Thursday, February 4, 2010

Budweiser Shootout Final Practice Driver Rating

by Micah Roberts

Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona signals a shift in seasons throughout the sporting world. It’s a sign that football is one game away from beginning a long hibernation and pitchers and catchers will be soon reporting for spring training.

The Shootout is a non-points 75-lap race and gives fans a thrill as an appetizer for next Sunday’s Daytona 500. Everyone will get to see right away how some of NASCAR’s new, more loosely interpreted, rules will unfold before the season opener.

The race involves the best of the best in NASCAR taking the 12 Chase drivers from last season, past Cup Champions, past Bud Shootout winners, past Daytona 500 winners, past Daytona Coke Zero 400 winners, and the rookie of the year winner from the previous season.

Because NASCAR cut back costs to help the smaller teams, there was no pre-season practice at Daytona or Las Vegas for the second consecutive year.

Thursday’s Budweiser Shootout practice at Daytona was the first time we were all able to see how some of those changes would affect the racing and right away we got a quick answer in the first of two practice sessions. Two of the NASCAR changes were tested immediately.

The first dealt with bump-drafting and NASCAR allowing more of it in the plate races. Late in the session, Joey Logano bump drafted Denny Hamlin into the rear of Martin’s car wrecking a total of six cars. Hamlin, Martin, and Jamie McMurray will all be forced to use back-up cars in the race.

The next change tested was NASCAR’s new policy in their tolerance of drivers showing more personality and emotion on the track with less repercussions. Both Hamlin and Martin agreed that it was just one of those racing things negating a situation that usually is a recipe for some finger pointing, new policy or not.

In the second session, one of the few jalopies on the race track, driven by John Andretti, slowed causing Juan Pablo Montoya to got into the back of Kurt Busch in a chain reaction that led to Busch crashing into the wall. Busch will go to a back up for Saturday’s race.

The fastest in the first practice session was Jeff Burton who ran 19 laps with the quickest coming in at 193.303 mph. Before McMurray wrecked, he had came in with the second fastest lap just ahead of the favorite to win the race, Kyle Busch.

In the final practice Kasey Kahne led the way with the fastest lap of 191.673 mph. He ran only two laps but seemed happy afterwards when he twittered, “Bud car is pretty fast! Feel pretty good.”

There is nothing better than knowing your driver likes his car when the practice results already said so. What’s even better is when your driver is faster and you find 20 to 1 to win the race like Kahne’s odds were in Las Vegas sports books prior to the practice sessions.

Following Kahne was Ken Schrader with the second fastest lap. Schrader is using his past Bud Shootout wins from 1989 and 1990 to qualify in the race using Scott Speed’s car.

Rounding out the top three in times for the final session was last years Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth.

The best current driver in this short Saturday special race format has been Tony Stewart. Over the last nine years Stewart has won three times and has an average finish of 4.1 over the same span. In the last four seasons, Stewart’s worst finish has been third place which is why he is just a notch below Kyle Busch as the pre-practice favorite to win at 7 to 1.

Kyle Busch has had best overall restrictor plate car over the last two seasons while driving a Joe Gibbs Toyota which has made him the 6 to 1 favorite. Even though Busch’s best finish has only been seventh in his three previous starts, he still has two plate win in the last two years overall and likely should have had at least two more.

Where a drivers starts means very little in Saturday’s race, as is the case with all restrictor plate races. Last season was the perfect example. Only 28 cars started the Budwesier Shootout and the eventual winner, Kevin Harvick, started in the last row out of the No. 28 position. This race is wide open with several candidates to win.

Busch Like Saints in Super Bowl
Since Kyle Busch is from Las Vegas, the sports betting capital of the world, and he is the favorite to win Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout and next weeks Daytona 500, his thoughts on the Super Bowl merit some exposure.

“I think the Saints are going to beat the Colts. They both have really good offenses, and Peyton Manning is playing out of his mind right now, but I just think this is the Saints’ year. Their offense has really come together, and the defense is playing better than some had expected. As for a score, I say Saints 31, Colts 28 in a tight game.”

Pretty good analysis Kyle, but he may be in trouble with the score as he's in the same boat with me. I had almost the same score with the Saints winning 31-24.

What Goes Into The Final Driver Rating?
Each week I will provide an analysis of my top rated drivers to do well in the race based on the following criteria:
* Practice sessions leading up to the weekend’s Sprint Cup race
* Chassis information on what was brought to each track by each team; good or bad
* Driver tendencies at certain tracks
* Recent and past history for each driver at each track
* Decipher poor past results with what really happened, good car - bad luck?

These weekly ratings should help assist in final betting strategies with odds to win, driver match-ups, and prop plays, as well as help in NASCAR fantasy leagues.

Restrictor plate races are the most volatile and also the easiest to win at with not having the best car. The weekly drivers rating will hold the truest at all other tracks away from Daytona and Talladega.

Roberts Top-10 Post Practice Driver Rating
Budweiser Shootout
Daytona International Speedway
Saturday, February 6, 2010 5:10 pm (PT) TV:FOX

Rating - Driver - odds - notes
1. Tony Stewart 7/1: 3-time winner of event, 4.1 avg finish in last 9 starts
2. Kyle Busch 6/1: 2 plate race wins last 2 years with Gibbs, should have more
3. Jimmie Johnson 9/1: ‘05 winner of event, 2 plate wins, HBO should motivate him more
4. Jeff Burton 20/1: 1 plate win, Childress team much improved and should make chase
5. Denny Hamlin 12/1: won ‘06 event as rookie, Gibbs plate power, ACL injury shouldn't matter
6. Kasey Kahne 20/1: In Ford with Roush alliance. Roush 2 plate wins. Kahne fast in final practice
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr 10/1: 2-time winner of event, 2010 to be good year. Loves plate racing
8. Jamie McMurray 20/1: won fall Daytona race last year. Looked fast early on in car that wrecked
9. Kevin Harvick 13/1:  won event in ‘09, won Daytona 500 in ‘07. Childress cars going to be good
10. Mark Martin 10/1: won event in ‘99, 2 career plate wins at Dega
* Harvick was out with the flu - Clint Bowyer drove in 1st practice with Burton in 2nd practice


Gene Haddock said...

Great analysis, Fireball.

Kyle should stick to driving, as the Colts will roll on the Saints. 42-24 sounds about right.

The Saints needed overtime, at home, to barely beat the fumbling Vikings and a so-so Favre.

One word about the Colts...Manning! There is no defense for that guy.

Fireballr7 said...

you may be right Gene. If the best defense in the league, the Jets, couldn't rattle him, it's going to be tough for the Saints.

I have inside sources that tell me a cajun Voodoo witch-doctor has put a spell on Manning for this game. If you see Manning uncontrollably and unvoluntarily scratching or swatting at air, that means its working.

Should be a good game, but really looking forward to the race.