Saturday, March 24, 2012

Final 2012 Auto Club 400 Driver Ratings Following All Practice Sessions

Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
Auto Club 400
Auto Club (California) Speedway
Sunday, March 25, 2012 - 12:16 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds      Practice 1   Qualified   Practice 2   Practice 3

 1. Matt Kenseth 8/1              11th            15th             2nd             7th
Three-time winner, the last coming in ’09 following a Daytona 500 win; using Texas fall chassis.         
 2. Tony Stewart 7/1              14th              9th              4th           10th
2010 winner with a 14.1 average finish; using new chassis, a clone to winning Las Vegas car.
 3. Denny Hamlin 20/1            5th              1st              1st             1st
By far the best car in all practice sessions, but downgraded due to 19.1 average finish in 11 starts.
 4. Kevin Harvick 10/1            15th             7th              5th            7th  
2011 winner and runner-up in 2010; the Bakersfield, CA native is using a new chassis this week.
 5. Jimmie Johnson 6/1           9th            10th              9th            6th
Five-time winner with track record 5.1 average finish; third or better in eight of last nine starts.
 6. Kyle Busch 7/1                  12th             2nd              6th            5th
2005 winner, his first career Cup win, with nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts; strong practices.
 7. Greg Biffle 12/1                  8th              4th             14th           20th
2005 winner; using new chassis he claims “the best car to ever come out of Roush-Fenway shop.”
 8. Jeff Gordon 8/1                  23rd           21st            17th           2nd
Three-time winner, the last coming in 2004. Practiced very well in the sun, but slow under clouds.
 9. Clint Bowyer 30/1                1st            11th            11th           3rd
2010 fall runner-up with a 10.6 average in 11 starts. MWR driver will soon break through with win.
10. Ryan Newman 30/1           7th              6th              3rd           18th
Two consecutive fifth-place finishes; strong practice 2 long runs. Using ‘11 Michigan chassis.

Note: Although different in size, results the March 11 Las Vegas race can be used as a barometer to help determine what drivers may have an edge this week at California.

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 and post-practice analysis on the race, go to, or follow MicahRoberts7 on Twitter.

Betting Notes: Boy, this is a tough one. Denny Hamlin is just giving us all kinds of reasons to bet him to win and play him in every match-up. During practice he was fast in the shade, fast in the sun, fast in qualifying trim and fast in race trim. The guy should run away with the race, but the only problem is that we’ve never seen it before.

He won at Fontana’s sister-track of Michigan last year, but at California he has a less than flattering 19.2 average finish with only one top-5. The biggest variable from now to all his past races is his new crew chief, Darian Grubb. Grubb was able to set-up a car for Tony Stewart to get his first career win on the track in 2010, 11 years after Stewart began his career. Grubb was also behind most of Jimmie Johnson’s California success as part of the Lowe’s team.

The Grubb angle is a huge one, especially since they’ve already won this season. The only problem I have personally is being gun shy about the sexiest in practice. The last three weeks Kasey Kahne has looked the best only to see his day cut short by an assortment of issues, mostly operator error.

What’s funny is that I am not betting Kahne at all this week and he has a car good enough to compete for a win or top-5, but I’m tired of beating a dead horse. He will win soon, though.

I’m sticking with the meat-and-potatoes this week and will hope for Kenseth, Stewart, Harvick or Biffle to get the win. If some juicy odds come about on Bowyer or Newman, I may be tempted as well.

Match-up of the week: Michael Watrip Racing drivers vs. anyone, almost anyone
The MWR drivers are on a major upward trend. Clint Boywer, Martin Truex Jr and Mark Martin all have stout cars capable of finishing within the top-10, yet they’ll be paired up with lesser drivers.


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