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NASCAR Las Vegas Preview - Johnson favorite

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, May 19, 2011

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Jimmie Johnson
The annual NASCAR Sprint All Star race, this Saturday night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, is virtually guaranteed to be filled with the excitement of hard racing and possible surprises both on and off the track.

One would think that predicting possible winners for an event of this nature would be almost impossible. However, the expert number crunchers and trend observers from the "Las Vegas Insider", (LVI), have once again risen to the occasion and has presented an All Star ratings survey that appears to be rock solid.

JIMMIE JOHNSON AT 7 TO 2 ODDS. It's no surprise that Double J is on the top of the LVI's list this week. His personal stats at the Charlotte Motor Speedway are simply awesome. In nine starts in the Sprint All Star Race Johnson has two wins, 2003 and 2006, along with an average finish ratio, (AFR), of 6.7. His stats during the Sprint Cup points events at Charlotte are equally amazing and includes six wins, ten top five finishes, 14 top tens along with an extremely healthy AFR of 9.8.

CARL EDWARDS AT 4 TO 1. This driver has ascended to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship standings based on highly consistent performance levels including an early season win at Las Vegas. One would believe that this level of consistency would make him a strong consideration for winning the one million dollars from Saturday's All Star Race. Before you place some money on this driver you may want to consider his Sprint Cup stats at Charlotte. He's still looking for his first win there, but he does have four top fives and seven top tens. However his Charlotte AFR is a little on the high side at 17.6.

KYLE BUSCH AT 5 TO 1. Already a two time winner this season, here's a driver that has a strong record of creating new records at nearly every track he races on. His 96 career wins, in NASCAR's three national touring series, supports that. Surprisingly enough the Charlotte Motor Speedway has not been one of his better performance tracks. He's still looking for his first win there. He has accumulated five top fives, eight top tens but the Charlotte AFR is a rather high 16.6. Despite that number, he's still one of the best drivers in the Sprint Cup and always a threat to win a race and always a rock solid wager consideration.

JEFF GORDON AND KEVIN HARVICK AT 8 TO 1. Jeff Gordon is always going to be a solid wager consideration when the Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte and the LVI 8 to 1 odds could turn out to be lucrative. Gordon is a three time winner of the Sprint All Star Race. He shares the prestige, with the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr, as being the only three time winners in this race's 26 year history. His regular Sprint Cup stats at Charlotte are also strong with five wins, 16 top fives, 20 top tens and a 15.6 AFR.

Kevin Harvick is a two time race winner this year and appears to be in position to become a solid contender for the 2011 Chase For The Championship. He understands what it takes to win the difficult Sprint All Star Race and performed that feat back in 2007. If you're into long shot wagers then Harvick might be worthy of that consideration. But be aware that his regular Sprint Cup numbers at Charlotte indicates that this is not one of his better tracks. He's still looking for his first win there. He only has one top five finish, four top tens and his AFR is 20.0.

DENNY HAMLIN, MATT KENSETH AND TONY STEWART AT 10 TO 1. After a somewhat sluggish start to the 2011 season, Hamlin's team seems to be finally headed in the right direction although the process is probably not as fast as he would like. If numbers still mean a lot, and they often do, then the All Star Race at Charlotte may not be the right time to put your money on this team. Hamlin is still seeking his first win there, he only has one top five finish and a 17.2 AFR.

On the opposite extreme is Matt Kenseth who, at 10 to 1, is well worth your wager consideration. The combination of this driver and his crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, has already led to two wins this year. Kenseth's stats in the All Star Race are outstanding. He won this race in 2004 and has a 6.6 AFR in ten starts. The regular season numbers at Charlotte are also very healthy and includes a win, six top fives and a 15.0 AFR. Again, if you're looking for a long shot driver this might be the go to guy.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Tony Stewart. Every major sports team hits a slump every now and then and that seems to be the situation with the flag ship team from Stewart-Haas Racing. When we start hearing radio transmissions from the driver that claims he's "embarrassed" by the team's performance or, in the case of last weekend, "I have no @#%&* confidence in our team right now" this is not a time to call "The Las Vegas Insider" and spend some money on this team. On the extreme opposite end of this situation is the fact that Stewart has some good Charlotte numbers. He's a former All Star Race winner, in 2009, and his regular season numbers show a win, six top fives and a 13.7 AFR. Maybe this is the place and the race where Stewart can turn his recent fortunes around. I just not sure you want to bet any money on it.

DALE EARNHARDT JR AND KURT BUSCH AT 12 TO 1. Yes, we're all aware that Dale Earnhardt Jr is fourth in the Sprint Cup points and the team, under the leadership of new crew chief Steve Letarte, seems to be stronger than ever. But if you're planning to call the "LVI" to bet on this driver be advised you will have to wait to the extreme last minute Saturday evening to determine if Earnhardt is going to make the line up for the Sprint All Star Race. There's a little snag with the race criteria here. The race rules say that any driver who won a race in 2010 or 2011 is automatically in the lineup. We already know that doesn't apply to this driver. Previous winners of the All Star Race from the past ten years are also automatically in. Earnhardt is a previous race winner but that happened 11 years ago.

So why is Earnhardt on the "Las Vegas Insider's" list at 12 to 1? That's easy. The "LVI", just like the rest of us, is nearly positive that Earnhardt will make the All Star Race line via the fan vote provisional. It's a very safe bet that his fan club, aka the Junior Nation, has been very busy punching the buttons on their Sprint applications to insure their favorite guy has enough votes to make this race. While his cool, calm and collected crew chief will likely once again work his magic to get his team another strong finish, I wouldn't expect the amount of Letarte magic that will be needed for this team to cash that one million dollar check.

Then there's Kurt Busch, the defending All Star Race champion. Here's a guy who understands the go or blow racing style required to win this race. But the problem here is the highly visible state of unhappiness this driver has been displaying of late. At one level there is the importance of a race team keeping the lines of communication open. Then there's the Kurt Busch approach to communication that comes with tirades that are often abusive. We've hearing it in his media interviews and we're really hearing it from his in car radio comments that are often just plain brutal. If this team is going to achieve the measure of success everyone believes they're capable of then this driver has to chill out a little and take it down a notch. Busch has the talent and experience to win the All Star Race, but I wouldn't bet any money on it this year.

GREG BIFFLE AT 14 TO 1. Slowly but surely Biffle's Roush Fenway Racing team is making progress in the points standings and has now worked their way up to 12th in the rankings. He's still looking for his first win of the season and, for that matter, his first ever win at Charlotte. The one positive factor is the horsepower and performance that comes with the Roush Yates Engines. While the possibilities for this team to win the All Star Race is there, the regular season Charlotte numbers aren't. You may want to think twice about a long shot bet on this team.

CLINT BOWYER AT 16 TO 1. After a sluggish start to the season, this team has worked their way to eighth in the championship standings. Bowyer is looking terrific on the track these days and would be worthy of your long shot consideration. The only gray area here is the uncontrollable bad luck that sometimes places this driver in middle of someone else's temper tantrum. Yes, I'm referring to Harvick vs. Busch at Darlington.

JAMIE MC MURRAY AND JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AT 18 TO 1. Considered to be a Chase contender by many during the off season, Mc Murray seems to be in a points hole and is languishing in 22nd. The All Star Race Saturday could turn out to be the venue to turn things in the right direction. His regular season Charlotte numbers are actually good and includes two wins, five top fives, eight top tens and a 15.7 AFR.

On the other hand his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team mate, Juan Pablo Montoya, has Charlotte racing numbers that are disappointing including a 27.6 AFR. However, the All Star Race features a format that is perfectly suited for his style of driving and he could make things interesting Saturday night. The win potential for both of these drivers are there, but I don't know if I would be spending any money on it.

MARK MARTIN AND RYAN NEWMAN AT 22 TO 1. Look at this excellent long shot possibility the "LVI" has presented you this week. Mark Martin at 22 to 1 is worthy of serious consideration. First off, he's a two time winner of the Sprint All Star Race and has a series 21 starts in this event. That means he has the vast experience needed to handle himself in this unique no holds barred race. His regular season Sprint Cup stats at Charlotte are also quite good and includes four wins, 18 top fives, 23 top tens and a 15.7 AFR. The new relationship with crew chief Lance McGrew seems to be gelling. This team looked very strong last weekend at the Dover race. Don't get distracted by the age issue here. "The Old Man" of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is actually in better physical shape that young drivers half his age and his mental focus is sharper than ever. If you're into long shot bets, this is your guy.

Ryan Newman has a special place in his heart for the Sprint All Star Race. He won the event, in 2002, during his rookie season which clearly proved that he belonged in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. While his personal career stats at Charlotte could use a little work, he's a hard charger who has proven in the past he can run hard, and even hit harder, when it's necessary. That's a major plus for an event like the All Star Race.

Now for the weekly disclaimer. NASCAR wants us to remind you that they consider these posted numbers as a means for both entertainment and information. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their races.

But if you're going to do it anyway, and many of you will, then dial up "The Las Vegas Insider's" official website to get the latest, updated, information.

Having said that let the buyer beware. This is the Sprint All Star Race that comes with the traditional no holds barred, anything goes, format. There will be no impact on the championship standings following this race. That means the drivers are free to race hard for the prestige and the million dollars that comes with winning this event. Anything can happen and often does during the course of this race.

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