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AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta 

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Sunday 7:30pm ESPN

What a wonderful weekend this is, even though the weather here in the northeast sucks. With just two races remaining before The Chase begins it’s now or never for most of these guys. This feels like the tightest battle to reach the postseason since the Chase began in 2004. There are eleven guys that are batting for four spots in the top 10 plus the two wildcard spots. That number would be even greater if Tony Stewart didn’t break his leg. Currently the guys in 11th, 12th, and 13th place are all without a win and are all former Cup champions. They may all miss the postseason this year. There is plenty of drama surrounding this race so I shouldn’t have to say it’s worth watching even if you aren’t a regular race fan.


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A few years back my buddy Vin and I took a roadtrip down to Atlanta for this race and for some college football action in the Georgia Dome. I cannot recommend that trip highly enough. If you like NASCAR and football you will love this idea as a little vacation. Atlanta is beautiful and gets a bit of a bad rap. The people are friendly the city is clean and you can walk around downtown Atlanta with an ice cold Bud Light. Just try and remember where you parked so you don’t spend two hours drunkenly staggering around looking for the car. And when you find the car and refire the grill don’t put so much lighter fluid on it that you will taste it after every burp for the next three days.


The track is beautiful, it’s a shame they only have one race a year. But they have the only Sunday night race on the schedule but with Monday being a holiday, why the hell not. Night racing is always fun especially if you are attending. But Atlanta is unlike the other night races. This place is fast. With 24 degrees of banking in the corners drivers will be topping 210mph headed into the corners of this 1.54 mile track. I wish I had a good picture of it but we sat in the middle of turns 3 and 4 and you are looking basically straight down at track the banking is so high. This track is like the Hot Wheels tracks you would set up as a kid. It almost seems like if they weren’t going so fast in these corners they would just literally roll down the track to the infield. It would not be easy to remain standing if you were to stand at the top of the corner. You get the point.


Expect some prolific crashes amidst a lot of good, hard, clean green flag racing. While drivers will get aggressive later in the race they won’t want to take a big risk early going well over 200mph. Especially with the rash of injuries that have hit the sport this year, including another one last weekend (more on that in a bit).


Ultimately this is a great race, we should be in for a treat tomorrow night. Now let’s figure out who is going to win us some money…



Stay Away From:

Kyle Busch 7-1


Kyle Busch has been really good this year. But typical of himself he has had too many poor finishes. You can only blame bad luck on so much before you have to start looking at the driver for putting himself in a position to fail. But he hasn’t failed much since a three race stretch at the end of April/beginning of May where he finished 38th at Kansas, 24th at Richmond, and 37th at Talladega. Since then however he has had just three finishes outside of the top 12. Ya, that’s pretty impressive. That is a 14 race stretch, with 11 finishes inside the top 12. While he has only tallied one win, at The Glen, he has been much more steady than in the past.


So why is he a stay away at a track he has previously won at? Because all that steady racing has diluted his odds. While he has won here before he has managed just three top 5’s, and four top 10’s in fifteen career races at Atlanta. He has also finished outside the top 20 five of those fifteen races. His average finish is just 16.93. Also, he is still Kyle Busch. He still races week to week looking to win. He has said plenty of times “it’s not fun unless you win”. In his “steady” run of late he has gotten loose plenty of times and saved his day, but trust me it’s far more difficult to save a racecar when the ass end slides out on you at 210mph. Expect to see him struggle once again here. It may not happen early, but Kyle will eventually press a bit too hard and cost himself another quality finish. 7-1 is not nearly good enough to touch the #18 car this weekend.


Denny Hamlin 15-1


As much of a believer I was in the #11, long after everyone else had given up on him (and trust me it cost me some money), the exact opposite goes for my belief in this team now. Hamlin is just not the same driver. He is far from 100% and has struggled in the longer races since his injury. In fact since the first race at Pocono, where he finished 8th, Hamlin has just two top 20 finishes (18th at the Brickyard and 19th at The Glen), despite being able to race up front enough to lead laps in four of the ten races. His back just isn’t healthy enough to race hard enough deep into these races. He may be starting on the second row but he will fade just like he has basically every week, especially in a race that goes deep into the night.


Martin Truex Jr. 15-1


The latest driver that has been bit by the injury bug. Last week at Bristol Marty suffered a broken wrist in a big wreck. While he will start 7th and was the 7th fastest in the first practice, non-competitive laps are far easier to succeed in than the 500 miles of fast, hard racing, when you are driving with a cast on your wrist. I wish there was a way to bet on drivers to wreck and/or to not win. If there were we may all be rich. I am batting 1000 on these stay away picks this year and I can promise you Truex Jr. won’t break that streak this week. Not here, not with a cast on his wrist, this place is tough enough as it is.

Greg Biffle 25-1


The Biff finds himself inside the top 10 in average finish here as well as the top 10 in points this season, however his spot in NASCAR’s postseason is far from secure. Biffle sits in 9th place just 17 points ahead of 11th, and is in need of a good finish. While a second win would clinch him at least a wildcard spot he will likely be points racing, especially since he has never won here and is starting back in 24th. He doesn’t want to fall out of the top 10 and lose those bonus points he earned by winning at Michigan in June.

Best Bets:

Jimmie Johnson 5-1


Why bet Jimmie as the 5-1 favorite this week? Well for starters he is a three time winner here. He has eleven top 5’s in 21 career races here. His average finish of 11.1 is good for the top spot among active drivers. He hasn’t won since the Daytona race in July. He has finished outside the top 35 each of the last two weeks. He doesn’t even have the most wins on the year anymore thanks to Matt Kenseth getting his sixth win last week. This is the #48 team. They don’t lose, they dominate and now, they are due.

Kevin Harvick 10-1


I’m not a gigantic fan of this bet since Happy has been rather inconsistent here and he is starting towards the back, not to mention the rather weak odds. However, Harvick is a former winner here, he is great at these types of tracks and he loves coming out of nowhere to win the race. Things may set up nicely for him to grab another win here and some more bonus points heading into The Chase.

Dale Jr. 15-1


I know you find it hard to believe but in back to back weeks I love Dale Jr.’s value. While part of me realizes that if Juan Pablo Montoya wasn’t in NASCAR we may view Jr. as the guy who finds the strangest of trouble. Like last week his car had damage before the engine even fired, when a fan tripped fell and dented his fender. Only Jr. can find half the problems he has faced and the fact that he is on The Chase bubble scares me even more. I could absolutely see him blowing his engine, a tire, or even something we haven’t seen before and choking away a spot in the postseason.


However, for whatever reason he has been really undervalued the past two weeks. Did Junior Nation finally ran out of money to bet his lines down? Or did the sportsbooks smarten up and inflate his value, knowing he isn’t going to win, in an attempt to draw even more action his way?


Whatever the reason may be I love the 15-1 odds. He will be rolling off in the eight starting position at a track in which he has found success in the past. He is one of the better drivers at the faster tracks and the stats back that up. He has won here once before to go along with eight top 5’s and an average finish of 12.52, which is good for 4th, or 3rd if you take away Tony Stewart, among active drivers. Junior needs to have a good race this weekend and I think he might even win this one.

Carl Edwards 18-1


Earlier today I saw a gentleman wearing a #99 Carl Edwards shirt at the packie. Now that wouldn’t be a big deal, if I didn’t refer to the liquor store as “the packie”. NASCAR fans are few and far between in the Boston area. As a fan myself I always take notice when I see another of our kind around. In fact that alone almost made me pick Carl to win. However someone else stood out far more to me this week as you will see shortly. But at 18-1 Carl has the most value on the board. I honestly don’t understand why this line is so high. With a spot in The Chase being all but locked up for the #99 team, it’s time to start taking some risks and try and build on the bonus points he earned with a win at Phoenix. What better place than Atlanta where he has already gone to victory lane three times and where he has already qualified on the front row for Sunday’s race. Did I mention that he has finished inside the top 5 at Atlanta more times than he hasn’t? Eight out of his fifteen career races here have ended with Carl inside the top 5. If that doesn’t convince you that at nearly any odds he is worth a wager, nevermind 18-1, then nothing will. A bet on the #99 this weekend will at the very least provide you with another driver racing up front late in the race to root for.

Best Value Bets:

Ryan Newman 40-1


What a punch to the stomach Gene Haas delivered to Ryan Newman this week. Haas agreed to pay for Kurt Busch to join SHR out of his own pocket as a fourth team, while Newman has been sent packing. Maybe it costs him the race, but 40-1 for a guy who will not only be driving for a new job in 2014 but also to prove Stewart and Gene Haas wrong by competing for a championship. Ryan currently is holding on to one of those two wildcard spots but he could get bumped out with the right finishing order to either of the next two races. Newman will be racing to win and get himself in with some momentum. I can promise you that Ryan wants to deliver a stomach punch of his own back at Gene and possibly Smoke by getting into the playoffs and maybe winning a title before joining a new club.

AJ Allmendinger 100-1


100-1 for a guy with a ton of momentum behind him, starting 13th, as well as the sixth best average finish here? Yes please.

My Pick:

Jeff Gordon 10-1


As of now Jeff finds himself on the outside of the bubble looking in. He has yet to win this year, finding himself 13th in points with just two races remaining to change his fortune. He sits just 11 points behind Joey Logs and 10th place but has former series champions Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski in between him and 10th place. The good news is neither of those two have won a race this year either and the current holders of the two wildcard spots are behind the #24 in points and have just one win each. One of them broke his wrist last week, the other is a lame duck driver.


I don’t think Jeff could ask for a better track to make another late push at the postseason than Atlanta. He is a five time winner here and holds the 3rd best average finish (2nd if you take Smoke out of the mix). In 2012 Jeff finished 2nd and in 2011 he took a trip to victory lane. In both of those races Gordon started fifth. This year Jeff qualified… fifth. He has shown the ability to turn it on when the pressure builds up. Last year he raced his way into The Chase at Richmond after falling a lap down early, while Kyle rode around up front. He battled back beat Kyle and bumped him out of The Chase. There may be more drivers in the mix this year and more accomplished drivers, but my money is on the wily vet, on the best team, with 4 championships and 87 career victories under his belt. Jeff will get it done again this year/week.


PS. Jeff has only had two seasons in which he went winless since his sophomore season back in 1993. That is two of just 19 seasons and both of those he finished inside of the top 10 in points.


PSS. Before adding this part the word count for this piece was 2424. I did not plan that, nor did I look at the word count until I was finished, maybe a bit of an omen.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

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