Friday, August 24, 2012

Final 2012 Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Driver Ratings

Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
Irwin Tools Night Race
Bristol Motor Speedway
Saturday, August 25, 2012 -  4:46 p.m. (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds         Practice 1    Practice 2     Qualified*   Bristol**

 1. Kyle Busch 9/2                      10th             5th               10th          32nd 
Five-time winner, including four of the past seven; outstanding during Friday practices.
 2. Brad Keselowski 7/1              2nd             2nd                2nd           1st 
Won past two starts; looking to become fifth driver with three straight Bristol wins.
 3. Matt Kenseth 10/1                17th              4th               17th           2nd 
Two-time winner with 11.6 average finish in 25 starts; using New Hampshire chassis.
 4. Kevin Harvick 20/1                13th            40th               13th         11th 
2005 winner; should thrive on new/old layout; using runner-up chassis from Phoenix and Dover.
 5. Denny Hamlin 12/1                 8th              6th                 8th          20th 
2009 runner-up with 15.8 average finish in 13 starts; good average speeds during practices.
 6. Greg Biffle 12/1                      3rd               9th                 3rd          13th 
11.8 average finish, best among all drivers never to win at Bristol; using Dover chassis.
 7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10/1         16th            20th               16th         15th 
2004 winner with six other top-5 finishes; using a brand new chassis this week.
 8. Kasey Kahne 12/1                 12th            10th                12th        37th 
2007 runner-up; using chassis this week that averaged 9.7 finish in three 2012 races.
 9. Tony Stewart 12/1                 21st            26th                21st        14th 
2001 winner; struggled in practice, but track is ideal for his style; using third-place Darlington car.
10. Martin Truex Jr. 25/1            15th            18th               15th         3rd 
Finished third and runner-up in last two starts; average speeds indicated being good on long runs.

* Qualifying rained out. Starting lineup set by order of finish in the first practice session.

*Results from the March 18, 2012 race held at Bristol. Following that race, a milling process was done on the surface to eliminate the progressive banking in the upper groove of the turns. The track should now run closer to Bristol pre-2007.

Odds courtesy of the LVH Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7. 

Betting Notes
When it came time to look at this race earlier in the week, I was already pretty set in the notion that trying to search deeper than Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch was a futile task. And why not? The two had combined to win six of the past seven Bristol races.

Tri-cities kid telling the world what's up (Getty) 
As we’ve seen over the years at Bristol -- the old and new layout, drivers win at Bristol in bunches. David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace kind of taught me early on that drivers become addicted to Bristol. They become greedy and they don‘t like to share any of the territory that has become theirs.

It hasn’t seemed to matter what era or layout the track had, a certain type of personality was usually in line to win at Bristol. And I don’t think that has changed here as we get our first look at the new Bristol surface without the progressive banking. Things should be tighter and tougher at Bristol than the drivers have been used to since the fall of 2007 and it will take a tough driver to win. And now I’ve come back full circle to two of the toughest, hardest running drivers on tour, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

The two practice sessions didn’t deter my thinking, either. Both were good and happy with their cars. However, one driver did pique my interest, and that was Kevin Harvick. Not in the sense that I’ll be throwing all my marbles on him this week, but more in the sense that if this were a horse race, I’d be playing the No. 29 on top, along with the No. 2 and No. 18 in all exotic combinations. You know, just to be safe, because if that trifecta hits with him on top, it’s going to be a bomb.

For those who play the horses, you know what I mean when dealing with two horses that are far and away the class of the field, but you have that ‘just maybe‘ sense on another entry.

Kevin Harvick has kind of been quiet, on and off the track. The combination of fatherhood and not having a car capable of winning has kept his name out of the media lately. But when I saw all the RCR cars rolling out strong during the first session, I couldn’t help back to remember a time when Harvick was one of the drivers I always keyed on at Bristol. I finally won a race with him in 2005, but also had so many near wins along the way, losing what seemed like sure wins that Elliott Sadler and Kurt Busch took away. In Busch’s case, it was multiple times that Harvick finished behind him.

Of all the drivers I’m not taking to win, but should present the best value in matchups, Clint Bowyer looks like a driver that should be able to run in the top-5 near the end of the race.

Good Luck and enjoy your night of racing on the new and improved Bristol Motor Speedway. We’ll see if the racing really is ’Racing the way it oughta be’.      

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