by Jason Ferris - 07/21/2005
Last Week's Recap - New England 300 Review
The New England 300 started off with a lot of excitement. Pole sitter Brian Vickers lost the lead by the end of the first lap. Kasey Kahne, who started second, held the lead for a short time. Within the first 50 laps, there were a handful of leaders until Tony Stewart took the lead.
When I say he took the lead, I mean he took it and ran with it. Stewart's car was so good that it seemed as if he was a man amongst boys. He ended up leading 232 of the 300 laps. His lead even topped six seconds on several occasions. Stewart had no serious competition until the end of the race when Kyle and Kurt Busch both challenged him. It was quite obvious to most of us watching that it was inevitable that Stewart would climb the starter fence and collect another checkered flag. He has been making the climb a regular occurrence on the Nextel Circuit.
There were a lot of strong performances put out on Sunday, but none that compared to Stewart. Kyle Busch ran in the "Top 5" for what seemed to be the entire race. Bobby Labonte hid under the radar for a third place finish. But the only driver with a car that could have competed with Stewart was Kurt Busch. Unfortunately his day was riddled with mishaps. He started fifth, but had to restart from the back after a spinout early in the race. He steadily moved forward, but a series of poor pit stops held him back. He did move up to second and did put the moves on Stewart, but his attempts failed. Stewart earned this victory.
Other notable performances were put in by Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon was in position for a well needed "Top 5". But, as we have seen too often in recent weeks, Gordon's misfortunes continued. He was pushing for fifth place when his brakes went out. He did finish the race, but all the way back in 25th. Earnhardt steadily moved up the field to gain his third straight "Top 10". Earnhardt may be back on the right track.
This Week's Preview - Pennsylvania 500
Here we are again in my old stomping grounds. This week's race is one of my favorite for betting. The gap between the two Pocono races is only six weeks. That is the shortest time between two races at the same track in NASCAR. Inevitable that means drivers haven't had time to destroy the cars that they had here last time. Look for a lot of repeat performances.
If you look closely at the results from last race here, you see a lot of young guns, and I don't mean the traditional ones. I mean Brian Vickers, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. That does deter me from something that I mentioned earlier, "This week's race is one of my favorite for betting." I am a bit weary about betting big on young guns, but I will go with my gut and recommend (and bet myself) young and old alike -- there are some great opportunities with the Pennsylvania 500 odds.
Interesting thing to watch for while viewing the race include; four and five wide in the long stretch between turns three and one, lots of passing, those who are hard on the gas out of turns will get great runs.
Winner's Circle -- Pennsylvania 500 Odds and Pennsylvania 500 Picks
Ride to Victory
Tony Stewart (6/1) I would like to hear any reason why you shouldn't bet on him here. He won here in 2003 and has finished in the "Top 10" in eight of 13 starts. He has been lights out for the last five weeks, finishing in the "Top 5" in each race, including three wins. I look at him like Tiger Woods; I may take him over the entire field.
Jimmie Johnson (6/1) His car wasn't great last week, but he pushed through for a decent finish. He always finds a way to get a good finish. Johnson swept the two races here in 2004, so he knows how to win here. He will use that knowledge to compete here.
Bobby Labonte (40/1) He is the sleeper of the week. He has driven well this year, and pretty much under the radar. He had a "Top 5" last week with a car that wasn't great. His record here lately is decent, but he has three career wins. He swept the races in 1999 and also took the checkered in 2001. For those who really like big risk, big reward bets, this is for you.
Carl Edwards (12/1) This is the first of my trio of drivers in there first full year in the Cup Series. He does only have one start here, which doesn't allow for a good sample size, but to his credit, he did win the race. He is currently on the outside looking in for the "Chase for the Cup", and he needs a good finish here.
Brian Vickers (12/1) Will this be the week for Vickers to get his first career victory? He has definitely had the car to do it on several occasions this year. He has had plenty of good races, just not good enough. As I mentioned in the article above, drivers should be bringing back the same cars from the last race here, for Vickers that means the car that led 121 of the 201 laps.
Kyle Busch (12/1) This is the young gun I really like this week. I tend to shy away from rookies, but this guy is making me a believer. In his last 10 races, he has five "Top 5s"; including a fourth place in Pocono a few weeks back. His driving skills are definitely there and his car is almost there. When they come together, he will be tough to beat.
Elliot Sadler (25/1) I have been recommending avoiding Sadler all year. There is no reason I should change my stance this week. He has only finished in the "Top 5" once this year. Many see that he is high in the points chase and incorrectly associate that with wins. He did have a good car last week, but then he wrecked it.
Jamie McMurray (30/1) As I mentioned last week, there is turmoil in the McMurray camp. The rumors were true, he is leaving for Roush Racing in 2007, to take over the 6 car. Roush seems to think they can convince Mark Martin to stay one more year, if not, they might try to get McMurray sooner. That does not help the cohesion in the garage for McMurray. You may want to avoid him the rest of the year.
Kasey Kahne (15/1) I'm not sure where this line comes from. Yes, he finished sixth last week, but that looked to be more of a fluke than a trend. That was his only "Top 10" finish since his win on May 14 at the Chevy. When you have been finishing in the 40s more often than the "Top 10," you are not worth my money.
Jeff Gordon (12/1) It pains me to see him here again. Not because I like him, but when you recommend avoiding a driver with this much skill, it can come back to bite you. It's not as much that Gordon doesn't deserve your bet; it's the whole team that doesn't deserve it. His problems continued to mount last week when he lost his brakes. Now there is speculation about unrest developing in the crew.
Greg Biffle (6/1) This is about as risky a recommendation as they come. My logic here is simply that he hasn't performed well at this track. In five starts his average finish is 18.4. That includes only one "Top 5". I put myself on a limb with this one, let's see if it holds.
Michael Waltrip (20/1) Waltrip is in a very sticky position. He, like McMurray, is in transition. He has decided to leave DEI at the end of the year. The thing is, the company is owned by Junior's family. Now, Waltrip mentioned he would like Tony Eury Jr, his crew chief, to come with him. I don't see DEI allowing this. This will probably negatively affect him for the rest of the year.