to match him.

At this particular intermediate track, Johnson has an average finish of 9.23 which is barely second behind Carl Edwards 9.20 among active drivers but nobody has won more in Vegas than Johnson who has raced his way to victory lane four times.

Johnson will be looking to follow up his win at Atlanta with yet another win in Vegas. He will be starting inside the top 10 and the field should be very worried. With the #48 finding speed this early in the season at the sports most popular track type, one that he has dominated throughout his career, it could be a long season for the rest of the teams out there as the #48 team could really ride the success and momentum of last week into this week and throughout the season. They are already difficult enough to beat in any given race nevermind when they have the confidence and speed to continue their domination of 1.5 mile tracks.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

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