by Jason Ferris - 06/08/2005
Last Week's Recap - Dover Racing on FX
There are the Patriots and Eagles in the NFL. The Yankees and the Red Sox is Baseball. Now, there is Rousch and Hendricks in NASCAR. The teams that seem to dominate again and again, and last week was no different. The two teams combined for seven of the top nine finishers, including Greg Biffle (Rousch), taking the checkered flag.
Biffle sat back and watched as Kyle Busch (Hendricks) and Elliott Sadler fought for the lead for the first 200-plus laps. Then, Biffle made his move and led most of the remaining 150 laps. Although Jimmie Johnson and Busch made a push the last 20 laps, Biffle dominated the last 100 laps, driving to over a four-second lead at times. Mark Martin (Rousch) again showed that he hasn't lost a step, finishing third.
One moment overlooked in the race was the third DNF for Jeff Gordon. At least this time it was because of his nemesis Tony Stewart, not his teammate. This incident brought back that hate-hate relationship between the two drivers that seemed to dwindle over the last two weeks (which seemed to be the longest peace treaty between the two). Gordon, obviously upset, commented that the move by Stewart was a bit rash that early in the race. Stewart rebutted by referring to Gordon as a "cry-baby".
As I stated in my article last week, the "Monster Mile" at Dover was going to be exciting, and it did not let us down. The cream rose to the top and rivalries were strengthened. This should continue in Pocono.
This Week's Preview - Pocono 500 Racing on FX
This week NASCAR rolls into my home state of Pennsylvania. The first of two Pocono races would not normally hold much interest, but the recent week's events should heighten the excitement of this race.
Now that NASCAR nation has come full circle and teammates are no longer wrecking each other, we can begin to ask those same questions. What is going to happen between Gordon and Stewart? If I were Stewart I would be careful, because Gordon has a big team, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Brian Vickers or Kyle Busch come out and retaliate to earn some brownie points.
The question that I've pondering all week is: "What on Earth is wrong with DEI"? Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s problems keep adding up. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another poor finish and Michael Waltrip was invisible for most of the race. The thought that both drivers are currently out of the "Chase for the Championship" is ridiculous, and it doesn't seem to have an end in sight. Junior still doesn't have a permanent Crew Chief and once they find one it will take even more time for the team to gel. As if these were not enough problems, Rousch Racing is courting Martin Truex Jr., who isn't necessarily a DEI teammate, but does drive for them. After winning the Busch series last year, his stock has risen considerably. If lured away, you could see the 25-year-old driving the Viagra car next year.
Pocono doesn't normally carry the same excitement as other races, but with all of these questions flying around, and the battle between Roush and Hendricks, Pocono could turn out to be as exciting as the last few weeks.
Winner's Circle for the Pocono 500
Ride to Victory at the Pocono 500
Jimmie Johnson (9/2) Normally I would not like this line on any driver in NASCAR, however, Johnson is dominant. If he isn't winning the race, he is always there at the finish. A 9/2 line with a field of 43 doesn't seem to be smart betting, but after looking closely at the stats, it may be the smartest bet. Not only did he sweep the two races here last year, he led 250 of the 400 laps.
Greg Biffle (7/1) Biffle closed the gap on Johnson for the point lead with his fourth victory of the year, a Nextel Cup best. He is bringing the car to Pocono that he drove to victory in Texas and California. If he has won twice with a car, why can't he do it three times?
Jeff Gordon (6/1) Gordon is an interesting bet this week. He has three straight DNF's because of accidents, all of which he did not cause. This should put a spark under Gordon's seat and that is not a good omen for the other drivers. There are two questions you must ask yourself before betting on Gordon. First, how can you bet against arguably the best driver when he has a chip on his shoulder? Second, how can you bet on a driver that isn't finishing races? I'll bet he finishes this race, and finishes well.
Mark Martin (12/1) I find it hard not to put him in this category every week. He has never won this race, but he has six second place finishes. That combined with his persistence this year may be the chemistry needed for victory.
Brian Vickers (35/1) I know, you keep asking why Vickers is in this category. Well, he is driving well enough to deserve it. Also, his crew is giving him a car that can win every week. It is obvious that he is taking cues from his teammates, Gordon and Johnson. Until his line comes down, I think he is the best long shot bet.
Elliott Sadler (15/1) Sadler has yet to win this year, but he is quietly third in points. That shows a consistency that will eventually lead to wins. For most of the race last week, he had the best car; it just seemed that he peaked too early. If he becomes more patient, he may drive to victory.
Steer Clear at the Pocono 500
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20/1) If there was any doubt that NASCAR has truly become a team sport, Junior is proving it true. He is one of the best drivers in NASCAR, but he has never had to deal with these problems. How he handles this down time will show his character, but until he turns it around, he is not worth the bet.
Kasey Kahne (10/1) Other than his victory at the Chevy, he has had a very inconsistent year. He seems to be having trouble with his car week in and week out. Until he starts finishing races high on the leader board, he isn't worth the bet.
Kevin Harvick (30/1) A few years ago, he was THE young gun. He is in the "Chase for the Championship", but he is not really a contender. He has more finishes in the 20s than he does in the top five. Other than 12 laps in the Aaron's 499, which he had the pole, Harvick hasn't led more than one lap since his victory 10 races ago.
The Field (40/1) I could put the field in this category every week. In the past, it was possible for some virtually unknown to steal a race, but this year, it is hard enough for anyone but Rousch or Hendricks to win, let alone an unknown.