Saturday, March 5, 2016

Final 2016 Las Vegas Driver Ratings Following all Practice & Qualifying Sessions

Jimmie Johnson looks like the driver to beat Sunday.
LAS VEGAS -- Joe Gibbs Racing came up strong during Saturday's final practices at a windy Las Vegas Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday's Kobalt 400. Two-time LVMS winner Carl Edwards led the early session with a lap at 191.564 mph and was second-fastest in the afternoon session behind teammate Matt Kenseth (189.460), who has three LVMS wins.

While JGR made an impressive showing with single lap speeds, it was four-time LVMS winner Jimmie Johnson looking the strongest on the long runs with the fastest 10-consecutive lap average during the early session, as well as Thursday's test session. Right behind Johnson with the best run over longer stretches was Austin Dillon who had the best 10-consecutive lap average during the final practice.

Winds are expected to be in the 32 mph range Sunday which could have an effect on all the speeds witnessed during the past three days of testing practices and qualifying. Thursday and Friday were sunny and beautiful with no wind. Saturday was cool with 20 mph winds and Sunday will be similar.

There are still legitimately only 12 drivers that can win, and you could make a case for Dillon being inserted to that group. Dillon's 60-to-1 opening odds should be long gone by the time wagering re-opens after practice, but he's worth shopping around in driver match-ups and UNDER 14.5 finish position.

Micah Roberts' Top-10 Rated NASCAR Drivers
Kobalt 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 6, 2016 - 12:46 pm (PT)
Rating     Driver       Odds     Practice 1   Qualified  Practice 2   Practice 3
 1. Jimmie Johnson 6/1                8th              11th            13th              6th
Four-time winner; best 10-consecutive lap average in Thursday test and Saturday's practice 2.
 2. Kevin Harvick 5/1                    7th                6th            22nd            22nd 
2015 winner -- using same chassis this week; led 1,730 laps on past 25 intermediate tracks.
 3. Matt Kenseth 8/1                    11th               3rd            11th                1st
Three-time winner -- LVMS-best 11.4 average. His car liked the windy conditions during final practice.
 4. Kurt Busch 12/1                       3rd                1st             10th                3rd
Career-best third in 2005, but no top-fives since; using brand new chassis this week.
 5. Carl Edwards 10/1                 14th              24th             1st                 2nd
Two-time winner (2008, 2011), 12.2 average; using back-up car -- it was faster than primary.
 6. Brad Keselowski 10/1              1st                 4th              5th             15th
2014 winner, seventh or better in past three starts; ninth or better in past 12 races on 1.5s.
 7. Joey Logano 8/1                       2nd               2nd            30th             17th  
Career-best fourth in 2014, 12th-place average; 14 top-fives in past 25 on intermediate tracks.
 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12/1         15th             20th            26th               7th
Three-time runner-up -- 14.2 average; runner-up last week at Atlanta -- strong on long runs.
 9. Denny Hamlin 12/1                13th               9th            16th                 9th 
Career-best third in 2007, fifth last year; third in both 2015 low downforce races last season.
10. Kyle Busch 6/1                      25th              23rd           27th                14th
2009 winner from the pole; sluggish in practice, but he should be passing lots of cars to front.  

Note: In addition to practices Friday and Saturday, there was also five-hours of testing on Thursday for every team to tinker with the low downforce package. Sunday's race will be the second of 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

Odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former Las Vegas sports book director, has been setting NASCAR odds since 1994. Follow him on twitter @MicahRoberts7

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