Saturday, November 5, 2016

Final Texas Driver Ratings and Betting Notes: 2016 AAA Texas 500

Kevin Harvick had slow individual practice laps in Saturday Texas practices, but is fast on long runs.
Micah Roberts' Sprint Cup Driver Ratings
AAA Texas 500
Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, November 6, 2016 - 11:16 am PT

RATING  DRIVER    ODDS                    PRACTICE 1          QUALIFIED         PRACTICE 2        PRACTICE 3 
 1. Carl Edwards (12/1)               2nd                  9th                22nd                8th 
Three-time winner, including 2008 sweep; best 10-consecutive laps average in practice 2.
 2. Matt Kenseth (8/1)                  3rd                   7th                24th              19th 
Two-time winner with 9.5 average finish, 13 top-fives and 854 laps led in 27 career starts.
 3. Kevin Harvick (4/1)                 1st                   3rd                30th               28th 
Surprisingly, no wins in 27 starts. Desperate. Slow single lap times, but super fast on long runs.
 4. Kyle Busch (6/1)                    22nd                24th               23rd                 3rd
Two-time winner, including spring race; two wins and seven top-10s on nine 1.5-mile tracks.
 5. Martin Truex Jr. (4/1)            11th                 12th               19th                 2nd 
Led race-high 141 laps in spring; led series-high 817 laps between nine races on 1.5-mile tracks.
 6. Jimmie Johnson (4/1)             33rd                 19th               16th               15th 
Six-time winner (track record), including five of last eight; two 2016 wins on 1.5-mile tracks.
 7. Joey Logano (12/1)                 4th                   2nd                 9th                 4th
2013 winner, third in the spring -- part of a run with 5 top-five finishes in last seven starts.
 8. Brad Kesleowski (12/1)          24th                  4th                27th                 1st
Two-time runner-up, including last fall. Two 2016 wins on 1.5s (Las Vegas and Kentucky).
 9. Austin Dillon (100/1)              14th                  1st                25th                 11th
Career-best 11th-place last fall; second-best 10-consecutive lap average during practice 2.
10. Chase Elliott (12/1)                 6th                 11th                7th                  5th
Fifth-place in first Cup start during spring; second-best 10-consecutive lap average in practice 3.

Note: This will be the second race of the season at Texas and 10th of 11 on 1.5-mile tracks.

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

LAS VEGAS -- Carl Edwards is in a desperate situation heading into Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but he showed lots of speed in Saturday's final practices to suggest he could be on his way to his fourth career win on the 1.5-mile layout which would give him an automatic birth to the Championship Round.

Edwards is currently 32-points below the transfer position sitting dead last after one of three races in the Round of 8. It's either win Sunday, or next week at Phoenix, or else he'll have to go back to the drawing board for 2017. Being so desperate can also be a distraction, not only for the driver, but the entire pit crew. They all know their situation which amplifies the intensity for this race.

Edwards doesn't have a win during any of the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks this season, but in the last one at Kansas three weeks ago he was runner-up with 61 laps led. His edge this week starting from the ninth position comes from having a car that is fast on the long runs. During Saturday's early practice he had the best 10-consecutive lap average. He also has an edge just be being with Joe Gibbs Racing which has produced four winners on these type of tracks.

The best thing about a wager on Edwards at 12-to-1 odds is knowing he's got to scratch and claw for every position to try and win, and he won't care who he knocks out of the way in a quest to grab his first Sprint Cup title.

In 31 Texas races, 24 (77.4 percent) have been won from a top-10 start position with six winners starting on the front row. The third-place slot has been the most proficient start position, which is where Kevin Harvick starts this week. The deepest start position to win was 31st by Matt Kenseth in 2002. Harvick showed awful individual lap times during Saturday's practices, but after 15 laps he was faster than most. He's looking for his first career Texas win in 27 starts, one of only four tracks he's never won at.

The 24 degrees of banking of Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval make it most similar to sister track at Atlanta and Charlotte. Overall, there are 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks and Sunday's race will be the 10th with Homestead still to come in the Championship Round. If looking at the data from the entire season, the driver that stands out is Martin Truex Jr. with two wins (Charlotte and Kansas) and a series-leading 817 laps led. However, he hasn't led a lap in the last two attempts, nor did he finish in the top-10. The good news for Truex this week is that he had the best 10-consecutive lap average during the final practice session.

Jimmie Johnson clinched a birth into the Championship Round with his ninth career win at Martinsville last week, but what also makes him the Westgate SuperBook's 2-to-1 favorite to win his seventh career championship is what the team learned during a test session on Chicago's 1.5-mile layout just before the Chase started. Do well on the 1.5s, which five of the 10 Chase races are, and the championship is within reach.

Crew Chief Chad Knaus figured something out during the test and the No. 48 has been dominant on these tracks ever since. Johnson led the most laps at Chicago to kick off the Chase, led a race-high 155 laps at Charlotte with a win and finished fourth at Kansas three weeks ago.

Johnson will attempt to add to his Texas record six wins, but he could park his car after the first lap and it not affect him. He's already on to the next round. He wasn't particularly special in final practice with the 15th fastest lap (188.186 mph), but with 10 laps to go it wouldn't be a surprise to see the No. 48 battling for the win.

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