Friday, May 4, 2012

NASCAR Betting: Analyzing The Aaron's 499 Driver Matchups

By Frederic Crespi

The folks at Don Best ( have already slotted this Sunday's driver vs. driver matchups and after two practice sessions earlier today, they have added another twelve to the already solid menu.  Basically, it makes a lot of sense as anyone who has followed NASCAR and any of the races at Talladega, knows that this race is completely WIDE OPEN so the more the merrier in my opinion.

With that said, let's take a look at what we can expect to see once the prices on these matchups come out sometime late Saturday afternoon.  I will quote my prices on these matchups based upon a 30 cent line (-150 favorite = +120 underdog). 

NOTE: We all know the drivers and teams that are the “favorites” to do well at Talladega, therefore there will not be much statistical information (avg. finish/driver rating, practice sessions and so on) in handicapping the prices on these matchups. 

Nothing but a jumbled mess at Talladega, but it's awesome! (Getty)
#29 Kevin Harvick vs. #88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: With his 2nd place finish at Daytona, it sure seems like this venue should finally end the 138 race winless streak and get the much anticipated 200th victory for Hendrick Motorsports.  Sorry, but RCR has been way too stout at ‘Dega recently and Harvick has been really solid staying out of trouble as well. “Happy Harvick” should roll out at -125. 

#88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. vs. #18 Kyle Busch: This matchup looks to be pretty even-up to me.  Kyle Busch and JGR have been sneaky good at plate races over the last few years but have yet to translate that into wins.  However, Dale and his team are obviously dialed in so far this year, and outside of Kyle’s win at Richmond last week, he has basically struggled.  Dale Jr. -135 in this one.

#18 Kyle Busch vs. #14 Tony Stewart: Stewart has always been an incredible plate race driver over his 13 year career and should be the favorite in this matchup.  Not by much of course, but “Smoke” at -125 here.

#14 Tony Stewart vs. #48 Jimmie Johnson: Talk about a tough one here as the Lowe’s Chevrolet is the defending winner of this race and has been more consistent than Stewart’s Chevy in terms of finishes at Talladega.  Based upon that, let’s go with Jimmie Johnson at a -125 favorite.

#48 Jimmie Johnson vs. #24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has been more consistent than Stewart over the years, but setting up these prices is largely based upon perception, and the perception is that Stewart has dominated at Daytona and can easily do so at Talladega. This should be a pk ‘em matchup, but Johnson at -130 is much more likely.

#24 Jeff Gordon vs. #99 Carl Edwards: Sure seems like Edwards is always near the front at the end at Talladega only to have craziness ensue. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Edwards join his teammates and pick up that seemingly elusive restrictor plate win. This is a dead even matchup in my opinion, but I like Edwards to break through on Sunday. Edwards -125 over Gordon in this matchup.

#99 Carl Edwards vs. #17 Matt Kenseth: Yet another very even matchup here, but let’s give the most recent plate race winner some props and install him as a -120 favorite in this one.  Biffle, Kenseth and Edwards will all be there at the end with that Ford horsepower. 

#17 Matt Kenseth vs. #2 Brad Keselowski: There is no denying that the Miller Lite Dodge has all the horsepower needed in order to finish well at Talladega. We all remember his unlikely victory in the James Finch owned No. 09 car in 2009, but this once again comes down to perception.  Kenseth’s Talladega results have been poor to say the least (one top 15 finish in the last 10 races), but we know better than that.  Matt Kenseth should be no lower than -140 in this matchup.

#2 Brad Keselowski vs. #5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne and his team have finally started to take fast race cars to solid finishes, coming into Talladega with three straight top 10’s.  This looks dead even to me with a slight lean to the Miller Lite Dodge based upon previous Talladega results.  Keselowski at -125 in this one.

#5 Kasey Kahne vs. #11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin is another one of those drivers that is primed and ready to bring home a restrictor plate win.  Much like teammates Busch and Logano, he has always been fast but has backed that horsepower up with solid finishes. Hamlin is the clear favorite in this matchup to the tune of -135.

#11 Denny Hamlin vs. #1 Jamie McMurray: This is a very interesting matchup here in my opinion. At first glance, you have to think it’s all about the Fed Ex Toyota but McMurray has always been pretty solid in plate races in his various rides. Still, Hamlin should come in around -145 in this matchup.

#1 Jamie McMurray vs. #16 Greg Biffle: When I first saw this matchup slotted, I immediately thought this was a mismatch, even at Talladega. The points leader has been good everywhere and had a great chance to pick up the hardware at Daytona.  He is just way too steady and dialed in so far this year, and while it can be dangerous to hang too big a price at this track, Biffle should be a favorite of at least -165.  Just can’t see anyone wanting to bet on McMurray here.

#16 Greg Biffle vs. #15 Clint Bowyer: No driver has dominated Talladega recently like Clint Bowyer, but that was with Richard Childress Racing. Michael Waltrip Racing is no slouch when it comes to their plate program, but you have to give RCR the upper hand.  You cannot discount Bowyer’s success recently, therefore Biffle shouldn’t be much higher than -140 in this matchup. 

#15 Clint Bowyer vs. #31 Jeff Burton: Boy does this matchup bring up some unpleasant memories, as I was sitting on 40-1 on Jeff Burton at Talladega last fall, and figuring on that last lap that there is NO WAY Richard Childress wants his 100th win coming from a driver that had already committed to another team the following year. Still can’t believe that happened.  Jeff Burton will once again be heard from this coming Sunday and should be the favorite in this matchup even though he won’t be.  Jeff Burton in the -125 range and if this comes the other way with Bowyer, this will be a matchup that I will be playing for sure.

#31 Jeff Burton vs. #51 Kurt Busch: As much as I like Burton’s chances for a very solid run and finish on Sunday, I also like the chances of Kurt Busch, as he has always been a very solid driver in restrictor plate races.  He is a solid mid-pack long shot (25-1 or better) for the win, but I still trust Burton and his RCR team a little more.  Jeff Burton at -130 in this one.

#51 Kurt Busch vs. #56 Martin Truex, Jr.: You can basically toss a coin in this matchup, but Truex, Jr. deserves to be the favorite based upon his momentum. The NAPA Toyota should be right around what Jeff Burton should be over Kurt Busch or maybe a touch higher due to his propensity to finish very well so far this year. Let’s go with Martin Truex, Jr. at -135 here.

#56 Martin Truex, Jr. vs. #39 Ryan Newman: Newman has really struggled finish wise the last few years at Talladega, but we all know his Stewart-Haas machine can easily find its way to the front.  With those glaring recent finishes and Truex, Jr. being a top 10 machine so far, this price has to come no lower than -145 on Truex.

#39 Ryan Newman vs. #22 A.J. Allmendinger: Call me crazy but I like the chances of A.J.’s Pennzoil Dodge this weekend.  He has stated that he plans to try and run up front for most of the day in the hopes of avoiding the inevitable mid-pack carnage. Newman should still be the favorite based upon his pedigree, but not my much more than -135.

#22 A.J. Allmendinger vs. #21 Trevor Bayne: Bayne never really had any chance to defend his Daytona 500 win this year as he was caught up in an early race wreck.  This Wood Brothers entry is still a part-time team but we know they love to shine at high horsepower tracks like Talladega.  Bayne will get some love for his Daytona win, but A.J. should be at least -130 in this matchup.

#21 Trevor Bayne vs. #42 Juan Pablo Montoya: With back to back third place finishes by Montoya at Talladega in 2010, we know he can negotiate the draft and put himself in a position to win. The only problem is that it’s few and far between and Montoya simply cannot be trusted with anyone’s hard earned money. I wouldn’t play this matchup unless any driver is +150 or more and we know that’s not going to happen.  Montoya should come -120 and no higher in this one.

#42 Juan Pablo Montoya vs. #27 Paul Menard: I make it no secret that I really like RCR at plate races, and Paul Menard is no exception.  This is another under the radar driver that has a solid shot at taking the checkers on Sunday, and with that said, Menard should be at least -150 over Montoya.

#27 Paul Menard vs. #9 Marcos Ambrose: Even with my man crush on Menard this Sunday, you cannot fall asleep on the Richard Petty Motorsports car of Ambrose.  He will be fast as he and teammate Aric Almirola will be tail to bumper all afternoon hunting the lead. I would favor Ambrose over Montoya, so Menard should be -140 in this matchup.

#9 Marcos Ambrose vs. #78 Regan Smith: We once again have a sneaky pick in the Furniture Row Chevy of Regan Smith, as he and his team usually find themselves running up front at the plate races.  I think name recognition will result in Ambrose coming out as the favorite, but I would actually lean to Smith in this one to the tune of -125.

#88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. vs. #2 Brad Keselowski: This matchup price will easily be over-priced by at least 20 cents in my opinion.  And for good reason as this is Dale Jr.’s house right? Uh, yeah…that was 10 years ago.  All kidding aside, we know this Hendrick Chevy will be very stout this Sunday, but anything higher than -160 would be a mistake in my opinion, even though I could easily see this price come out at -180.

#18 Kyle Busch vs. #48 Jimmie Johnson: I just prefer Johnson in this matchup and based upon the fact that Stewart should be favored over Busch and Johnson favored over Stewart, this number should easily be Johnson in the -135 range.

#29 Kevin Harvick vs. #18 Kyle Busch: I will very likely be in the minority with my opinion on this matchup as I most likely was with my price on Harvick over Dale Jr., but I just trust RCR and especially Harvick more than I do Kyle Busch.  Kevin Harvick at -140 in this battle.

#88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. vs. #14 Tony Stewart: This is as dead even a matchup as you can have, but based upon perception, Dale Jr. will come out as the favorite in this one.  Anything higher than -135 may be too much however.  These two drivers have always liked running with each other so it will be interesting to see if they hook up or hang with their teammates.

#99 Carl Edwards vs. #2 Brad Keselowski: With Kenseth being a very slight favorite over Edwards and Kenseth at least -140 over Keselowski, Edwards should roll out as a minimum of -135 in this matchup.

#15 Clint Bowyer vs. #56 Martin Truex, Jr.: Nice solid battle of teammates in this matchup.  A great 2012 season so far or a dominating Talladega recent resume? You can’t really go wrong with either driver in the -125 range, but let’s go with Truex based upon his momentum.

#31 Jeff Burton vs. #39 Ryan Newman: Once again, it’s the stout RCR plate program vs. an equally accomplished plate racer in Ryan Newman.  As stated, Burton should be there at the end so a -145 price should be justified.

#22 A.J. Allmendinger vs. #27 Paul Menard: And some more RCR love in this matchup.  Based upon previous prices involving these two drivers, Menard should come in around the -150 neighborhood. Hoping it comes lower though.

#51 Kurt Busch vs. #78 Regan Smith: This would actually be a solid matchup in most of the races that the Sprint Cup Series visits on a weekly basis. These are basically two single car teams and the rumor that Kurt Busch may join Front Row Motorsports as part of a two team operation in 2013 makes this even more interesting. Do not be surprised to see these two drivers very close to each other all race long.  Based on experience, Kurt Busch should be the favorite here, but not by much more than -140.

#42 Juan Pablo Montoya vs. #9 Marcos Ambrose: As mentioned previously, I just don’t trust Montoya to deliver on a weekly basis, and this Sunday is no exception. I prefer the tandem of Ambrose and Almirola way more than Montoya and McMurray; therefore Ambrose should be at least -130.

#29 Kevin Harvick vs. #14 Tony Stewart: Stewart has all kinds of 'Dega street cred but I still favor Harvick in this matchup. Much like many matchups that involve the elite drivers and programs, this matchup can’t be much more than Harvick -125.

#48 Jimmie Johnson vs. #99 Carl Edwards: See previous post on Harvick vs. Stewart.  Edwards is due at a plate race for sure, but Jimmie has the edge with the previous trophies.  The Lowe’s Chevy at -125 in this one.

#13 Casey Mears vs. #47 Bobby Labonte: Love this matchup! Would like to see a David Ragan vs. David Gilliland and a Michael Waltrip vs. Tony Raines matchup too!  Seriously, at Talladega, anything goes and anyone can get there.  What about Dave Blaney after his “almost” super improbable win at Daytona?  I digress, but in this battle, you have to go with the experience of Bobby Labonte in this matchup as I wouldn’t be surprised if this No. 47 car hunts the top 15.

Have a great and profitable race everyone!

Frederic Crespi has been in the Las Vegas sports book industry since 1994. His favorite sport to bet on is NASCAR and the prices listed above are his opinion on what the rotation matchup odds should be. His betting notes will be available weekly after the final practices.

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