Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

Kobalt Tools 400 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

The betting on the NASCAR races this weekend will be the most action Las Vegas sports books will see on auto racing this year. The books will also offer the most betting options, but don’t expect to see the same amount of betting propositions like we saw last month for the Super Bowl, or the same type of handle that helped generate a state record $98 million in Super Bowl handle. Most sports books offered over 250 different Super Bowl props. This weekend, we'll see an average of about 30 per property for Sunday‘s race.

But the big difference between pro football and NASCAR, besides the obvious, is that football and betting have gone hand in hand since the NFL began, and prospered because of it. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might think otherwise, but the truth is that NASCAR is where Goodell thinks the NFL is regards to betting -- a small part of the overall experience and not defined by it.

Betting on NASCAR has been a relatively new revelation that was spurred on by the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when the first Cup race came to town in 1998. The sport was already wildly popular without betting, and was at peak growth period in their history. All the sports books wanted to do was just offer a few things that bettors might want to bet; a driver vs. driver matchup, who will have the best finish. And of course there was also odds to win on the event as well.

Sports books took notice of the volume on that initial race won by Mark Martin and figured there was a market for NASCAR in the sports books and most began offering odds on a weekly basis. The weekly handle without the race in town plummeted, but what it did was help get the majority of books out there to at least pay attention to it. If you offer odds on something, you shouldn’t have the majority of your betting public being smarter than you, so books followed it.

Some books went directly to those visitors who followed NASCAR intensely and asked them about the type of other betting options they might like to see offered. That’s when props like how many cautions, lap leaders, or lead changes would occur began to be offered. The books also had a wealth of NASCAR knowledge available at their fingertips with this fairly new thing called the internet.

It was about that time in 1999 when sports books were going wild with raising the bar on Super Bowl props, with each property trying to better the other by offering the most, and also by being the most creative. A few places figured, “Why not take NASCAR up a notch?” They had stats, too, and there was plenty demand for it with a captive crowd lodging for the weekend.

It wasn’t long before things like winning manufacturer, winning car owner or car number was offered. Then there was over-under finish by some of the top drivers, driver to qualify last; just about anything offered on a NASCAR results sheet was being offered.

At the time, it may have been too much to throw at the out of town visitors who had just figured out how to bet odds to win. But soon, it slowly evolved into one of the more unique experiences about Las Vegas that made the sin city race one of the most popular on the circuit.

Who wouldn’t want to kill five birds with one stone: family is happy, a vacation, drinking, gambling and watching NASCAR. There’s no place better than Las Vegas and that tradition has carried on to this weekend’s race with a slightly more betting educated crowd than we started with, and we thank you for continuing to come back.

Kobalt Tools 400

Even though Phoenix and Las Vegas have two vastly different tracks, I think we can look at what happened last Sunday at Phoenix and help pave the way for your betting thoughts just because we're all still trying to figure out the new Gen-6 car. We can look back a little at some Las Vegas history, use some of the 1.5-mile high-banked results from last season and even use the pre-season Charlotte test session, but the best advice may be to look at what we saw at Phoenix. We should see the same drivers that ran well there, run well Sunday in Las Vegas.

That means we can eliminate about 25 drivers from contention and focus on about 18, one of which isn't going to be Danica Patrick. Sorry guys and gals, but she is going to struggle on every track other than plate races. On the down-force tracks, the cream rises to the top. Only the top financed teams and the top drivers will have a chance to win on Sunday. The one exception might be Las Vegan Kurt Busch in the No. 78 car, who looked outstanding last week driving for a low budget single car team.

If we look a Las Vegas history, you'll see there have never been any surprises. The past winners have been the best of the best in the series who were clicking at the time, and that shouldn't change Sunday.

So who is clicking right now? Obviously, we don't have a lot of data to go on, but the best starting point would be Jimmie Johnson, a driver who has won in Las Vegas four times. His 6/1 odds may seem short, but he looked terrific Sunday at Phoenix and he has all the large financial backing from car owner Rick Hendrick, not to mention one of the best crew and best crew chief in the business.

We can also take a look at all of Johnson's teammates like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. All three should have good cars Sunday and reap the benefits of Mr. Hendrick's deep pockets.

Next in line would be the Joe Gibbs cars. Watching Denny Hamlin have to make an engine change Saturday during practice after two of the Gibbs engines faltered at Daytona should make bettors weary, but man, these guys are fast. The combination of Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch is second only to the Hendrick drivers. Kenseth is a two-time Las Vegas winner and Kyle Busch won in 2009.

Last week we saw the Fords come on strong with Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. For Edwards, his win at Phoenix ended a 70-race winless streak. His last win was in Las Vegas in 2011. Edwards also won in 2008. Needless to say, Edwards likes this track and it appears that the new Gen-6 car is going to be good for him.

Let’s look for a three-way battle for the win between Johnson, Kenseth and Edwards, a Chevy, Toyota, and Ford. For now, I'll go with the deep pockets and side with Johnson. Good luck everyone and have a great time at the races.

Top-5 Finish Prediction

1) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
2) #20 Matt Kenseth (8/1)
3) #99 Carl Edwards (11/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (10/1)
5) #24 Jeff Gordon (12/1)

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Chassis Selections and Notes
Jayski.com

#1-Jamie McMurray: chassis not reported on race preview.
#2-Brad Keselowski: Primary Chassis: PRS-838 New chassis; Backup Chassis: PRS-837 New chassis
#5-Kasey Kahne: Francis will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-779 for Sunday's event at Las Vegas. Kahne will drive this car for the first time during Thursday's test session at Las Vegas.
#7-Dave Blaney chassis not reported on race preview.
#9-Marcos Ambrose: The #9 team has prepared chassis No. 840 for Vegas. This is a new chassis that the team built in the off-season.
#10-Danica Patrick Chassis No. 10-751: Chassis No. 10-751 was first used by Patrick in October 2012 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City when Patrick started 40th and finished 32nd after an accident ended her day after just 154 of 267 laps. Patrick then tested the car in January at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
#11-Denny Hamlin: chassis not reported on race preview.
#14-Tony Stewart: Chassis No. 14-707: This car made its first start in May 2012 in the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. It was an unassuming debut, as Chassis No. 14-707 started ninth and finished a quiet 17th. The car sat idle until returning to action for the Labor Day weekend event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It won the pole and led eight laps early in the 327-lap race, but as day turned to night, the handling of the car deteriorated, leaving Tony Stewart one lap down in 22nd when the race ended. It has since been totally rebuilt with 2013 Chevrolet SS sheetmetal, and it will be used for the open test Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before serving as the No. 14 team's backup racecar for the remainder of the weekend.
#15-Clint Bowyer: Primary chassis No. 738 finished second in the 2012 season finale at Homestead-Miami, and finished sixth at Kansas in the fall. The backup chassis (No. 724) raced to top-five finishes at Bristol (fourth) in March and Dover (fifth) in June. It also finished seventh at Bristol in August and tested at Charlotte in January 2013.
#16-Greg Biffle: Primary Chassis: RK-825 Last ran Kansas  finished 27th; Backup Chassis: RK-809 Last ran Texas  finished 10th
#17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Primary Chassis: RK-820  test car at Charlotte test. Backup Chassis: RK-815  chassis for the #99 in 2012
#18-Kyle Busch: chassis not reported on race preview.
#20-Matt Kenseth: chassis not reported on race preview.
#21-Trevor Bayne: chassis not reported on race preview.
#22-Joey Logano: Primary Chassis: PRS-840 New chassis; Backup Chassis: PRS-835 New chassis
#24-Jeff Gordon: chassis not reported on race preview.
#27-Paul Menard will pilot chassis No. 403 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. This No. 27 Chevrolet SS is a new addition to the Richard Childress Racing stable in 2013.
#29-Kevin Harvick: will pilot chassis No. 396 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the Kobalt Tools 400. Harvick last drove this RCR racecar to a 12th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in 2012.
#31-Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 393 this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This No. 31 Chevrolet was utilized five times during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Auto Club Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Michigan International Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.
#34-David Regan chassis not reported on race preview.
#35-Josh Wise chassis not reported on race preview.
#36-J.J. Yeley chassis not reported on race preview.
#38-David Gilliland chassis not reported on race preview.
#39-Ryan Newman Chassis No. 39-760: Newman will pilot Chassis No. 39-760 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Built new for 2013, Chassis 39-760 made laps in January at Charlotte Motor Speedway while participating in the final test for NASCAR's sixth-generation Sprint Cup car. It will see its first laps of racing competition this weekend.
#42-Juan Pablo Montoya: chassis not reported on race preview.
#43-Aric Almirola:: The #43 team has prepared chassis No. 742 for Vegas. The team raced this is chassis in Homestead last year.
#47-Bobby Labonte chassis not reported on race preview.
#48-Jimmie Johnson:chassis No. 728 at Las Vegas. Chassis No. 720 serves as the backup.
#55-Mark Martin: Primary/Backup Chassis: 715/720
#56-Martin Truex Jr.: chassis not reported on race preview.
#78-Kurt Busch chassis not reported on race preview.
#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-726. Earnhardt most recently raced this car to a seventhplace finish at Texas Motor Speedway last November.
#99-Carl Edwards Primary: RK-831 new chassis; RK808 backup  last ran in Atlanta

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Driver Handicaps: Las Vegas
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400. To help you make your fantasy racing picks, MotorRacingNetwork.com brings you our weekly analysis to help steer you toward Sunday's 267-lap event.

Who's HOT at Las Vegas

• Jimmie Johnson (two), Carl Edwards (two), Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch are the four winners in the six races on the current track configuration.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9.5), Greg Biffle (11.2), Jeff Burton (11.5) and Kevin Harvick (12.2) each rank in the top five in average finish on the current track configuration.
• Jeff Gordon has posted a 5.8 average finish in the three races when he's running at the finish on the current track configuration.
• Ryan Newman has finished in the top five in his last two starts.

Who to Keep an Eye on at Las Vegas

• Matt Kenseth, a two-time winner on the old configuration, was the fastest driver in the opening test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
• Clint Bowyer will be back in the same chassis he finished second with at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
• Martin Truex Jr. (8.5), Kasey Kahne (9.8) and Denny Hamlin (11.3) each were among the top 10 drivers in average finish on 1.5-mile tracks last season.
• Austin Dillon will be behind the wheel of the No. 51 Chevrolet.
• Kurt Busch has posted an 8.5 average finish in his last two starts on a 1.5-mile track with Furniture Row Racing.
• Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya were each in the top 10 during Thursday's opening test session. Both each have a top-five finish in the last three races at LVMS.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Carl Edwards
Pete Pistone: Jimmie Johnson
Tony Rizzuti: Jimmie Johnson
John Singler: Matt Kenseth

Driver Notes - Ordered by Current Standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to Las Vegas unless noted)

Jimmie Johnson: Four-time winner; Led 35 laps and finished second last season; Best driver rating among all drivers in the last eight races; Tied for fifth among all drivers in average finish (12.2) and third in laps led (234) in the six races on the current track configuration; Will return in the same chassis (No. 728) that he finished 36th with at Homestead-Miami Speedway after a rear-gear problem; This is also the same chassis he drove to Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway last season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Has finished in the top 10 in four of his five starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Second among all drivers in average finish (9.5) in the six races on the current track configuration; Will return in the same chassis (No. 726) that he finished seventh with at Texas Motor Speedway last November.

Brad Keselowski: Has yet to finish in the top 25 in four starts; Will debut a new chassis (No. 838) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Denny Hamlin: Last of four top 10s came in the 2011, in seventh; Has yet to lead a lap in seven starts; 13.3 average finish in the six races on the current track configuration.

Clint Bowyer: Coming off third top 10 in his last four starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 738) that he last finished second with at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Greg Biffle: Has finished in the top 10 in seven of his last eight starts; Led two laps and finished third last season; Third among all drivers in average finish (11.2) in the six races on the current track configuration; Fourth-best driver rating among all drivers in the last eight races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 825) that he last finished 27th with at Kansas Speedway.

Mark Martin: Finished 18th in first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing last season; Best finish on the current track configuration came in 2010, in fourth.

Jeff Gordon: Has finished sixth or better in three of the six races on the current track configuration; Leads all drivers in laps led (370) on the current track configuration; Second-best driver rating among all drivers in the last eight races.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr: Making first track start in the Cup Series; Defending Nationwide race winner; Will return in the same chassis (No. 820) that he tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Aric Almirola: Has yet to finish inside the top 20 in four starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 742) that he finishes seventh with at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Carl Edwards: Two-time winner; Leads all drivers with a 7.0 average finish and fourth in laps led (160) in the six races on the current track configuration; Will debut a new chassis (No. 831) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Marcos Ambrose: 12.8 average finish in four starts; Best finish came in 2011, in fourth; Will debut a new chassis (No. 840) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

JJ Yeley: 29.0 average finish in five starts; Best finish (18th) on the current track configuration came in 2007.

Bobby Labonte: 25.0 average finish in two starts with JTG-Daugherty Racing; 20.3 average finish in the six races on the current track configuration.

Jeff Burton: Last of eight top 10s came in 2009, in third; Two-time winner on the old track configuration; Fourth among all drivers in average finish (11.5) in the six races on the current track configuration; Will return in the same chassis (No. 393) that he last finished 28th with at Kansas Speedway.

David Reutimann: 19.6 average finish in five starts: Finished fourth in 2009 driving for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Paul Menard: Coming off first top 10 in six starts; 20.8 average finish; Will debut a new chassis (No. 403) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Matt Kenseth: Two-time winner of the old track configuration; 17.5 average finish in the six races on the current track configuration; Will make first track start with Joe Gibbs Racing; Was fast in testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in January.

Casey Mears: 19.2 average finish in nine starts; 26.0 average finish in two starts with Germain Racing.

Ryan Newman: Has finished in the top five in last two starts; Sixth among all drivers in average finish (12.3) in the six races on the current track configuration; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 760) that he tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway in January.

Notables Outside the Top 20

Joey Logano:
14.5 average finish in four starts; Finished sixth in 2010; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 840) in his first track start with Penske Racing.

Tony Stewart: 14.3 average finish and second among all drivers in laps led (303) in the six races on the current track configuration; Third-best driver rating among all drivers in the last eight races; Will return in the same chassis (No. 707) that he last finished 22nd with at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Juan Pablo Montoya: 22.8 average finish on the current track configuration; Finished third in 2011.

Jamie McMurray: 18.8 average finish on the current track configuration; Finished eighth last season.

Kevin Harvick: Tied for fifth among all drivers in average finish (12.2) in the six races on the current track configuration; Finished 11th last season; Will return in the same chassis (No. 396) that he finished 12th with at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kasey Kahne: 15.7 average finish in the six races on the current track configuration; Won the pole and finished 19th last season; Will debut a new chassis (No. 779) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Kurt Busch: 27.7 average finish in the six races on the current track configuration; Will make first track start with Furniture Row Racing; Posted an 8.5 average finish in his last two starts on a 1.5-mile track with FRR.

Kyle Busch: Fifth-best driver rating among all drivers in the last eight races; Fifth in laps led (112) in the six races on the current track configuration.

Martin Truex Jr: 14.3 average finish in three starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Second-best average finish on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

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NASCAR Odds and Props – Race in Las Vegas means Super Bowl-style betting menu
By: The Linemakers 
Aportingnews.com

There are two races a year on the NASCAR schedule for which Las Vegas sports books take things up a notch and post Super Bowl-type of propositions, offering practically everything available on an official race results sheet.

Unlike for the Super Bowl — which closes out the NFL season — Las Vegas gives its best in the first three weeks of the NASCAR season, when the Daytona 500 and Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas are run.

Here's a look at what the sharp NASCAR guys at the LVH SuperBook have offered their betting public this week, along with a few notes on who we like.

(Note: Thursday's extra test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will provide valuable information to help formulate any betting equation. We'll offer thoughts Friday on what happened.)

KOBALT TOOLS 400 MATCHUPS

JIMMIE JOHNSON -150 vs. MATT KENSETH +130

The Linemakers’ take: We hate to lay money in any matchup, but Johnson has four wins at Las Vegas with a track best 9.8 average finish and appears to have everything clicking. There are still questions surrounding the Gibbs' engines, and despite winning in 2003 and 2004, Kenseth’s last five Vegas runs have been mediocre, with finishes of 20th, 43rd, 5th, 11th and 22nd.

JIMMIE JOHNSON -150 vs. BRAD KESELOWSKI +130

JIMMIE JOHNSON -170 vs. KYLE BUSCH +150

MATT KENSETH -110 vs. BRAD KESELOWSKI -110

MATT KENSETH -130 vs. KYLE BUSCH +110

BRAD KESELOWSKI -130 vs. KYLE BUSCH +110

KASEY KAHNE -110 vs. DENNY HAMLIN -110

KASEY KAHNE -110 vs. CARL EDWARDS -110

The Linemakers’ take: Edwards appears to have good things in store for him in 2013 with the Gen-6 car and is on a track he loves. He's won at Las Vegas twice and is second only to Johnson with a 10.3 average finish. Kahne finished runner-up in his first Vegas race in 2004, but has only one top-5 finish since and a 15.3 career average finish on the track.

KASEY KAHNE -125 vs. GREG BIFFLE +105

DENNY HAMLIN -110 vs. CARL EDWARDS -110

DENNY HAMLIN -125 vs. GREG BIFFLE +105

GREG BIFFLE +105 vs. CARL EDWARDS -125

CLINT BOWYER -125 vs. DALE EARNHARDT JR +105

CLINT BOWYER -125 vs. JEFF GORDON +105

CLINT BOWYER -110 vs. TONY STEWART -110

DALE EARNHARDT JR -110 vs.JEFF GORDON -110

DALE EARNHARDT JR +105 vs. TONY STEWART -125

JEFF GORDON +105 vs. TONY STEWART -125

MARTIN TRUEX JR -110 vs. KEVIN HARVICK -110

MARTIN TRUEX JR -160 vs. MARK MARTIN +140

KEVIN HARVICK -160 vs. MARK MARTIN +140

RYAN NEWMAN -135 vs. RICKY STENHOUSE JR +115

RYAN NEWMAN -110 vs. JOEY LOGANO -110

RICKY STENHOUSE JR +115 vs. JOEY LOGANO -135

JOEY LOGANO -140 vs. KURT BUSCH +120

RICKY STENHOUSE JR -125 vs. KURT BUSCH +105

ARIC ALMIROLA -110 vs. MARCOS AMBROSE -110

JAMIE McMURRAY -110 vs. PAUL MENARD -110

JEFF BURTON EVEN vs. PAUL MENARD -120

JEFF BURTON EVEN vs. ARIC ALMIROLA -120

JUAN MONTOYA EVEN vs. JAMIE McMURRAY -120

TREVOR BAYNE -110 vs. JUAN MONTOYA -110

AUSTIN DILLON -165 vs. DANICA PATRICK +145

TREVOR BAYNE -175 vs. DANICA PATRICK +155

KOBALT TOOLS 400 FINISH POSITIONS

MATT KENSETH


OVER 7.5 EVEN
UNDER 7.5 -120

BRAD KESELOWSKI

OVER 7.5 EVEN
UNDER 7.5 -120

KYLE BUSCH

OVER 8.5 -110
UNDER 8.5 -110

CARL EDWARDS

OVER 8.5 -110
UNDER 8.5 -110

The Linemakers’ take: We like Edwards UNDER the here.

JEFF GORDON

OVER 10.5 EVEN
UNDER 10.5 -120

DALE EARNHARDT JR

OVER 10.5 -110
UNDER 10.5 -110

KEVIN HARVICK

OVER 11.5 EVEN
UNDER 11.5 -120

MARTIN TRUEX JR

OVER 11.5 EVEN
UNDER 11.5 -120

DANICA PATRICK

OVER 25.5 -125
UNDER 25.5 +105

The Linemakers’ take: We like Danica OVER. The track shouldn't be as difficult as Phoenix was, but we think Danica will need a few go-arounds on the high-banked 1.5-mile tracks before she gets comfortable.

PROPS

WININNG CAR NUMBER WILL BE:


1-23 -145
24-99 +125

The Linemakers’ take: There are more opportunities with the favored side here, but it's hard to pass up the opportunity to put the No. 48 and 99 as dogs on the same ticket, along with someone who may surprise this week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88.

TOTAL CAUTIONS IN KOBALT TOOLS 400:

OVER 7.5 +110
UNDER 7.5 -130

**(At least 267 laps must be completed)

WINNING CAR NUMBER WILL BE:

ODD +155
EVEN -175

WINNING MANUFACTURER OF KOBALT TOOLS 400:


CHEVY +105
FORD +225
TOYOTA +175

Prop betting rules: Driver must start race for action; No parlays on props

GROUP MATCHUPS

GROUP 1


JIMMIE JOHNSON +165
MATT KENSETH +240
BRAD KESELOWSKI +240
DENNY HAMLIN +255

GROUP 2

KYLE BUSCH +220
KASEY KAHNE +220
CARL EDWARDS +220
TONY STEWART +225

GROUP 3

GREG BIFFLE +210
CLINT BOWYER +220
JEFF GORDON +225
DALE EARNHARDT JR +230

GROUP 4

KEVIN HARVICK +180
MARTIN TRUEX JR +180
MARK MARTIN +255
JOEY LOGANO +300

GROUP 5

RICKY STENHOUSE JR +195
KURT BUSCH +225
PAUL MENARD +235
MARCOS AMBROSE +230

GROUP 6

JEFF BURTON +230
JUAN MONTOYA +230
JAMIE McMURRAY +215
ARIC ALMIROLA +210

Group betting rules: All four drivers in group must start for action; best finish in group wins; parlay allowed in groups 1-6

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NASCAR in Las Vegas - Harvick Strong in Thursday's Test Session
By: Micah Roberts
Sportingnews.com

LAS VEGAS -- NASCAR Sprint Cup series drivers took part in an additional day of testing the new Gen-6 car Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to make up for the lost date originally scheduled for late January due to the Goodyear tire compound not being ready. The testing was scheduled to give teams more information on the type of track — 1.5-mile high-banked ovals — that is the most prevalent on the tour.

Two-time Las Vegas winner Matt Kenseth was the fastest in the first of two sessions, with a top speed of 187.396 mph. Greg Biffle topped the final three-hour session, with the day's top speed of 189.427 mph.

The star of the day, however, might have been Kevin Harvick, who is using a chassis from last season that raced to a 12th-place finish at Chicagoland and had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average in both sessions. Harvick, with odds set at 18-to-1, also had the second-fastest single lap behind Kenseth in the first session.

Harvick, who made his Sprint Cup racing debut at Las Vegas and married his wife DeLana in the city, had a career-best runner-up finish at Las Vegas in 2010 and has averaged a 13th-place finish in 12 career starts here.

We like Harvick this week not only because of the chunky odds offered on him, but also because he's faster than most on long runs. However, only six drivers attempted at least 10-consecutive laps in the first session and only 13 tried that many in the afternoon session.

It's a little surprising that most teams didn't use the 5.5 hours of testing to try longer runs, but there were different game plans regarding the use of the additional time, whether accumulating data for qualifying, other 1.5-mile tracks, or just trying to gain the most speed preparing for Saturday's final practices.

Chances are that Saturday's final two practice sessions may be the next chance drivers have to practice, as Friday's practice and qualifying are in danger of being canceled due to rain. Forecasts are calling for a 60 percent chance of showers.

Other drivers showing great signs of contending in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 include race favorite and four-time Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson, Biffle, 2009 Vegas winner Kyle Busch and two-time Vegas winner Carl Edwards.

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Las Vegas Post-Practice Betting Notes and Top-Rated Drivers
By: Micah Roberts
Sportingnews.com

After a day of rain on Friday that cancelled practice and qualifying, the 43 drivers were treated to beautiful Saturday morning and were able to complete both Saturday practice sessions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in their final preparation for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400. The lost day was not too big of a deal because most teams would have just been practicing in qualifying trim data acquired that doesn't offer much into the final betting equation.

We got a head start on that equation Thursday with a full day of testing where Kevin Harvick impressed the most. Harvick continued his great performance on long runs and finished with the second-best 10-consecutive lap average in the first session, behind Kyle Busch.

The top speed in the first session went to Kasey Kahne with a lap at 188.134 mph. Kahne also had the fastest 5-consecutive-lap average, but he wasn't one of the eight drivers who ran 10-consecutive laps, nor was he one of 20 drivers to attempt that many during happy hour. Being fast in practice has become a common theme for Kahne, but it hasn't always translated over into race day for whatever reason. Mark Martin kind of falls into that category as well.

Overall, Kyle Busch might have the best car based on Saturday's practices, but because of his tendency to find trouble more than other top drivers and recent Joe Gibbs engine troubles, he becomes less attractive at the betting window.

Drivers who should be considered the most attractive Sunday are Harvick and Carl Edwards. Edwards was fifth fastest in the early session and second fastest during happy hour. The confidence factor with Edwards and his team is a big deal. They feel good about the things they're learning on the new Gen-6 car and come off a Phoenix win last week. This is also a track Edwards loves. He's a two-time winner in Vegas and comes from a stable of Roush drivers that have claimed seven of the 15 Las Vegas wins. When you add to his Vegas resume that his car is actually fast, he becomes a tough driver to bet against.

But what might separate Harvick a little from Edwards is the long runs and not losing as much speed later on older tires. We should expect to see long green flag runs on Sunday, and the driver who gets the most out of their car in the later half of those fuel windows figures to have an advantage.

Race favorite Jimmie Johnson didn't have a stellar day of practices by his lofty standards, but he did improve from eighth in the first session to fourth during happy hour. The thing about Johnson that can never be discounted, whether practicing well or not, is that his crew does the best job in the series at making in-race adjustments.

Martin Truex Jr. was fastest during happy hour with a lap of 188.383, and MWR teammates Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer finished with the fifth- and sixth-best times, respectively.

Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin both made good impressions Saturday and should be contenders to win on Sunday. Biffle was second fastest in the first session while Hamlin was sixth quickest.

And on the same note as Biffle and Edwards, we have to acknowledge that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has some good things to work with out of the Roush stable and practiced well Saturday. In addition to winning the Nationwide Las Vegas race last year, his No. 17 car driven by Matt Kenseth won twice at Las Vegas.

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