NASCAR: All-Star Weekend Odds and Predictions
by Christopher G. Shepard - 5/21/2010
It's Hall of Fame weekend for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series as drivers head to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a weekend full of nostalgia, exhibition races and $1 million for the driver who can win the Sprint All-Star Race this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Last week Kyle Busch moved up to second place and 69 points behind Kevin Harvick in the Sprint Cup standings after Jimmie Johnson, who led Autism Speaks 400 for 225 laps, exceeded the pit-row speed limit with 37 laps to go and was forced to the back of the pack, gifting the win to Busch.
Who will win the Sprint Showdown?
While the emphasis of Saturday is the Sprint All-Star Race, I'll argue that the more exciting event will be the Sprint Showdown as some of NASCAR's best drivers will need to finish in the top two to win their way into the All-Star Race. Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya and Bill Elliot have been relegated to the Showdown due the fact they have not won a race in 2009 and 2010.
And while I can tell you none of these six drivers is happy to be in this spot, the point of the All-Star Race is that it rewards for winning (not losing). Just because you are a name or a top-tiered driver does not give you entrance into the All-Star Race. This might seem a novel idea for those entitled drivers, but you actually have to win to race. That said, it’s not like the Showdown is full of losers, either. Of the 30-car field 13 drivers have combined for 116 Sprint Cup wins!
Penske Racing's Sam Hornish, Jr., won the 2009 Sprint Showdown while Jamie MacMurray finished second. The fan favorite who was awarded entrance into the All-Star Race was Joey Logano. Two years ago Kasey Kahne was the first driver to win the fan favorite entry and then go on and win the All-Star Race.
Of the six drivers I mentioned above only Bill Elliot (1986) has won a Showdown. This year's Showdown promises to be one of the most exciting in years due to the relative strength of the competition. This makes picking a winner difficult, but with a gun to my head I'd have to say Jeff Burton has been the hottest driver recently and winning entrance to the All-Star Race would be a nice piggy-back to his second place at Dover (yes, Burton was that close to avoiding the Showdown all together).
Pick! Jeff Burton, (No. 31), +300
Who will win the Sprint All-Star Race?
What makes the Sprint All-Star Race exciting is that its four-segment structure enables anyone to win. Just ask Tony Stewart, who won the All-Star Race last year. This was his first win as an owner-operator of Stewart-Haas Racing and after the win he managed to win two more races and he recorded nine straight top-10 finishes. For the uninitiated, the All-Star Race format is quite different from driving 500 miles and turning left. The race is broken down into four segments of varying lengths. Segment 1 is basically 50 laps with a mandatory four-tire pit stop on lap 25. At the end of Segment 1 drivers can choose to stop for an optional pit stop. Segment 2 is cut down to 20 laps and features no mandatory pit stop, but there is a caution at the end of the segment.
Segment 3 is also 20 laps, but there is a 10-minute break to make normal tune-ups to the cars. This third segment is the most crucial since it sets up the running order of the pace lap in Segment 4. Segment 4 is a 10-lap shootout and only green flags count. Keep in mind that there is a mandatory four-tire stop in this segment and how the cars exit pit row is how they'll line up for the final laps (meaning the fastest pit-crew is rewarded with first place on the restart). The winner of the All-Star Race earns $1 million for the 40 laps, so despite the fact that this is not a points' race, you should see all the drivers 'going for the gusto' as this race is all about winning.
However, picking the winner of this 'exhibition' All-Star Race comes down to pit-crews and restarts. Until the third segment all drivers really have to do is stay on the lead-lap and avoid a wreck. But when you think about Charlotte Motor Speedway you invariably think Jimmie Johnson if it were an ordinary race. Since this is the All-Star Race with four segments Johnson's decided advantage is taken away. So I am looking at either the driver with the best pit crew or the driver that is the best at restarts.
If you lean toward restarts then you have to back Kyle Busch 100 percent since he is the best driver in NASCAR when it comes to restarts. If you want to go with the fastest pit crew to leverage the fourth segment pit row first-to-exit strategy then you should know that Denny Hamlin's team won the 2010 Pit Crew Challenge on Wednesday. The thing is that both drivers are with the white-hot Joe Gibbs Racing and have been the last two drivers in NASCAR to win. While my son tells me it is the M&M's car that will take the checkers I think Denny Hamlin will edge-out his teammate on Saturday night.
Pick! Denny Hamlin, (No. 11), +800
Sprint All-Star Race - Odds to Win*
May 22, 2010, 1 p.m. – Charlotte, NC
Jimmie Johnson +450
Kyle Busch +450
Jeff Gordon +500
Field (Any Other Driver) +600
Denny Hamlin +800
Kurt Busch +1200
Matt Kenseth +1200
Kasey Kahne +1500
Tony Stewart +1500
Mark Martin +1500
Kevin Harvick +1500
Joey Logano +2500
Ryan Newman +2500
Jamie McMurray +2500
Dale Earnhardt Jr +2500
David Reutimann +3000
Brad Keselowski +4000
Bobby Labonte +10000
Sprint Showdown - Odds to Win*
May 22, 2010, 7:30 p.m. – Charlotte, NC
Jeff Burton +300
Greg Biffle +450
Carl Edwards +450
Clint Bowyer +500
Juan Pablo Montoya +500
Martin Truex Jr +1000
AJ Allmendinger +1200
David Ragan +1500
Sam Hornish Jr +1500
Marcos Ambrose +2500
Paul Menard +2500
Field (Any Other Driver) +2500
Elliott Sadler +3000
Scott Speed +4000
Bill Elliott +5000
Regan Smith +5000
Travis Kvapil +10000
David Gilliland +10000
*Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.com
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