Betting news, trends, odds and predictions from various handicappers and websites for Friday 6/8/18
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FireKeepers Casino 400
June 6, 2018
By Micah Roberts
There's not much a rivalry between the hammer and the nail, and Chevrolet has played the rare role of the nail through the first 14 NASCAR Cup Series races where Ford and Toyota have combined to win the past 13 races after Chevy's new Camaro grabbed the season-opening Daytona 500 victory, one of four restrictor-plate races a season where randomness and equality is the theme.
It's certainly been a struggle for Chevrolet so far this season and their issues will come to the forefront, even more, this weekend in the Motor City's backyard at Michigan International Speedway. Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 is basically the first half of the 2018 manufacturer's Super Bowl.
Michigan's wide 2-mile layout hosts two Cup races a season and all the executives from Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota use it as a way to gather, high-five each other and root for the home squad. Since 1969, Michigan has had two races a season won by eight different manufacturers. The scoreboard reads 34 wins by Ford, 23 wins by Chevrolet and 4 wins by Toyota.
This season, if using football terms for this battle, we would say that Chevrolet is getting blown out. Ford has sevens win so far led by Kevin Harvick's series-leading five wins and Toyota has six wins, four by Kyle Busch and two by Martin Truex Jr. There's a major disparity between those who can win and those who can't unless a driver gets rain or a crazy win by fuel mileage, or gets a random plate-race win like Austin Dillon in February. The new Camaro has been giving teams fits trying to find speed or at least all except one.
Kyle Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Camaro has been good enough to win and he's been riding the high-line around Michigan better than anyone the past two seasons winning the past three races there joining legends like David Pearson and Bill Elliott as the only drivers to do so. One more win Sunday and he'll tie Elliott who had sweeps in the 1985 and 86 seasons.
In this race last season, Larson finished just ahead of Chase Elliott. He led 96 of the 200 laps and rode his high-line around the track masterfully. He's found success up high better than most and his crew has found a nice balance set-up to take advantage of those certain set of skills Larson possesses.
In the fall race, Larson led just once in the race and it happened to be the final two laps in overtime after Truex appeared to have it won. Truex led three times for 57 laps, including lap 189 to 200. Michigan native Brad Keselowski had led five times for a race-high 105 laps, the last coming on lap 161. I'd like to think Keselowski can finally win on his home track, but they're a bit behind.
Michigan has lost of room for the drivers to maneuver and while it is a downforce track that requires lots of horsepower to win, it's unique from the 1.5-mile tracks and even unique from its sister track, Calfornia Speedway, which appears identical. By the way, Truex won at California, the fifth race of the season and Larson was runner-up after winning that race in 2016. Larson has five wins in his career and four of them have come between the two 2-mile tracks. It's quite odd, but's also the main reason why you as a bettor might consider betting someone else other than Harvick, Busch or Truex this week.
Larson grabbed his fifth top-five of the season last week at Pocono, a track that requires lots of horsepower, but perhaps his most dominant performance of the season happened four weeks ago at Kansas where he led a race-high 101 of the 267 laps before finishing fourth. Harvick would end up winning the race, but chasing down Larson was difficult on that particular day.
Harvick's only Michigan win came in 2014 in his first attempt there driving for Stewart Haas Racing. He's had 34 Cup starts there and has 10 top-fives finishes.
Truex has never won at Michigan in 24 starts, but he's been close and in a couple cases you could actually say he was robbed like last fall when leading before overtime.
"I felt we had the best car at the Michigan races last year but came away empty-handed in the win column,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota this weekend. “In fact if we circled races that we haven’t won at prior to the season Michigan would be high on the list. We really want this victory after what happened last year. It would also be nice to drive the blue car to Victory Lane since Auto-Owners Insurance is based in Lansing, Michigan.”
Truex combined to lead 119 laps between both races last season, finishing sixth in the spring race. He's posted at 5/1 odds to win by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and has the momentum from last week's Pocono win and his Fontana win should also be considered a huge component when handicapping the race.
Kyle Busch has just one 2011 win in 26 Michigan starts and has a very pedestrian 19th-place average, one of his worst tracks on the circuit. He's on a major slump there in his last nine starts with no top-fives which includes five finishes of 31st or worse. Despite the poor finishes, he really does like the track.
“Regardless of new pavement or not, it’s wide-open racing, and you can run from top to bottom more and more every race there as the groove widens out," said Busch. "The biggest thing used to be to find grip there. But, with the new surface, there is a ton of grip, now. Before, you had grip for maybe five laps and then you’d just be out to lunch. But now, the tire wear is all out the window and the racetrack is very fast. And the wide racetrack is good. That’s what makes Michigan so exciting and so fun. That’s the biggest deal about it.”
Busch finished third at Fontana in March leading six different times for 62 laps. This dude has already won on every track on the circuit, something no one else has ever done, and just for kicks and to keep things fun he's probably already set a goal to raise the bar higher and win at least twice on every track.
Chase Elliott is still looking for his first Cup win on any track, but Michigan has always been awesome for him, even as a kid spectator. In four Michigan Cup starts, he has 3.5 average finish thanks to three straight runner-ups to start his career there. but that Chevrolet model used then is gone. His new Camaro has been a non-factor all season. Since it's almost Fathers Day, we should mention again that Bill Elliott was a beast at Michigan. The father and son duo also shares a dubious NASCAR record with runner-ups before finally getting a Cup win.
“Dad ran second eight times and I am at eight currently," said Chase Elliott. "I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. It has definitely been an up-and-down road to get to this point. We’ve had a lot of great opportunities and you wish you could have some of them back, but you can’t, so you just move on down the road. We just try to learn from each situation as time goes and I’ve definitely chosen the hard road to a victory for sure. I feel like in some cases it makes you better at the end of the day. Whenever the time comes when we are back and on top, those harder times and tough losses will make you better when you are in position to capitalize on some really good things.”
Two-time Michigan winners Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have been very consistent and are getting close to the elite level, but are still behind.
“It’s obviously disappointing that our results from last weekend don’t show the performance that I know our team was capable of," Hamlin said regarding his wreck and 35th-place Pocono finish. "We’ve consistently been a top contender, we just have t to fine-tune a couple things for it to all come together. We still have time to get that win we want though and lock ourselves into the Playoffs, and we’re eager to get it done.”
Hamlin is in the same boat with several other drivers just on the edge of getting into that elite class. Logano at least has a plate-win this season that comes with the automatic playoff berth. Hamlin will certainly make the playoffs, but winning on a downforce track any time soon seems like a longer shot than the 15-to-1 odds to win offered at the Westgate. Smaller flat tracks, road courses or Daytona in July appear to be his best shot to win.
Despite driving a Camaro, Larson has the best chance to beat Harvick, Busch, and Truex this week.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #42 Kyle Larson (6/1)
2) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (5/1)
3) #4 Kevin Harvick (3/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (9/2)
5) #11 Denny Hamlin (15/1)
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Best Bets - Michigan
June 9, 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 rolls into the Michigan International Speedway for Firekeepers Casino 400, the first of two races scheduled for the Irish Hills this season. They'll also be back at the track for the Consumers Energy 400 on Aug. 12. This weekend's race goes off at 2:00 p.m. ET on FOX.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (5/2) is listed as the favorite for this weekend's race in Michigan, and he checks in fifth in Driver Rating over the past five starts at the track with a mark of 107.0, according to NASCAR's Loop Data. He hasn't won at the track since the Carfax 400 back in Aug. 2010, but he has come awfully close to checkers in recent seasons. Harvick was the runner-up in the Irish Hills in four consecutive races from June 2013 to Aug. 2014, and he has seven Top 5 shows over his past 10 starts at the track. He has made 34 starts in Michigan with a win, 10 Top 5s, 15 Top 10s and 323 laps led while posting an impressive 12.7 Average-Finish Position (AFP). He will go off fourth in Sunday's race.
Kyle Larson (11/2) will be gunning for his fourth consecutive checkered flag at the track. For whatever reason he has owned this track, as he and his team have dominated the fuel mileage game. He has made eight starts at the track, posting the three wins, four Top 5s and five Top 10s with 149 laps led and a 10.9 AFP. With three straight wins it's no surprise that he shows first in Driver Rating (115.3) across the past five starts. As such he will be a very popular betting selection, although the streak has to come to an end sooner or later. As far as DFS is concerned, the No. 42 will also appear on plenty of rosters. He will start from the 26th position and is likely to scoot up through the pack rapidly, earning plenty of Place Differential points. Teammate Jamie McMurray (100/1) is considered a longshot, although he enters the weekend with four consecutive Top 10 showings at the track. Jamie Mac has 30 career starts at MIS with nine Top 10s and 21 Top 20s, posting a respectable 17.1 AFP. While he isn't a great option for bettors, McMurray is decent as a DFS play for your No. 5 or 6 spot.
Hendrick Motorsport's Chase Elliott (20/1) is a young gun who has been a little off this season. A run at Michigan could be just want he needs to snap him into form and get him going. He has been rather erratic lately, finishing 17th or worse in three of the past four outings. However, he has made four starts at Michigan with three runner-up finishes and all four of his starts resulting in a Top 10 showing. He has posted a 113.9 Driver Rating during the span, running an amazing 96.0 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 to lead all drivers over the past five runs. He has an AFP of 6.3, which is also better than any other driver across the past five starts.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (4/1) picked up a victory at Pocono, and the 2017 MENCS champ is looking to continue his solid racing in Michigan. He checks in third in Driver Rating (109.6) across the past five starts at MIS, posting 136 laps led while logging an 8.6 AFP during the stretch. He has had spotty success at Michigan in his 24 career starts, rattling off Top 5 finishes in six of his races at the track while posting just one DNF. He has managed a 15.4 AFP in 24 career starts with just 207 laps led. That might not instill a lot of confidence in MTJ this weekend, but he was second and sixth in his two starts at Michigan last season.
Matt Kenseth (Field - 25/1) will be back in a Cup car this weekend, making his fourth appearance in the No. 6 ride for Roush-Fenway Racing. He will hop behind the wheel in place of Trevor Bayne this weekend, as well as again at Darlington on Sept. 2. His results to date have been middling, but he could make some noise at the track he has had plenty of success in the past. Kenseth has rattled off eight Top 20 showings over his past 10 starts, and he has three wins in 37 career starts at the track. His last win came as recently as Aug. 2015 in Michigan, but he is a longshot this weekend for bettors. DFS owners might like to roll the dice on him given his respectable 10.8 career AFP in the Irish Hills.
The stable of cars at Joe Gibbs Racing will also be very popular picks. Erik Jones (22/1) was 13th in his first Cup race last season, and third last summer. It would be wise to have plenty of exposure to Jones in cash games based on his 8.0 AFP last season. Teammate Denny Hamlin (16/1) hasn't been able to break through for a victory in Michigan, but has come close. He kicked off his season with a third-place run in Daytona, and eight Top 10s so far. That includes a fourth-place showing in last season's spring race in the Irish Hills. In 24 career races at the track he has two wins, 11 Top 0s and a strong 14.8 AFP with 174 laps led.
As far as championship contender Kyle Busch (7/2), this hasn't been one of his best tracks. He has made 26 career starts with just one victory, only four Top 5s, eight Top 10s and a dismal 19.5 AFP. He has also conked out for three DNFs, although he did post a solid 8.5 AFP in two starts at the track last season. His brother, SHR's Kurt Busch (28/1) will be on the pole this weekend, but he has been erratic over the years at the track, too. The elder Busch does have three checkered flags at Michigan, but he has also eight DNFs at the track to lead all active drivers. He has been feast or famine in Michigan over the years, although he has leveled out with an 11.3 AFP over his past four starts.
Michigan native Brad Keselowski (12/1) is one to watch for Penske Racing this weekend, as the Rochester Hills resident tries to steer Ford back to Victory Lane. He has never won at his home track in 17 starts, but he has rattled off five Top 5s and eight Top 10s with an AFP of 12.8. Teammate Joey Logano (14/1) has broken through for two wins for the manufacturer, and he has 12 Top 10s in his 18 career starts. He was third in the spring race last June, but he limped home with a 28th-place showing in the summer to snap a nine-start streak of 10th or better at the track.
Lastly, if you were expecting Michigan to be the track where Jimmie Johnson (40/1) finally gets on track you might be wasting your money. He has made 32 career starts the track, winning the Quicken Loans 400 in June 2014, but he also has a very ordinary 16.3 AFP with three DNFs and 19 runs outside of the Top 10.
Aric Almirola (40/1) had a strong run at Pocono and looks to carry the momentum over to this weekend's race. Unfortunately for Almirola, he has 11 career starts and a dismal 20.2 AFP at MIS, and his best career finish is 12th. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (100/1) is also a risky play based on his Michigan history. He has 10 starts under his belt, but just one Top 10 and a 21.0 AFP.
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