Betting news, trends, odds and predictions from various handicappers and websites for Friday 8/3/18
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Go Bowling at the Glen
August 1, 2018
By Micah Roberts
If you want the perfect microcosm of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season, just take a look at the past three races. Martin Truex Jr. won at Kentucky, Kevin Harvick won at New Hampshire and Kyle Busch won Sunday at Pocono. After 21 races completed, those three drivers have combined to win 16 races. The Big-3 are the big story of the season.
This week the series travels to Watkins Glen International for some road course racing, the second of three road course races this season. Truex won at Sonoma Raceway in June and the new twist this season is the Sept. 30 race at Charlotte where they'll incorporate the infield road course as well as the banking of the oval calling it a roval. The more road courses, the merrier. Let's put Road America on the schedule as well, or do a street circuit in some city -- downtown Las Vegas.
I'm a huge fan of the road courses and love seeing those big heavy cars make left and right turns. Formula-1 and IndyCar are fun to watch on the street circuits and road courses as well, but what I like more about NASCAR is the bumping and banging with no fear of harming the car. If a driver bumps another in F-1, his day is over. In NASCAR, it's just a dent in the fender.
Despite the road courses being somewhat of an equalizer, Truex has won the past two. He won this race last season and then Sonoma in June. He's got three road wins total, second-best among active drivers behind Kyle Busch who has four.
This is the new era of road racing in NASCAR with Jeff Gordon (record 9 road wins) and Tony Stewart (8 wins) retired. We also don't have Juan Pablo Montoya or Marcos Ambrose. It's all up for grabs now, but Truex has had an amazing set-up which is going to be hard to beat this week. However, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Kyle Busch listed as the 3-to-1 favorite. Truex and Harvick are each listed at 4-to-1.
Kyle Busch has two Watkins Glen wins, the last coming in 2013, and Harvick has a 2006 win there. But I'm already tired of talking about those three and the low odds reflecting their weekly dominance. Enough about them.
Here are a couple drivers we might be able to find decent odds on that should compete well and have a chance to win. Last season, Daniel Suarez (40/1) finished third at Watkins Glen and he's fresh off a runner-up at Pocono last week. He's on the upswing. He's carrying some momentum and confidence into this weekend.
Suarez's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin won at Watkins Glen in 2016 and was fourth last season. He's the only driver in the series to have four top-five finishes in the past five road course races. He sits 11th in the standings, but he absolutely hates not being automatically qualified for the Playoffs. All he has to do is win and he's in, just like Austin Dillon did way back in the Daytona 500, but the Big-3 is hogging all the wins. Dillon sits seventh in the standings with just 402 points, but he's got a win. Hamlin has 618 points.
This is Hamlin's shot and I'm rolling with him just because the 15-to-1 odds dared me to. He's my feature player this week.
Clint Bowyer has 10 top-five finishes in 25 road course starts, including a win at Sonoma in 2012. He was third at Sonoma in June, runner-up there in 2017 and fifth last year at Watkins Glen. That's a top-five finish in all three road course races since joining Stewart Haas Racing. And don't forget that Tony Stewart won in the SHR No. 14 at Sonoma in 2016. Bowyer has been very good on both tracks, but the only thing similar about each is making a few right turns.
“There is such a sensation of speed at Watkins Glen,” said Bowyer. “It is a wild racetrack and you have to be on your toes. If you slip up the least little bit, you are not only going to crash, you are going to crash hard. I think of it like this – Sonoma is like a short track and Watkins Glen is like a superfast, 1.5-mile track. That’s the speed difference.”
Bowyer expands more on the road course differences.
“You are way more at ease at Sonoma. It’s a finesse, rear-grip, take-care-of-your-tires type of track. I think it is a much more technical track. When you go to Watkins Glen, it’s a ton of fun but it’s a whole different beast. It’s wide open. It’s balls to the wall. You have to be extremely good on braking and have a fast racecar. Both of them are a ton of fun and so unique. That is the thing. We race and chase each other in circles non-stop. It is refreshing to have a break like this when we come to these road courses.”
Yes, the change of pace is also great for the fans and bettors. And I could certainly listen to Bowyer talk about racing all day long.
We don't see many ringers on the road courses anymore because most of the regular drivers have made themselves good at them, but we still have a few regulars on the circuit that are very accomplished beginning with A.J. Allmendinger who captured his only Cup win in 2014 at Watkins Glen.
"Every turn is important at Watkins Glen because there are so few compared to Sonoma, but you also need to have the aerodynamics for the straightaways," said Allmendinger who is 25-to-1 to win Sunday. "But overall, I have so much fun road course racing since it’s in my racing background and I’m just really looking forward to having a good weekend for our Kroger ClickList team and our Kroger racing partners coming out for the event.”
Usually, Allmendinger is 500-to-1 to win, but his amazing road skills immediately make up for the fact that his No. 47 JTG Daughtery Camaro is junk-slow. No, he's a contender. He hits his marks better than anyone making turns and shaves a few tenths of a second on each lap better than most of the elite team cars. He's started ninth or better in his last 10 road courses and has led laps in seven of his last nine road races.
He's also desperate this week which I like. This is his Playoffs. He's got to win this week if he has any hopes of making the Playoffs. It's a wild card. Five races to go and he sits in no man's land in 23rd. It's all or nothing for Allmendinger this week. Also, keep an eye on his teammate Chris Buescher (200/1) in the No. 37 who has great road skills himself. At Sonoma, he was ninth in each of the first two stages and finished 12th.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #11 Denny Hamlin (15/1)
2) #14 Clint Bowyer (8/1)
3) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (4/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (7/2)
5) #41 Kurt Busch (10/1)
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Best Bets - Watkins Glen
August 4, 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 returns to Watkins Glen International for the second of three Cup road course races this season. Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (3/1) enters as the favorite to pick up the win, as the driver of the No. 18 Toyota searches for his seventh MENCS victory of the season.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Busch has been the strongest driver at the past five Watkins Glen races. He has led 57 laps, second-best among active drivers, and his Driver Rating of 111.6 is tops among all drivers with at least two starts at the New York road course during the past five seasons. He has run 79.3 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 over the past five starts, and his numbers would be even better if not for a 40th-place finish back in the 2014 race. In that race his team had pit errors and then a rare crash which ended his day prematurely. In his nine other races at the track since Aug. 2008, he has been eighth or better in each outing.
His teammate Daniel Suarez (50/1) became the first Mexican-born driver in NASCAR history to sit on the pole in a MENCS race last weekend at Pocono, and he ended up posting his best-ever finish in a Cup car in second place behind Busch. Suarez could be a nice sleeper for bettors and DFS players, as he was third in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen last season. Teammate Denny Hamlin (14/1) is always a threat at The Glen, as he has a win, three Top 5s, six Top 10s and a strong 17.7 Average-Finish Position (AFP) in 12 career starts at the Finger Lakes road course. Erik Jones (75/1) also proved to be a quick study at The Glen in his initial Cup race last season, placing 10th. It could be another banner day for the JGR Toyota's. In fact, a Toyota has won three of the past five races at the track.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (4/1) is also in a 'Yota, and he is the defending champ. Don't sleep on him at the road course. He set a race record 104.132 mph average speed last season to pick up his first-career win at the track. He has been dominant over the years, racing to four Top 5s, seven Top 10s and an AFP of 12.1 in his 12 career runs at the track. He has also led the pack 30 times, and his worst finish is 28th. He has registered five Top 10 finishes over his past seven starts at The Glen, too, while posting a 105.0 Driver Rating across his past five runs. That ranks second only to Rowdy, as far as drivers with more than two starts during the span.
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (7/1) looks to crash the Toyota party and pick up a much-needed checkered flag. He has posted a 103.5 Driver Rating over his past five runs on this road course, leading a circuit-best 75 laps, including 41 fastest laps. He has never won at Watkins Glen in eight career tries, but he has five Top 10 finishes, while posting three consecutive runner-up results from 2011-13. His teammate, Joey Logano (8/1), struggled on road courses early in his career. However, he has picked up the pace and is a threat to win. That's exactly what he did in Aug. 2015 at The Glen, and he followed that with a runner-up showing in 2016. Last season he had to settle for a 24th-place showing, as crew chief Todd Gordon elected to pit the Ford Fusion No. 22 for four tires and fuel at Lap 75, betting on a late race caution to help vault his driver into a big finish. That never materlialized and he was stuck in the middle of the pack. Their late-race strategy will be interesting to watch this time around.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (15/4) has picked up six victories this season, so naturally he is always a threat to win. However, Watkins Glen hasn't been his most consistent track. He has managed just two Top 10 finishes over his past six stops at this road course, and he ranks outside the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five seasons at Watkins Glen. He has a win in 17 career starts at the New York road course back in Aug. 2006 in a crash-marred race which featured a record 10 cautions and a record-tying 14 lead changes. He has led 66 laps in his 17 starts, and his 13.5 AFP is third-best on the circuit among all drivers with at least 10 career starts.
Harvick's teammate Kurt Busch (10/1) looks for his first-career Watkins Glen checkered flag while he tries to improve his 16.7 AFP. He has made 17 starts, turning in just three Top 5s and eight Top 10s. He is a respectable sixth in Driver Rating (97.6) over the past five years at The Glen, so he makes sense for DFS players at the right price. Clint Bowyer (9/1) also has some short odds this week, as he looks for his third Cup win of the season. He has averaged a 9.7 AFP over the past three years at The Glen, and that was mostly in inferior equipment. In a SHR Chevrolet, he could be a threat. He has never won at this track, but he has a respectable 14.3 AFP with five Top 10s and nine Top 20 finishes in 12 career starts.
It's now or never for JTG Daugherty Racing's A.J. Allmendinger (20/1) as he tries to punch his ticket into the Chase with a victory. His only win in a Cup car came in the 2014 Watkins Glen race, and if he doesn't come up with a victory this weekend he is unlikely to race into the playoffs since he is currently 23rd in the standings and more than 100 points back of the cut-off to make it without a checkered flag to his credit. Allmendinger won the first stage at Sonoma, and he is considered one of the best road course racers on the circuit. However, he missed a shift and ended up dead-last after checking out in Lap 33 of that race. He'll get a lay of the land in Saturday's Zippo 200 on the Xfinity Series, looking to get a leg up on the Cup competition on Sunday.
The Hendrick Motorsports team shouldn't necessarily be discounted this week, but the favorite on the team might not be who you think. Jimmie Johnson (28/1) has never won at the track, and the seven-time series champ has just four Top 5s and eight Top 10s in 16 career starts with a rather pedestrian 16.3 AFP. He has had his difficulties this season in a transition year for Hendrick, as the team has several young drivers and the graying veteran behind the wheel. The best bet might be Chase Elliott (14/1), as he has a pair of 13th-place finishes in his two-career Cup finishes. Don't sleep on Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (28/1), either, as he has a 17.0 AFP in four career starts with a best of fourth-place in 2014.
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