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Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- 03/1/2009
Author: Jeremy Dunn
Published: Thursday Feb 26 2009 2:19pmRead all of Jeremy Dunn's articles here
Matt Kenseth opened the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season with victories at Daytona and California. He looks to make it three in a row this weekend at Las Vegas for the Shelby 427. However, it is not going to be an uncomplicated task. Judging by last week’s race, it is probably going to be another Roush Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports showdown with a hint of Joe Gibbs and Penske Racing. Richard Childress Racing is coming off an ill-starred week, so look for them to rebound this weekend.
Also, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart enjoyed solid performances at California, so keep an eye on those two former champions this weekend.
1. 17-Matt Kenseth: 7-1 odds
Prior to the start of the season, the odds of the same driver sweeping the first three races was little to none. Nevertheless, things tend to change in the world of NASCAR, and Matt Kenseth, the winner of the first two races could be poised to set a new NASCAR record. He would become the first driver to win the first three races of a season, and with three different sponsors (DeWalt, Carhartt, and USG). Kenseth won this event in 2003 and 2004, and the Las Vegas venue suits his driving style. There is no reason to believe that Kenseth cannot extend his winning streak to three races. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Kenseth has scored finishes of second, fourth, and twentieth. The twentieth place finish is deceiving as he was involved in late-race crash with Jeff Gordon while battling for the third position.
In nine career starts at Las Vegas, Kenseth has scored two (2003, and 2004) wins, four top five finishes, and five top ten finishes. He has an average finish of 9.0. He has twelve career wins on intermediate tracks, and an average finish of 13.9.
2. 16-Greg Biffle: 7-1 odds
You would be hard pressed to find a driver more thwarted than Greg Biffle last week at California. After his pit road howler, Biffle rallied from twelfth to fourth in some thirty laps, and was visibly gaining on Matt Kenseth despite racing in traffic. Biffle arguably had the best car at Fontana, he just did not put himself in position at the right time. Now it is time for Biffle to let go of the discontent that mounted last weekend and focus on Las Vegas. Biffle is on his game right now, and when he is on his game, he is dangerous on tracks such as Las Vegas. I still think Biffle has a bone to pick with this track, as he failed to qualify for this race in 2003. Expect Biffle to contend for the win this weekend just as he did a week ago, and at Las Vegas a year ago. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Biffle has posted finishes of eighth, sixteenth, and third.
In five career starts at Las Vegas, Biffle has one top five finish, three top ten finishes, and an average finish of 14.6. He has thirteen career wins on intermediate tracks, and an average finish of 15.8.
3. 24-Jeff Gordon: 7-1 odds
Jeff Gordon is back. His true test was at California, and he and the No. 24 team passed with flying colors. Gordon is historically fast at Las Vegas, as he is the 2001 winner of this event, and has three top five finishes in his last four starts. He has competed in all races held at the 1.5-mile speedway. Gordon is searching for his first win in 42 races, so there are few drivers on the entry list that are as famished as the four-time champion. Expect Gordon to produce another solid performance. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Gordon has placed finishes of fifth, second, and 35th.
In eleven career starts at Las Vegas, Jeff Gordon has one victory (2001), five top five finishes, and five top ten finishes. He has forty career wins on intermediate speedways, and an average finish of 11.9.
4. 18-Kyle Busch: 6-1 odds
Kyle Busch heads back home to Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend. A hometown win would mean the world to the 23 year old driver. In fact, neither Kyle nor his brother Kurt owns a Sprint Cup victory at Las Vegas. That could possibly change this weekend, especially considering the Kyle Busch is beginning to regain his mid-2008 form. He was virtually unstoppable last year from March to August. Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing group are poised for another solid performance; expect to see the No. 18 car near the front all afternoon. He won the pole for this race last year. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Kyle Busch has scored finishes of third, ninth, and eleventh.
In five career starts at Las Vegas, Kyle Busch has yet to win, but he has posted two top five finishes, and three top ten finishes. He has an average finish of 13.2. He owns seven career wins on intermediate tracks, and an average finish of 16.9.
5. 99-Carl Edwards: 5-1 odds
The defending winner of this event has yet to really get his skates on in 2009. He flew under the radar at Daytona and California. Expect him to make some noise this weekend at Las Vegas. Last weekend, he watched his two teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing, while he finished in the seventh position. Edwards is still one of the championship favorites, and a weekly contender. It is way too early to give up on him. In fact, he and Jimmie Johnson are the odds-on favorites to win this weekend’s event. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Edwards has scored finishes of 26th, sixth, and first.
In four career starts at Las Vegas, Edwards has one win (2008), one top five finish, and two top ten finishes. He has an average finish of 11.8. He has fourteen career wins on intermediate ovals, and an average finish of 11.2.
6. 48-Jimmie Johnson: 5-1 odds
Is it really a surprise that Jimmie Johnson is once again the odds-on favorite to win at Las Vegas? Of course not. Johnson won this race in every season from 2005 to 2007. Last year, however, he really struggled. His struggles in this race a year ago led to speculation that this team was destined for an off year. Contrarily, they promptly turned their program around, and oh yeah, they won the championship. Johnson uncharacteristically faded at California, but he still finished in the ninth position. It would be foolish to bet against him this week. In his last three trips to Las Vegas, Johnson has posted two wins and a finish of 29th.
In seven career starts at Las Vegas, Johnson has three wins, three top five finishes, and four top ten finishes. He has an average finish of 9.3. He has thirty career wins on intermediate venues, and an average finish of 10.0.
7. 2-Kurt Busch: 20-1 odds
Kurt Busch’s fifth place finish at California last week is a definitive sign that his Penske Championship Racing team has enhanced their intermediate program. If they can back that performance up at Las Vegas, Kurt Busch will be one to watch this weekend. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Kurt Busch has posted sub par finishes of sixteenth, 26th, and 38th. In fact, he has not scored a top ten at Las Vegas since 2005.
In eight career starts at Las Vegas, Kurt Busch has one top five finish, two top ten finishes, and an average finish of 20.1. He has eleven career wins on intermediate speedways, and an average finish of 17.9.
8. 26-Jamie McMurray: 18-1 odds
Jamie McMurray and this team have vastly improved from where they were last year at this time. They had a disappointing finish at California last week, but their performance was respectable. Expect McMurray to have another solid top ten performance at Las Vegas. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, he has finishes of 23rd, tenth, and 25th. His best finish at Las Vegas was fourth back in 2004 when he was driving for Chip Ganassi and had Donnie Wingo as his crew chief. Well, Wingo is back on the pit box for McMurray.
In six career starts at Las Vegas, Jamie McMurray has posted one top five finish, and two top ten finishes. He has an average finish of 18.2. He has one career victory on intermediate speedways, and an average finish of 18.2.
9. 83-Brian Vickers: 20-1 odds
History is not on Brian Vickers’ side at Las Vegas. He characteristically struggles in the desert. However, keep in mind that his strengths are the faster intermediate ovals such as Las Vegas. He may be the surprise of the week. It is doubtful that he will win, but a top ten, maybe a top five, is plausible. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Vickers has placed finishes of 43rd, 22nd, and 24th.
In four career starts at Las Vegas, Vickers best finish is 22nd. He has an average finish of 28.0. He has eleven career top five finishes on intermediate tracks, and an average finish of 20.5.
10. 14-Tony Stewart: 25-1 odds
It has been a superb start for one half of Stewart Haas Racing. Stewart was solid all weekend at California. This weekend, expect another solid top ten outing. I still do not think this team is ready to contend for wins just yet. Nonetheless, this is Tony Stewart we are talking about. He can drive anything with wheels on it. In his last three starts at Las Vegas, Stewart has posted finishes of 21st, seventh, and 43rd.
In ten career starts at Las Vegas, Stewart has four top five finishes, and six top ten finishes. He has an average finish of 14.4. He has eighteen career wins on intermediate ovals, and an average finish of 12.6.
Also, keep an eye on Kevin Harvick (30-1 odds), Jeff Burton (40-1 odds), David Ragan (30-1 odds), Denny Hamlin (20-1 odds), and Mark Martin (18-1 odds), and Dale Earnhardt Jr (18-1 odds)
Great dark horse picks include Juan Pablo Montoya (100-1 odds), David Reutimann (100-1 odds), David Stremme (100-1 odds), A.J. Allmendinger (100-1 odds), and Bobby Labonte (100-1 odds)
Odds Maker’s Top Ten
1. Jimmie Johnson 5-1 odds
2. Carl Edwards 5-1 odds
3. Kyle Busch 6-1 odds
4. Matt Kenseth 7-1 odds
5. Jeff Gordon 7-1 odds
6. Greg Biffle 7-1 odds
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr 18-1 odds
8. Mark Martin 18-1 odds
9. Jamie McMurray 18-1 odds
10. Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers 20-1 odds
Comment on this article.(255 chars max)
|junkyard||Kenseth was a bit of a shocker to me when he won the first race. I guess we`ll see how the rest of the season pans out for him. He may have topped out already.|
|RIRmama||I`m always up for a new driver to win each week. If the same ones win over and over again it takes the fun out of the race. I like a little variety in my racing. :)|
|brownlee59||I also would like to see someone different go to the top. Matt seems to be getting better. Although I haven`t been a fan I do like him. It`s nice to see someone else winning instead of the same old drivers all the time. Evenfor the top ten in points, it`s also nice to see different drivers doing better.|
|jade06||I think it is really difficult to bet against Kenseth. He had been driving on different tracks in the past. He deserves being in a hot seat by his growing fans and admirers.|
|ryder_29||My bet was on Jimmie Johnson, but he keeps himself on low-profile if you know what I mean. He has not won any race this year. I hope to see him win the race anytime in the future.|
|brix12||Tony Steward may drive anything with wheels on it but he can`t do basketball hoops. He needs to get fit to drive with ease and win upcoming races in the future.|
|Tetchie||Someone had to show odd improvements lately. And that is Matt Kenseth. This guy I thought was full of energy resulting to winning the race twice.|
|Cal||I never mind the idea of someone new popping into the scene but it seems like Matt has taken everyone by storm and there are people like me wondering how this happened and maybe why it did not happen sooner, you know?|
|2nd Place||I had never heard much about Matt Kenseth either. I still would like to see someone new in Nascar start making their way to the top.|
|jamming||I know this is past and all but couldn`t resist commenting anyway. I honestly have never even heard of Kenseth before this year but I even rooted for him to win just to break the record.|
|spinout||I can`t believe how early Kenseth was eliminated from the race yesterday. I truly thought he`d make the record but that just didn`t happen. Too bad but maybe next time. At least he got everyone`s attention, right?|
|goJJgo||Even I had to admit to secretly rooting a bit for Matt Kenseth to break the Nascar record in Vegas. I love JJ but we all know he doesn`t start the season well.|
|littlebit||Well, Jeremy, I`m going to have to pay more attention to your picks. You are the only one I`ve seen that gave any credence to the thought that Kyle Busch might take this race.|
|maddox8||Matt Kenseth gradually kept improving his driving skills nowadays. Something really must have motivated him to win this season. It is really difficult to bet against him.|
|navigator07||Nothing beats a Nascar racer who maintains a sportsmanship status. It`s important to maintain that attitude whether Kenseth wins or not, and whether he has been credited with recognition from the media or not.|
|Harold Mayes||Its over where I live and I`m happy with the race. At least nothing really crazy happened and no surprises either. It was a nice clean race in my opinion and shows that at least some of the drivers have got their stuff together for the year.|
|FastEddie||Jimmie Johnson has the best chance of winning and I`m put some on him this weekend. Not really sure if the race is over yet, Can`t get it where I live for some reason. I`ll know tomorrow I guess.|
|MysteryMan||Matt has a chance of winning today, but JJ has the best chance and Carl and Kyle are at his heels. dale should have better odds but I guess the bookmakers know what they are doing.|
|DentedFender||I don`t find it difficult at all to bet against him, in fact I find it prudent to follow the odds over all as they are a good indicator of who has the best chance of winning. With that said I probably will put a small bet on him just in case he pulls a fast one and manages a win|
|FunDriv3||It might be difficult to bet against Kenseth, especially when he is in high spirits to win the Shelby 427 race at Las Vegas. He might be gain a lot more admiration from his growing fans out there.|
|the_champ||Something or someone must have inspired Matt Kenseth to win the last two races. It`s not surprising that he has gained support from the three different sponsors, since he bagged two victories at Daytona and California.|
|RaceFan88||It may be difficult to bet against Kenseth but I find it hard to believe he`ll make it three in a row. I know he`s not high in the odds maker`s top ten, but after watching Dale Jr. in the practice rounds today, I`ll still place my money on him. Go Dale!|
|roadrunner||I think Matt Kenseth has a very good shot at achieving this record. He`s shown some excellent driving skills so far and is off to a terrific start. Interesting that he would be doing it with three different sponsors, too.|