Betting news, trends, odds and predictions for Saturday, March 17, 2018 from various handicappers and websites
Last Edit: 2 months 3 days ago by Shazman.
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Auto Club 400 Preview
March 14, 2018
By Micah Roberts
Kevin Harvick has won the past three races in a season that is only four weeks old. Only 28 other drivers have won three straight races in the modern era, but winning four straight goes even further into rarified air with only eight drivers doing so, the last coming in 2007 with Jimmie Johnson. Harvick will try to join that select group Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA which happens to be his home track.
Can any team beat his No. 4 Ford?
"They’re certainly good," said Kyle Busch, who has finished second behind Harvick the past two weeks. "They have kind of picked up right where they left off and we beat them at Homestead. They’ve been right there each and every week, so far. You’ve gone to three of arguably his best racetracks these past three weeks. They got the job done where they needed to. Ask me again in August, but not next week.”
Sounds like Busch is tired of finishing second to him, and that's good. In fact every other team should feel the same way and get some pressure on their entire garage to find speed like Harvick's team has. They were good to close out 2017, but not this good.
Harvick has a 2011 win at Fontana and while it hasn't been one of his best tracks during his career, there's not much reason to believe he won't be fast this week simply because he dominated at Las Vegas at Atlanta, downforce tracks that require lots of horsepower, just like Fontana.
But somebody else has to step up soon. Martin Truex Jr. won on seven of the 11 1.5-mile tracks last season, but he had nothing for Harvick at Atlanta or Vegas. His fourth-place finish last season was his first top-five finish at Fontana.
“I feel Fontana has been a good track for us over the years but we just haven’t capitalized on our performance there,” Truex noted. “We’re right there. It’s like when you’re out fishing and you catch a bunch of fish and you feel like you’re throwing the right lure, but maybe it’s just not the right color – we need to get it dialed in. We’re so close.”
Truex is definitely one of the few drivers that can slow the Harvick freight train.
Three-time Fontana winner Kyle Busch is one of the others on a short list of candidates just because of his past success on what is a difficult track to figure out.
“That place is tough," Busch said. "It’s really a hard racetrack to get a hold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”
Yes, Busch has the place figured out with a 10.7 average finish and he's been solving it since arriving in the series with his first career Cup win there in 2005. His last six Fontana starts go like this: third-place, runner-up, winner, winner, 25th and eighth last year. Only Jimmie Johnson has been better than Busch's three wins and 611 laps led.
Johnson isn't a candidate to win this week, which I've never said about him at Fontana. His 25/1 odds to win Sunday are the highest he's had there since 2002 when he was a rookie and won his first career Cup race. The El Cajon native has won at his home track a record six times and led a record 980 laps over his 23 starts.
“Yes, we have had a lot of success at California and our expectations are really high," Johnson said. "We went to Atlanta having a ton of past success and had a tough day. We are chipping away every week and finding speed. Last week wasn’t the result we wanted, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Huge props to my Lowe’s for Pros team. You never forget the site of your first win, I love going ‘home’ and seeing familiar faces.”
Get better champ! We need some more candidates to hunt down Harvick.
Johnson's teammate Chase Elliott is always a candidate to win on downforce tracks and the 2-mile layouts like Fontana and Michigan has been kind to him in all series. He has never finished outside the top-10 in 10 starts on those tracks. In his two previous Cup starts at Fontana, he has finished sixth and 10th.
“It’s just such a fun place," Elliott said. It reminds me a lot of Atlanta in some ways. It looks way different, but just the surface is old and worn out. The lines are very sensitive and you can move your car a foot or two up or down the racetrack and find a massive amount of grip that isn’t there two or three feet away from that, which is pretty cool. That is what makes the difference.”
Elliott didn't do well at Atlanta or Vegas, but got his first top-five of the season last week at Phoenix (third-place). He's had seven runner-up finishes in the Cup Series during his first two seasons and it would be nice to see him join Johnson and Busch as first-time winners at Fontana.
The story of the week if Harvick wasn't rolling would have been Elk Grove, CA native Kyle Larson going for his fifth straight win on 2-mile tracks. He's won the last three at Michigan and his Fontana win last season is sandwiched in between. He's won only five races in his career (Richmond is the other). It's so bizarre that he hasn't won on a 1.5-mile track, but Truex hogged them up last year and Harvick is 2-for-2 this year.
The good news for Larson this week besides loving the wide sweeping layout is that he's been the fastest of the new Camaro's this season. He was ninth at Atlanta and third at Las Vegas and led 54 laps at Phoenix last week.
The best long shots to win this week are Harvick's Stewart Haas Racing teammates, beginning with Clint Bowyer who was third at Fontana. Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola should also find themselves winning somewhere this season. They know Harvick's secret to finding speed, or at least have read a few chapters of the book.
Also, expect the Team Penske gang to be fast here. It suits Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney's style well.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #18 Kyle Busch (5/1)
2) #42 Kyle Larson (4/1)
3) #4 Kevin Harvick (3/1)
4) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (7/1)
5) #14 Clint Bowyer (40/1)
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Best Bets - Auto Club
March 17, 2018
By Daniel Dobish
Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS West Coast swing continues at Auto Club Speedway in California before the circuit heads back east next weekend. The race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (3/1) posted his third consecutive victory last weekend in Phoenx, now he sets his sights on a fourth straight checkered flag. In NASCAR's modern era, eight drivers have picked up wins in four consecutive weekends, with five of those drivers going on to win the series championship. In case you were wondering, Cale Yarbrough accomplished the feat in 1976, Darrell Waltrip did it in 1981, Dale Earnhardt Sr. turned the trick in 1987, Harry Gant rolled to Victory Lane in four straight back in 1991, Bill Elliott did it the following year in 1992, Mark Martin followed suit with four straight wins in 1993, Jeff Gordon did it in 1998 and won a championship and Jimmie Johnson was the latest to post four straight wins in his 2007 championship season.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Harvick ranks third in Driver Rating (105.6) over the past five seasons at Fontana, leading 177 laps, most among all drivers. He has managed 134 fastest laps during the span, too, most among all drivers. The dominance of the No. 4 could continue, although he has run just 66.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. In 24 career starts at the California track he has picked up just one victory, but 11 of his 24 starts have resulted in a Top 10 finish and he has a respectable 15.0 Average-Finish Position (AFP) overall with just two DNFs. He has also finished outside of the Top 20 on just seven occasions at Auto Club.
The big news from Hendrick Motorsports is that Lowe's will end their sponsorship of Jimmie Johnson (20/1) in the No. 48 Chevrolet. A trying season for the seven-time champion takes yet another turn. He hasn't finished higher than 14th in any of his four starts this season, although there isn't a ton of concern with crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team just yet. They know one race win could turn things right around. The turnaround could come at Auto Club, a track he has dominated over the years. As such, he is a nice betting and fantasy value. He has made 23 starts at California, winning six times, which is twice as many as any other active driver. He has a 7.1 AFP with 13 finishes inside the Top 5, no DNFs and a whopping 980 laps led. Across the past five runs at Auto Club he ranks fifth in Driver Rating (101.4), posting 77 fastest laps, tied for second during the stretch. Johnson will go off 33rd and it's almost a guarantee for DFS players that he will finish with plenty of positive Place Differential points.
Johnson's teammate, Chase Elliott (12/1) doesn't have a lengthy history in California, but his two MENCS starts at Auto Club have been outstanding. He has finished sixth and 10th in his two starts, leading five total laps while turning in an 8.0 AFP. Loop Data shows him second among with a 109.0 Driver Rating, running 96.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Elliott is set to start 31st on Sunday. Another young gun, California native Kyle Larson (4/1) was on the pole last season at Auto Club, and he ended up picking up the victory after leading 110 of his 202 laps. He has four career Cup starts at Fontana, managing a 17.0 AFP. He'll go off third on Sunday afternoon.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (4/1) is among the favorites this weekend, and rightly so. Over the past five Auto Club races he tops the charts with a 116.5 Driver Rating while running 95.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has been out front of the pack for 137 laps, second-most among all drivers, while tying J.J. with 77 fastest laps during the five-year span. The Las Vegas native has fared well in SoCal, going for three wins across 19 career starts while managing an impressive 10.8 AFP. Rowdy will go off on the outside of Row 1 next to the pole sitter.
Busch's teammate Erik Jones (20/1) doesn't have nearly the same kind of history, making just one Cup run at the track, but he finished an impressive 12th last season in his Toyota, posting four fastest laps with 95.5 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Denny Hamlin (12/1) is also in the Top 10 in Driver Rating across the past five seasons at Auto Club, running 86.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Hamlin has struggled overall at Auto Club, however, finishing inside the Top 5 just twice in 16 career starts while posting just five Top 10s with an 18.3 AFP. For better and fantasy purposes he is a risky play. Jones will start fourth, while Hamlin will go off from the 25th position. The No. 11 could be in line for plenty of Place Differential points on Sunday. Daniel Suarez (80/1) has just one MENCS starts under his belt at Auto Club, running seventh last season after starting 10th. He'll start 30th so he could matriculate up through the field rather nicely.
For the second consecutive weekend Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (4/1) is on the pole, turning in an impressive final round speed of 186.567 mph on Friday. It will be MTJ's 17th career pole, and his first ever at Fontana. The track hasn't been terribly kind to him over the years, as he has just one Top 5 and five Top 10s in 17 career starts with a very modest 19.2 AFP. He has been showing improvement at the track, however, checking in eighth among all drivers with a 93.5 Driver Rating over the past five years, leading 99 laps.
Penske Racing's Joey Logano (10/1) and Brad Keselowski (8/1) will be looking to continue Ford's dominance this season while giving team owner Roger Penske his first win of the season. Logano has been rather impressive over the past five seasons, although most people remember his dust-up wth the No. 11 in 2013 asthe highlight of the stretch. His aggressive driving and block angered former driver Tony Stewart in that '13 race, and then a wreck of Hamlin sent him into the barrier and into the hospital with a compression fracture in his lower back. Both Logano and Keselowski have turned in three straight Top 10s at the track, and could be forces to be reckoned with. Their teammate, Ryan Blaney (15/1), has had mixed results in his two Cup starts at the track. He has a ninth-place finish and a 35th with a DNF. He is set to start eighth this week.
SHR's Kurt Busch (33/1) is well done the odds list to win, and that might make him a really nice sleeper for bettors and fantasy players. He has finished ninth or higher in four of his past six races in Fontana. While he ranks outside the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five races, according to Loop Data, overall he has one win, seven Top 5s and 12 Top 10s in 24 career starts with a strong 12.8 AFP.
Austin Dillon (120/1) has finished in the Top 20 in three of his four career starts at California, rolling to a 15.5 AFP despite the fact he hasn't led a lap. His brother Ty Dillon (Field - 22/1) has only one MENCS start at the track, and he turned in an 18th-place finish last season after starting 21st. He is in line to start from the 17th spot as he looks to improve last season's run. Chris Buescher (Field - 22/1) was sharp in qualifying, and he could be one to watch closely. He will start 12th on Sunday. He has three career starts, but he has never finished higher than 20th, averaging a 26.0 AFP.
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