Samsung 500- Rainy Friday

So much to qualify.

Inclement weather and some mixed messages from NASCAR led to delay after delay of Friday’s qualifying session at Texas Motor Speedway, until finally the track went dark and qualifying was officially deemed off. As a result, we have little idea who has a fast little rocket for Sunday afternoon’s race; the cars will roll in the order of the points classification.

But we have a not-so-secret weapon for choosing this career: location. Texas is a lot like Atlanta, where the Smokeless Set took place just a few weeks ago. Jimmie Johnson won that race (as he always seems to), and Tony Stewart was coming on strong and fast at the end of the event. Juan Pablo Montoya posted a career-best fifth-place finish in the Nextel Cup at that event, and points leader Jeff Gordon (who will start this race from the pole) finished “only” 12th, his worst result so far. in a very good year. Will these drivers be history once again on Sunday? keep reading

Two weeks ago: A very good week at Martinsville, where our pick of Johnson to win at +750 odds, combined with our straight pick of JJ over Kyle Busch, made for a big win. At 1.5 units wagered, we got 1.92 units, a return of 128%; for the season, in nine bet units, we have obtained 3.37 positive units, for a yield of 37.4%. (And note that if you had avoided the conservative unit strategy I advise below, and simply placed one unit on each bet I’ve recommended, you would have netted 20.67 units on 24 units wagered, for a return of 86, 1% However, it is riskier week to week). Keep going so.

Take Tony Stewart (+350), 1/6 unit. As I mentioned earlier, Stewart was coming up hard in Atlanta last month, and had the event lasted a few more laps, he would have come through for the lead and the win. Smoke won his first career event at Texas last fall during his ill-conceived, too-late push to 2006, and has finished at least sixth in his last three attempts here. This is certainly a safe and weak bet, but with no passing qualification and Stewart practicing fourth, first and fourth fastest in the three rain-spattered practice sessions in the past few days, I really do think the home Depot team wins this rematch with his nemesis No. 48.

Take Jimmie Johnson (+350), 1/6 unit. And why not cover all the bases? Johnson has already taken three of the first six Nextel Cup events this season, and was fifth-fastest at happy hour on Saturday. Not taking JJ on these 1.5-mile, high-banked, cookie-cutter tracks is just silly; in the last two seasons, his final average at Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas (three venues set up almost identically) is around sixth, and in the last five seasons, he’s around eighth. That’s better than anything else in the sport, and it shows Johnson’s smoothness and ability to fine-tune his race car. He will try to get his first win at Texas on Sunday.

Take Carl Edwards (+1500), 1/6 unit. There are other attractive bets on a board that has flipped due to bad weather (as of Saturday night, some online books have yet to publish their post-happy hour race odds), but assuming Edwards stays on the mid-teens, is my favorite value bet. King Carl was seventh at Atlanta and has a win at Texas and two wins at Atlanta under his belt. Going into Saturday afternoon’s race, Edwards had also won two consecutive Busch races, so you know he’s in a good frame of mind. This is the kind of track Carl excels at; he has the second-best finishing average on this type of track (surpassed by Johnson) over the past two and five seasons. Edwards’ Roush Fenway teammates Matt Kenseth (+800) and Greg Biffle (+1800) are also interesting threats; in fact, Kenseth was third in Atlanta. Still, I think Edwards gives you the best shot at a really interesting payday after my two favorites.

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