by Jason Ferris - 07/08/2005
Last Week's Recap - Pepsi 400 Preview Review
There is no doubt that whenever there is a race in Dayton, it will be exciting. I personally want to thank Daytona for living up to that reputation. Now, if you only looked at the post race stats, you would think the race was incredibly boring.
Tony Stewart did dominate the race, leading 151 of the 160 laps while taking the checkered flag. What is lost in that stat was looking at the charge of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior put on an epic charge coming from 39 all the way up to third, just two spots behind the unflappable Stewart. Junior's charge started early, moving up almost 20 spots in as many laps. After a short fallback, Junior continued his charge, causing quite a stir amongst fans that have stuck by his side through a tumultuous season. It's not a win in the record books for Junior but this is exactly what he needed to get his head on straight. We all know that his troubles started with the trading of pit crews, and I find it a bit ironic that Tony Eury Jr., his former crew chief, was by his side at the start of the race.
In a day of exciting racing, there was a sore spot for me. Mark Martin, who never won at Daytona, was the innocent bystander in a major accident that virtually ended his shot at winning his first ever Daytona race. Rusty Wallace, also on his swan song, finished a respectable fourth. Wallace seemed very happy with the finish, which brings back the thought that he has lost that competitive edge. The old Rusty would not be happy with yet another Daytona loss, because that is what fourth place really is.
All of these side notes should not overshadow the dominance that was Tony Stewart. His victory was his second in as many weeks. Stewart also finished second at Michigan three weeks ago. In all three of these races he had THE car to beat, and that is saying a lot since the three races were held at very different tracks, a super speedway, a tri-oval and a road course. This is a feat rarely accomplished and one that deserves this writer's applause.
This Week's Preview - USG Sheetrock 400
Sorry to start the preview off with a rant, but here we go again with the ridiculous naming of races. I would personally like to see how many people decide to purchase USG Sheetrock after the race. I know I'll be driving my GM Chevrolet to my local Lowe's to buy USG Sheetrock with my AMEX while drinking a Coke (If the drivers can get paid to mention the sponsors, why cant I?).
This week can be a bettor's paradise or disaster. NASCAR rolls into the Windy City and a relatively new track. Chicagoland can be tricky because there have been only four races here and NASCAR lines are often dependant on previous experience at a specific track. With such a limited sample size, look for the most comparable track -- Michigan.
When it comes to Chicagoland, Kevin Harvick and Stewart have dominated over the last four years, with Harvick winning in 2001 and 2002 and Stewart winning last year. Also, between the two of them, they have led over two-thirds of the laps. Considering they both have had some success in Michigan, they demand your consideration.
Points Leader Jimmie Johnson and teammate Jeff Gordon also deserve your attention this week. Jimmie Johnson has yet to win here, but he has finished in the Top 5 in all three of his appearances. Jeff Gordon also has three Top 5's in his four starts. Both have good records in Michigan and both need a win this week, Gordon to get back on track, and Johnson to remain in the points lead.
My advice this week is, to pick a top contender this week. Many drivers complain that, because the track is new, there is only one line to drive in and passing is difficult. That also means no fliers this week, stick to those who win.
Winner's CircleRide to Victory
Tony Stewart (7/1) Is there anything bad you can say about this guy lately? Yes, he is arrogant, but I meant his driving. He is my pick this weekend to make it three in a row, and I now consider him the favorite for the championship.
Jeff Gordon (8/1) When will the torment stop? This week is as good as any. He is consistently good on this type of track. He will be looking for a turn around this weekend and I won't be surprised to see that happen.
Jimmie Johnson (6/1) Johnson got his lead back last week and he has his work cut out to keep it. He has the best average finish here, third, but has yet to get a victory. He also is in a bit of a checkered flag drought. If he drives like he has, he won't win. If he drives like he can, he will.
Greg Biffle (6/1) Biffle has struggled here, but has been very successful in Michigan. Also don't forget, this is his coming out year and he will look to continue his success with a win here.
Kevin Harvick (15/1) He has been up and down this year, but Chicagoland is like a second home to Harvick. Two consecutive wins here in 2001 and 2002 is impressive enough, but he did it with flash leading 113 laps here in the inaugural race (2001).
Dale Jarrett (25/1) Jarrett is my sleeper this week. He has stepped up his game the last few weeks and has had success here, which included a third last year. He should finish well, and if you're a true gambler, he may be worth your bet at 25/1.Steer Clear
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (35/1) Don't be confused by his race and finish last week. Junior is a different driver at super speedways. I look for Junior to slip back this week, but he should perform better than he has as of late.
Michael Waltrip (35/1) Waltrip is in a bit of a situation. He is performing well, but with Junior's old crew. Junior is the name of the team and there is no doubting that. He is complaining and his voice will be heard. This will affect Waltrip.
Rusty Wallace (40/1) I have said it several times in the last couple of weeks, "I think Wallace has lost the competitive edge." He seems content with Top 5's and that's where I will see him, but no higher.
Elliot Sadler (15/1) Sadler is the trickiest driver this year. He is currently in fourth place in the points standings, but only has one Top 5. Call him "Mr. Consistent", but don't call him a winner, yet.
Jamie McMurray (30/1) I put McMurray here not for his driving, but for his team situation. He has announced that he is leaving Chip Ganassi Racing and moving into Mark Martin's Roush car next year. This will affect his team chemistry and not for the good.
Kasey Kahne (10/1) Kahne has had success in his limited appearances at Michigan, but his season doesn't rate this low of a line. I said pick someone with success on tracks like this, but not someone who is struggling so mightily this year.