by Jason Ferris - 06/16/2005
Last Week's Recap - Pocono Racing on FX
Again, the changes NASCAR made pre-race outshined the finish. A few weeks ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway, a poorly repaved track led to pieces flying up from the track and damaging cars. This week a gear change that did not allow drivers to downshift led to a series of wrecks and more blown tires than I have seen in a Baja race. A total of eight drivers had multiple blown left front tires, including four each by Scott Riggs and Ricky Rudd. Some blame the hard driving coming out of the corners, some blame the hard braking, but what got lost was a good finish.
In NASCAR, like life, some things change and some stay the same. Roush Racing took another checkered flag in Pocono last week, only this time it was Carl Edwards. He held off strong attacks from Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch. This was a bittersweet weekend for Edwards who lost his Busch Series Points lead. He was unable to finish the Busch race due to a rain delay and his commitment to the Nextel Series.
It is quite normal to see a slew of Roush and Hendricks drivers fight for the finish, but these three are all in there first full year of NASCAR racing. What adds to this already strange finish is that Pocono is normally a veteran dominated track.
For Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., when it rains it pours. Gordon had his fourth straight DNF this week, the longest streak of his career. This week it was his engine, but does it really matter why? In NASCAR it is all about finishing races and finishing them well. Now, given that point, Junior is having problems of equal proportion. The difference between Gordon and Junior is that Junior can only blame himself. Yes, he has crew chief problems, but that is no excuse for another finish in the thirties. And unfortunately, Michigan does not look any better for him.
This Week's Preview - Michigan 400 Racing on FX
If the past is any indication of the future, the Michigan 400 will be a "free-for -all" for Roush drivers. The Roush team has seven wins on this track, and has a dominant number of "Top Fives." The track at the Michigan 400 is what is called an impound race, and Roush dominates these races. Of the seven impound races this year, they have won five. Another plus for the Roush team is that Michigan is known to be difficult on engines, another area where Roush excels. All that said of the Roush team, Hendricks will not roll over.
The most exciting thing about the races at Michigan are the long runs under green flag. It really turns NASCAR into a team sport from beginning to end. It starts with the week leading up to the race. Long greens mean high RPM's and engine trouble. This means that the crew is under the gun from the start. For betting purposes, this means to look at consistent happy hour runs more than pole positions. Fuel consumption, or conservation, can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Crew chiefs will be under the microscopes as much as the drivers this week. For those fans that have been bored by wreck-riddled races, you can expect a great race with long greens.
Winner's Circle for the Michigan 400
Ride to Victory
Brian Vickers (25/1) Again, Vickers had one of the best cars last week. He has improved every week since the All-Star races at Lowe's. Vickers had another good race in Pocono, leading the most laps, and finishing second. He and teammate Kyle Busch have picked up the slack for the Hendricks team the last two weeks. I have been predicting him since the All-Star break when he was 80/1. He has yet to win, but that is only a matter of time.
Kyle Busch (20/1) Busch may have the best education of any driver in NASCAR history. His older brother Kurt is a former Cup champion. He is a member of the highly touted Hendricks team. And, he is one heck of a driver. He is no longer in the shadows of his brother, or his other Hendricks teammates. Busch and Vickers may be the next Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon combo.
Greg Biffle (6/1) The Michigan 400 is often put into the same race category as Texas and California. That is music to Biffle's ears, since he won both of those races this year. He had a poor race and finish last week, but you can't expect that two weeks in a row from Biffle.
Jimmie Johnson (7/1) Another week, another great race from Johnson. He has an average finish of 8.6 this year. 5,1,4,6 are his finishes in the last four races. Oh, did I mention he is the point's leader. There is not a week that goes by that Johnson is not a good bet and the Michigan 400 is no different.
Ryan Newman (10/1) Newman has not had the greatest season, but he is looking at the Michigan 400 as his chance to turn it around. Newman and his crew have turned things around as of late, finishing in the top five, three out of the last five races. He has also won two out of the last three races at Michigan. Look for Michigan to be his first victory of the season.
Dale Jarrett (30/1) This will probably be one of the only times that I put Jarrett in this category. He is in his twilight, and it has shown this year. However, the Michigan 400 could be his best shot for victory this year. Jarrett had two third place finishes last year and a first and second in 2002. He is a good play for the money.
Kasey Kahne (10/1) It has been an up and down season for Kahne. I look for Michigan to be part of the up-swing. He has finished second and fifth in his only two start at this track. He should challenge for the win.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (30/1) It truly hurts to put Junior in this category week after week, but he has yet to show resiliency this season. Yes, times have been tough, but he has yet to respond. Another finish in the thirties last week lands Junior in this category again this week.
Jeff Gordon (8/1) I know what you are thinking, "What is Gordon doing here?" Well, four straight DNFs and you are no longer a good bet. Does Jeff have a good chance to win this week? YES. Is he worth a bet? NO, not until he finishes races.
Tony Stewart (15/1) Stewart has been average this year, and average on this track. He seems to be caught up in the media instead of racing. Maybe Stewart should focus on racing instead of what his excuse to the media will be.
Kevin Harvick (20/1) He has been disappointing this season. Many drivers would not be under such pressure or scrutiny, but he replaced Dale Earnhardt. Not to mention, he had a phenomenal rookie season. Until he gets his act together he will stay here and out of the winners circle.
Bill Elliott (40/1, Field) I specifically point him out because someone might notice that he has the most career wins here since 1975. The problem is that his run came in the 80's. Look deep before betting Elliott.