by Jason Ferris - 06/29/2005
Last Week's Recap - Dodge/Save Mart 350 ReviewEARNHARDT WINS! EARNHARDT WINS! Dale Earnhardt Jr. got his first win of the season last week. Unfortunately, it wasn't the race he won; it was FOX's sexiest driver contest. Junior thanked the fans and his mother, Teresa Earnhardt, who he joked, had voted day and night for him (maybe it was because she is also the team owner and realized he had to win something). Junior will obviously parlay this into another dozen or so commercials that will pay him millions; he obviously needs it because he's not making any money winning races.
Tony Stewart took the checkered flag this week in Sonoma in what turned out to be another black eye for NASCAR. I seem to be a cynic of NASCAR lately, but I enjoy watching the best drivers and cars racing for the win at the end of the race. Fortunately for NASCAR, it was not their fault this week. This week I would like to blame Mid Valley Engineering. They are the company that supplied Robby Gordon and the Hendricks team with their transmissions. Robby and three Hendricks drivers all had transmission troubles. Jimmie Johnson was the first to fall. He was running in the top five, and within one lap, had lost over 10 places. He luckily got a caution and was able to have it fixed without loosing a lap, only to have it fail again later in the race. Jeff Gordon was dominating the race when his failed just before the halfway mark. The most devastating of all the failures had to be Robby Gordon's. Robby Gordon had what looked to be the best car in the race. Then came the ironic twist, as he said to his crew chief that he was just toying with the other drivers when his transmission failed. What really proves his car was better than the rest is that he ended up finishing 16 after being 1.5 laps down. Those drivers using Jerico transmissions, like the Roush drivers and Stewart, had no problems.
Stewart's victory in this race should not be overshadowed by these problems, since it was the first time I have ever found myself rooting for him. I personally am not a fan of Stewart, but he drove a "perfect" race. He gobbled up late race contenders Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace, which was good for me, since I told all of you not to bet on them. There was a time when I thought Rudd would hold him off. The only real good opportunity to pass is in turn 11 and there were a limited number of laps left. During lap 15, Rudd's crew chief said to Rudd, "Make him earn it," referring to Stewart. Well, Stewart earned it after several failed attempts, but went on to lead the last 11 laps unchallenged.
This Week's Preview - Pepsi 400NASCAR is back in Daytona this week, for what I consider the second toughest race of the year -- the Pepsi 400. Why? Because it's Daytona and Daytona is its own animal. Aside from road courses, there is no track in NASCAR that sets drivers apart.
The interesting thing about Daytona is that once you win here, you can continue to win here. Unlike most races, there are more repeat winners at Daytona than first time winners. Over the last 14 races, there have only been seven different drivers in the Winner's Circle at Daytona and leading those repeat drivers is Jeff Gordon.
When thinking about betting on the Pepsi 400, you really are better of betting on a former Daytona winner. Also, look more at the starting positions as those who start up front tend to finish up front. Due to the Pepsi 400 being a restrictor plate race, the practice runs are more realistic of what they will run in the race. If you qualify well, you usually race well.
Winner's Circle for the Pepsi 400
Ride to Victory
Jeff Gordon (4/1) His recent troubles and low line may have you wanting to steer clear, but don't read too much into this bet. Gordon is like a man among boys on this track. He has six victories here, including the last two races. Barring mechanical failure, Gordon would be coming into this race fresh off a victory.
Jimmie Johnson (8/1) Johnson is one of two drivers that have never won here that I am endorsing this week in the Pepsi 400. He has learned so much from Gordon over the years, and I am banking on the fact that he learned how to win here. Johnson lost his point lead last week, and he will be looking to take it back.
Michael Waltrip (7/1) Waltrip's most famous victory was here in Daytona, when Dale Earnhardt had his fatal crash on the final lap. Since then, Waltrip has won two races here. Also, Waltrip has been the one shining spot on the DEI team.
Tony Stewart (10/1) Stewart has yet to win here, but his performance in the last two races has been spectacular. He very easily could have two wins in the last two weeks. This may be the year he breaks his Daytona void.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9/2) I don't know if this is a sympathy bet, a vision or a sign that I received from Dale Sr., but I feel like if Junior is going to turn things around, it will be this week at the Pepsi 400. He races well here, including two victories. He also has the highest average finish in the last 30 years. If he doesn't turn it around here, I wouldn't bet on him the rest of the year.
Greg Biffle (17/1) Biffle has won here only once, but like I said earlier, it only takes one time. He has been very dominant lately and that should not change. He has led the most laps this year, by far, and he has a great pit crew. Together, that is a winning combination in Daytona.
Dale Jarrett (30/1) I give Jarrett a flyer here because he has had a lot of success. He has won here four times, and as recently as 2000, and has four poles. He is a good bet for the money. He could be the sleeper of this race, but if you are not a true gambler, leave him alone.
Rusty Wallace (40/1) Rusty made me eat my words last week, but I still think he belongs in this list for the Pepsi 400. In 44 tries here he has yet to drive to victory lane and has only six top five finishes. I believe he will retire never finding victory lane in Daytona.
Ricky Rudd (40/1) **See Above**. Rudd has yet to truly announce his plans for next year, but his career is coming to an end. He performed well last week, but that is not enough to compensate for his lackluster performances at Daytona. Rudd has yet to win in 57 starts, and has only seven top fives.
Mark Martin (15/1) **See Above**. Martin has been fantastic in his final season, but has yet to tame Daytona. He is zero for 40 when it comes to Daytona and has only seven top fives. His career may be tainted without a Daytona win, but I believe that is what will happen.
Kasey Kahne (30/1) Kahne's record at Daytona is disastrous. His average start is in the 40s and his average finish is worse. That's really all that needs to be said.
Ryan Newman (20/1) Newman is really no different than Kahne here, other than his numbers are in the 30s instead of the 40s. Also he has lead three laps here. That is really no enough for me to bet on him in the Pepsi 400.
Field (40/1) The field never wins here, plain and simple.