Friday, May 20, 2011

All-Star Race Preview: Look For Marcos Ambrose to Run Well

By Micah Roberts

No All-Star event matches NASCAR's
When the All-Star games come around for the major sports, most will agree that baseball is the best because there is no lack of defense with hitters and pitchers all playing to their normal abilities that got them there. The eventual winner of the game also has some added incentive because it gives home field edge to that leagues team in the World Series.

In Football, Basketball and Hockey All-Star games, they don’t even resemble any part of a real game because there is no defense and the players could care less about winning.

However, in NASCAR, their All-Star game is different from all the rest because the prize of winning means over $1 million in cash. The annual All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is in some ways more heightened and exciting than a normal race because of the money. Drivers get freakier and more daring because they aren’t points racing and don’t have any repercussions if wrecking their car. It’s a mad dash for the cash with everyone letting loose like no other time of the year.

The format is a little different from the regular season races in that the race doesn’t count in the standings. It’s by invitation with only the winners from 2010 and 2011 races or winners from past 10 All-Star races being invited. Three other drivers have a chance to make the field as well by finishing in the top-two of the qualifying Sprint Showdown race which is held just prior to the All-Star race. The final way to get in is by fan voting which will give us 21 drivers total, or about half the field we normally see for a regular race.

Just like the other All-Star events, all the stars will be present. Even Dale Earnhardt Jr., who hasn’t won a race since 2008 and had his eligibility of making the field no longer valid because he last won the All-Star race in 2000, will likely make the field because of fan voting.

Once the field is set, the race will be split up into four segments. The first segment is 50 laps with a mandatory green flag pit stop. The second segment is 20 laps with an optional pit stop followed by segment three which is 20 laps as well. After a 10-minute break where the teams can work on their cars, there’s the final 10 lap dash for the $1 million.

For betting purposes, we have the chance to bet two races in one night. The Sprint Showdown may be a little easier to handicap than the final race, but in each of them we can utilize some of the data from past races this season.

Charlotte is a high banked 1.5-mile fast track that is similar to two tracks that have already had races run at this season. Las Vegas and Texas are great barometers to use for this week because the teams who figured those tracks out then should be equally good here this week.

Marcos Ambrose was strong at Las Vegas and Texas
The driver who stands out the most is Carl Edwards who won at Las Vegas and finished third at Texas. However, the best Edwards has done in an All-Star race when he was equally good coming in was winning a segment in 2008.

Tony Stewart won this event in 2009 and should be considered one of the favorites based on his team’s runner-up Vegas finish that saw him dominate the race that day.

The wild card of the entire event is Marcos Ambrose who will have to race his way in by finishing first or second in the Sprint Showdown. Ambrose finished fourth in Las Vegas and then sixth at Texas. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him win both events. This may be the best value on the board for the entire day. The Las Vegas Hilton has posted him up at 15-to-1 to win the qualifying race.

After last weeks win, I’m going to go with Matt Kenseth to win his second All-Star race. He also won at Texas and finished 11th at Vegas this year. He should have varied odds around town ranging up to 12-to-1, so do some shopping.

Sprint Showdown Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #9 Marcos Ambrose (15/1)
2) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5/2)
3) #31 Jeff Burton (6/1)
4) #83 Brian Vickers (6/1)
5) #56 Martin Truex Jr. (6/1)

All-Star Race Top-5 Prediction:
1) #17 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
2) #99 Carl Edwards (7/1)
3) #14 Tony Stewart (12/1)
4) #9 Marcos Ambrose (18/1)
5) #29 Kevin Harvick (10/1)

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