Saturday, July 23, 2016

Final 2016 Brickyard 400 Driver Ratings following all practices and qualifying

Kyle Busch is the driver to beat in Sunday's Brickyard 400.
LAS VEGAS -- During Friday's first 85-minute practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday's 23rd running of the Brickyard 400, the guys in bow-ties laid down seven of the fastest nine laps with four-time Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson being almost 4 mph faster (184.185 mph) than the third fastest.

It was a different story during Friday's final session as last years winner Kyle Busch Toyota paced the way with the top speed of the day (184.619). However, nine of the next 12 fastest speeds were Chevrolet.

Denny Hamlin's Toyota got set-up for race simulations and ran a session high 57 laps. He only had the 17th fastest lap going against teams who were also working on faster qualifying set-ups, but he ended up with the best 10-consecutive lap average.

Toyota flexed its muscles during Saturday's qualifying with Kyle Busch winning the pole (184.634) followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards second and Hamlin fourth. Toyota might have a slight edge in overall speed, but Chevrolet has them beat in numbers simply by having more more quality cars on the track this week.

Indiana native Tony Stewart (25/1) qualified third in his 18th and final start at his home track. The two-time Brickyard winner practiced well on Friday and has a little more zip in his step since winning at Sonoma in late June. Gordon (20/1) has five wins, including the inaugural race in 1994, and is the only driver to start all 23 events. He's come out of retirement to drive Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s (concussion) Chevrolet which he's part owner of. He qualified 21st and practiced so-so. Either one of these NASCAR legends winning would be the NASCAR story of the year.

Larson at 18-to-1 odds is down from his usual 30-to-1 because of a strong two day Indy test last week. In addition to the fast testing, where it was reported he had the un-official fastest lap on the first day, he's also averaged an eighth-place finish in two Indy starts. He had the third fastest lap in final practice and starts 10th. Hamlin probably offers the best value among all drivers at 18-to-1. He loves flat tracks and was fifth last year and third in 2014. With a win he'd be the third driver to capture the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season.

Micah Roberts' Sprint Cup Driver Ratings
Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 24, 2016 - 12:20 pm PT

RATING  DRIVER    ODDS         PRACTICE 1          PRACTICE 2         QUALIFIED         POCONO* 
 1. Kyle Busch 6/1                  12th                  1st                 1st            31st
2016 winner, 9.7 average in 11 starts; second fastest 10-consecutive lap average in practice 2.
 2. Jimmie Johnson 8/1             1st                  7th                13th            35th   
Four-time winner, the last in 2012; fastest on second of two day test session at Indy last week.    
 3. Kevin Harvick 6/1                 4th                  2nd                 7th             9th
2003 winner from the pole. Using 2014 chassis that had win and three runner-ups in five starts.
 4. Denny Hamlin 18/1              2nd                 17th                 4th           14th 
Career-best third twice, fifth last year; fastest 10-consecutive lap average during practice 2.
 5. Carl Edwards 8/1                  6th                  5th                 2nd            8th 
2008 runner-up; his race trim practice runs had several in garages saying he's the driver to beat.
 6. Brad Keselowski 8/1           14th                 18th                 5th            3rd
Career-best ninth twice, 10th last year. Best chance Ford has to win Indy for first time since 1999.
 7. Chase Elliott 15/1                 7th                 12th                15th            4th
Finished 18th in track debut last year; struggling in last four, but led race-high 51 laps at Pocono.
 8. Martin Truex Jr. 7/1             10th                   8th                 8th           19th
Career-best fourth last year; comes big in big races: second in Daytona 500, won Coca-Cola 600.
 9. Kyle Larson 18/1                 17th                   3rd                10th          11th
Seventh as a rookie in 2014 and ninth last year; fastest lap in first of two day Indy test last week.
10. Matt Kenseth 10/1              13th                 30th                18th           7th
Two-time runner-up with 13.9 average finish in 16 starts -- seventh or better in past three starts.

* Results from the June 6, 2016 race at Pocono Raceway's 2.5-mile triangular layout, which runs most similar to Indy's flat 2.5-mile oval. Both have the longest straightaways in the series.

Odds courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1994. Follow on Twitter @MicahRoberts7

Brickyard Betting Notes following qualifying - Las Vegas Review-Journal

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