Saturday, April 23, 2016

Final Richmond Driver Ratings following all practice sessions

Kevin Harvick starts from the pole Sunday at Richmond....good to see the Busch brand kicking it in NASCAR again.
Micah Roberts' Top-10 Rated NASCAR Drivers
Toyota Owners 400
Richmond International Raceway
Sunday, April 24, 2016 - 10:16 am (PT)
Rating     Driver       Odds     Practice 1   Practice 2  Phoenix '16* Richmond '15**
 1. Kevin Harvick 6/1                    1st               4th                1st                      14th
Three-time winner in 30 starts witha 10.8 average finish; using sixth-place Atlanta chassis. 
 2. Kyle Busch 9/2                         9th               3rd                4th                       2nd
Series-best four-time winner; 14 top-five finishes in 21 starts for 7.1 average finish. Wow! 
 3. Denny Hamlin 6/1                  5th             11th                3rd                       6th
Native Virginian, two-time winner and series leading 1,404 laps led in 19 starts. Home track. 
 4. Jimmie Johnson 7/1              3rd               1st               11th                       9th 
Three-time winner, the last in 2009. Best 10-consecutive lap average speeds in final practice. 
 5. Carl Edwards 8/1                     4th               5th                2nd                     11th
2013 winner with 14th-place average finish in 23 starts; lost by just 0.01 seconds at Phoenix.
 6. Matt Kenseth 8/1                  13th              6th                7th                        1st
Two-time winner, including last fall leading 352 of 400 laps. Team struggling, but he's fast.
 7. Martin Truex Jr. 25/1           22nd              7th              14th                     32nd
One top-five (2008) in 20 starts, but had best 30-consecutive lap average in final practice.
 8. Joey Logano 7/1                      2nd             10th             18th                       3rd
2014 winner with 13.7 average finish in 14 starts; sixth or better in past four starts 
 9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 20/1        17th            16th               5th                        5th
Three-time winner with 13.2 average finish; finished second in past two races on schedule.
10. Kurt Busch 18/1                       7th             12th              6th                       15th
Two-time winner, including last spring -- led 291 laps. Using sixth-place Phoenix chassis.
Note: Rain washed away qualifying so starting lineup set by Practice 1 speeds.

* Results from March 13, 2016 Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, a flat 1-mile layout that runs similar to Richmond.

** Results from September 12, 2105 Richmond race, the last Cup race run on the 3/4-mile track.

Odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

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

LAS VEGAS -- The first thing you want to do when handicapping Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway is to look at results from the Phoenix race six weeks ago. The next thing to break down is what happened in Friday and Saturday's practices. In both cases, three-time Richmond winner Kevin Harvick at 6-to-1 odds odds to win stands out as the driver to beat.

Jimmie Johnson (8/1) had the fastest lap (120.849 mph) during the final 80-minute practice session, as well as the best 10-consecutive lap average, but Harvick still gets the edge mostly due to winning at Phoenix at March. Harvick, who will be using his sixth-place Atlanta chassis that led a race-high 131 laps, led 139 laps in the March 13 Phoenix race. He was also fastest (129.069) in Friday's practice (in qualifying trim) and had the second best 10-consecutive lap average in Saturday's lone practice.

Richmond is identified as a short track for its flat 3/4-mile layout, but it actually runs closer to what is witnessed on the flat one-mile tracks at Phoenix and New Hampshire. Over his career, Harvick has fared his best on these type of tracks. In 2006 he won five races on the season and four of them came in the six races on these tracks. The other two were top-five finishes. Yes, it's a long time ago, but it's the perfect example of a driver faring well on one and having it carry over to the other. Last spring, three of the top-five finishers at Phoenix finished in the top-five a few weeks later at Richmond.

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, winners of the past three races on the schedule, were all posted at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook at 8-to-1 or less with Kyle Busch as the 9-to-2 favorite, but they didn't do enough in either practice to suggest any one of the four cars are better than Harvick. Busch was third fastest (120.493) with the third best 10-consecutive lap average in the final practice, and he's won four times at Richmond, but Harvick still rates higher this week on the basis of Phoenix. Carl Edwards (8/1), who finished second at Phoenix, 0.01 seconds behind Harvick, had the fifth fastest lap during Saturday's practice.

Start Position Important
Harvick starts from the pole on the basis having the fastest lap during Friday's rain-shortened practice prior to qualifying being washed away. The pole-sitter has won 23 of the 119 races all-time at Richmond and 93 of the winners started in the top-10. The last three have been won from a top-three start position.

The Virginian
JGR driver Denny Hamlin (6/1) has two wins on his home track and has led a series high 1,404 laps. Not only does his affinity for the track make him a serious contender to win, but he's also got third-place at Phoenix last month to boost his resume. He's using the same chassis this week.

Best long shot
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20/1) won his third and final Richmond race way back in 2006, but his current form and a fifth-place finish at Phoenix suggest he's a live dog Sunday. He's yet to win through eight 2016 races, but he's finished second three times, including the past two (Texas, Bristol). His practices weren't great, but seeing Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne (30/1) and Johnson run strong is reason enough to believe Junior's car will be just as good on race day.

Tony Stewart's back
Last season Kyle Busch missed the first 11 races and ended up winning five races and eventually the Sprint Cup. Tony Stewart makes his first start of the season Sunday after missing the first eight due to a fractured vertebra and the three-time Richmond winner still hopes to qualify for the Chase like Busch did, but based on the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook's adjusted Richmond odds, they don't think highly of Stewart's chances. Prior to Tuesday's announcement that Stewart was returning, Brian Vickers was scheduled to drive Stewart's No. 14 and was set at 100-to-1 odds to win. Following the announcement, the Westgate took Vickers off the board and adjusted the Field wager from 500-to-1 down to 300-to-1, which is also-ran status never seen before from Stewart on a Las Vegas odds board.


J S Davis said...

I feel, and it is an element I use in handicapping each race, that practice speeds are extremely overrated as the difference between first and twentieth can be the twentieth place drive losing concentration for a half second and glancing to his right or left instead of total concentration. Of course you want to throw out drivers who cannot crack the top 25 in any of the practice sessions; but, I feel that a drivers historical performance (which is not average finish) at each particular track is a far better predictor of race performance than practice speeds and qualifying. Just my three cents.

Fireballr7 said...

It's a good 3 cents and valid point