NASCAR: Auto Club 500 Odds and Predictions
by Christopher G. Shepard - 2/19/2010
Thanks to good timing and a green-white-checker finish Jamie McMurray managed to out-duel Dale Earhardt, Jr. to win the Daytona 500 last weekend. Now the Sprint Cup Series heads to the Golden State for the Auto Club 500 at Fontana at 3 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Auto Club Speedway.
Keep in mind that Matt Kenseth, the Auto Club 500 defending champion, won the first two races of 2009 and then didn’t make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As trite as it sounds, winning the Daytona 500 has been a dream come true for McMurray. However, unlike Kenseth last year, there is no way McMurray is winning the first two races of the 2010 season. McMurray has never won at Fontana and has not finished in the Top 10 at Fontana in his last seven races at California. Call it a Daytona 500 hangover.
Who will win the Auto Club 500?
Now settle down Junior fans, I know you haven’t had much to cheer about and a second place at the Daytona 500 in the first race of the 2010 season must feel great. Junior opened up at the Las Vegas Hilton at 18/1 but since has dropped to 25/1 as most sharps doubt that he’ll be able to win at Fontana. Even Earnhardt, Jr, admits to not liking going out West for races. He has never won at ACS and his best finish in the last four races was an 11th. But that was before Rick Hendrick made Junior his pet project in the offseason for the 2010 season. So far so good, but at last year’s race he finished 39 and in the fall race at Fontana he finished 25th. Even though I loved Junior at Daytona I am passing on the No. 88 in California.
For the past three years whenever there is a NASCAR race at Fontana I’ve picked Greg Biffle (10/1) to win due to his dominance at ACS in 2005 and his current streak of two Top 4 finishes in the past three races and his ability to navigate around the two-mile oval. All Biffle needs to do is finish well and pick up a mess of points to take the points lead. Under the new points reset system that is an underwhelming statistic after two races. I’ll wait until the 20th race or so to get excited.
I look for a very strong performance from Jeff Gordon (8/1) this week. In fact, Gordon should rebound nicely from his 26th-place at Daytona last week. Despite his average finish of 10.5 at ACS Gordon has won three races at Fontana. Gordon finished as runner-up in both races last year and had eight total second-place finishes in 2009. Team Hendrick Motorsports is one of the best in recent years at California and I don’t doubt that Gordon will likely face the stiffest competition from the car he owns, No. 48.
This is how I see the finish order for the Top 5 at ACS.
Pick! Jeff Gordon, No. 24, (8/1)
Auto Club 500 - Lucky Dog Long Odds Special
Martin Truex, Jr, didn’t win a race in 2009, but had to watch as his old car, driven by Jamie McMurray, win the Daytona 500 this year. Weird, huh? Not really when you consider that three of McMurray’s four wins in NASCAR have come at restrictor plate tracks. Meanwhile, NASCAR’s other Junior, Martin, switched to Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota in the offseason and if Daytona is any indication Truex, Jr. might have his best year yet! Martin led for three laps and finished the Daytona 500 in sixth place. While Truex, Jr. is still adjusting to a new team and car manufacturer it seems that he has had instant synergy with Crew Chief Pat Tryson. Martin’s best finish at Fontana is sixth place back in 2004, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve on that finish especially if he qualifies well.
Pick! Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1, (15/1)
Auto Club 500 - Odds to Finish in the Top 3
Gamblers should note that there is a good reason that Jimmie Johnson is favored to win on Sunday at Fontana. The data is overwhelmingly in Johnson’s favor. In his past six races at Auto Club Speedway Johnson has won 50 percent of the races (three) and led for 619 laps. Johnson’s worst finish in six races was in Feb. 2009 when he finished ninth. However, don’t be fooled. Johnson’s average running position was 3.4 and he led the race for 74 laps while in his other two races Johnson finished second and third. At Fontana in August 2008 Johnson scored a Driver Rating of 150; considered by NASCAR as perfect. In that race Johnson had an average running position of 1.2 and led for 228 of 250 laps. In case you need any more ammo on two-mile tracks in the past three years Johnson has a 4.03 Power Average; almost twice as good as the next driver, Carl Edwards at 7.31. Johnson’s trend in the last six races at California is to win one race and finish in the Top 10 in the next race. There is another syllogism that holds if Johnson does poorly at Daytona then he does well at California. What a bunch of crap. Johnson does well at Fontana because he is king of the two-mile track. In the last six races at Fontana Johnson has an average finish of 2.8. Hence the Top 3 pick and just in case some guy named Biffle or Gordon or Busch wins this one. Who am I to piss in the wind?
Pick! Jimmie Johnson, No. 48, (even)
Odds to win Auto Club 500*
Auto Club Speedway/ Fontana, CA
J Johnson +500
M Martin +750
J Gordon +800
Kyle Busch +900
D Hamlin +1200
T Stewart +1200
C Edwards +1000
G Biffle +1000
Kurt Busch +1200
J Montoya +1500
K Kahne +1800
M Kenseth +1500
C Bowyer +1800
K Harvick +2500
J Burton +2800
B Vickers +2200
D Earnhardt Jr +1800
J Logano +3500
R Newman +3500
D Ragan FLD
J McMurray +4000
M Truex Jr FLD
D Reutimann FLD
J McMurray FLD
B Keselowski FLD
M Ambrose FLD
S Hornish Jr FLD
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