Friday, October 11, 2013

Charlotte Practice Notes: Busch Brothers Top List

Old photo...don't think they like each other much, but they're fast
LAS VEGAS - It’s been a long time since the Busch brothers came 1-2 in our weekly ratings, but as a result of Kyle Busch finishing with the top speed (189.447 mph) during Friday’s early practice session and Kurt Busch being fastest (190.759) during happy hour, the two top our chart as the most ideally suited to win Saturday’s night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Of course there are so many other factors that go into rating each driver before a race, and a lot of it comes from what they have done lately on similar tracks, how they are running overall, and past history in general.

In Kyle Busch’s case, he’s got a big negative placed upon on him because of a 34th-place finish at Kansas last week. His problems started in practice where he wrecked, and they continued on race day while using a back-up car. This is the fork in the Chase crossroads for Busch. Kansas was his first race in the Chase that he didn’t finish in the top-5.

Now here comes to another 1.5-mile track at Charlotte, a place that drives much faster with higher banking than Kansas, and a place he’s won at 12 times over his career. However, all those wins came between the Nationwide and Truck series. He’s finished third or better six times in the Cup series at Charlotte, and maybe best of all added to his resume, is that he won on the Charlotte sister tracks this season at Texas and Atlanta, two tracks that resemble Charlotte the most.

Then when looking at what he did Friday during the final practices, it elevated him right to the top of the chart as the driver to beat. He’s got the wins on the season, and a shot at the title still (15/1 odds), and also has a very fast car for Saturday’s race. In addition to the top single lap of the early session, Kyle Busch also had the second best 10-consecutive lap average behind Jimmie Johnson.

With Kurt Busch, we’ve come to grips with the fact that he’s finally going to win a race sooner or later, and this week looks just as good as any for the 2010 Charlotte winner. If we look back at the last five 1.5-mile tracks run at, he has finished sixth or better in all of them, a streak that started with a third-place finish in the May Charlotte race. He also finished third on the wide open 2-mile layout at Michigan. His top speed is nothing new in practice, because he’s been doing it on almost all of the tracks he’s done well at, but elevating him higher this week is more about other top teams dropping a notch which increases his chances, or more specifically Matt Kenseth not looking so great.

Kenseth has won on four of the eight 1.5-mile tracks season, but none came on the high baked tracks at Charlotte, Atlanta or Texas. He was eighth in Saturday’s early practice, but followed it up with a 23rd during happy hour. Last week at Kansas, his type of track, he was sluggish and finished 11th which allowed Johnson to close the gap on the leader by just 3-points in the standings.

Johnson hasn’t won on any of the 1.5-mile tracks this season, but does have six Charlotte wins, not including his All-Star race non-points win in May. The good news for Johnson’s team is that they’re getting better on the these tracks, having finished fifth at Chicago and sixth at Kansas last week. They only have three top-5 finishes on these types all season. Johnson also practiced very well Friday using the same car he won with at Dover’s 1-mile high banked layout.

The driver the Busch brothers should fear the most this week as their biggest challenger looks to be Kevin Harvick who won the May Charlotte race. He finished the final practice session with the second fastest lap behind Kurt Busch, and in a rare move for back-to-back races, is using the same car he won with at Kansas last week.

Micah Roberts‘ Top-10 Driver Ratings 
Bank of America 500
Charlotte Motor Speedway 
Saturday, October 12, 2013 -  4:46 p.m. PT

Rating    Driver     Odds       Practice 1  Qualified   Practice 2  Practice 3  
 1. Kyle Busch 6/1                     2nd             9th              1st              5th 
12 wins in Nationwide and Trucks, none in Cup; won on sister tracks at Texas and Atlanta. 
 2. Kurt Busch 15/1                  18th           10th              2nd             1st  
2010 winner, third in May; finished sixth or better on past five 1.5-mile tracks this season.
 3. Kevin Harvick 10/1               3rd             2nd             12th             2nd 
Two-time winner, including May race; using winning chassis from Kansas (1.5mi) last week.
 4. Jimmie Johnson 5/1            17th            4th              10th             8th  
Six-time winner; best 10-consective lap average in practice 2; using winning Dover chassis.
 5. Jeff Gordon 10/1                  4th             1st               3rd             10th 
Five-time winner, the last in 2007; finished sixth or better in past three 1.5-mile races.
 6. Matt Kenseth 4/1                  8th            20th              8th             23rd 
Two-time winner, including first win of career; won four of eight races on 1.5-mile tracks.  
 7. Kasey Kahne 7/1                  1st             5th              14th            13th   
Four-time winner, the last in 2012; runner-up in May race; using winning Pocono chassis.
 8. Brad Keselowski 18/1         10th           23rd               4th              3rd  
Fifth-place in 2012; showed lots of speed in final practices; using 12th-place Michigan car.
 9. Joey Logano 10/1                 5th           12th              11th             9th 
Third in 2011, and fifth in May race; best average finish (9.6) among all active drivers.  
10. Clint Bowyer 18/1               13th           14th              16th             4th  
Won this race last season, 15.8 average over 15 career starts; found speed in happy hour. 

Note: Eight races held on 1.5-mile tracks this season; a Joe Gibbs driver has won six of them. 

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 on the race, go to The Linemakers on or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7. 

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