Friday, June 29, 2012

Final 2012 Kentucky Quaker State 400 Driver Ratings Following All Practices

Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
Quaker State 400
Kentucky Speedway
Saturday, June 30, 2012 -  4:46 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds          Practice 1    Practice 2   Qualified    Kansas*

 1. Jimmie Johnson 5/1               3rd            12th             1st             3rd  
Strong average times in practice coupled with current 2012 form make him driver to beat.
 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12/1          2nd             7th              7th            7th 
Had top practice 2 speeds among drivers in race trim; quick average; using Charlotte chassis.
 3. Denny Hamlin 10/1                 7th             8th              3rd             1st 
Best 10-consecutive lap average in practice and has win on similar track at Kansas in April.
 4. Kyle Busch 7/1                        1st             9th              2nd           10th
Won Inaugural Kentucky race last season; was almost as good off the hauler in practice as 2011.
 5. Brad Keselowski 15/1            12th            2nd              8th            11th 
Top average speeds in practice 2; wrecked primary car in practice 1 after altercation with No. 42.
 6. Greg Biffle 8/1                        20th            3rd             11th            5th 
One of the top performing drivers on all 1.5-mile tracks this season; using All-Star race chassis.
 7. Martin Truex Jr. 25/1               5th            26th            10th           2nd 
Should be able to transfer April Kansas information that saw him lead 173 of 267 laps.
 8. Jeff Gordon 12/1                    16th            1st               9th           21st 
Third best 10-consecutive lap average in practice; found lots of speed as practice came to close.
 9. Kevin Harvick 12/1                  8th            21st              4th            6th 
Good average practice speeds; using chassis that Brendan Gaughan drove as No. 33 in Vegas.
10. Tony Stewart  8/1                  24th           31st            22nd          13th 
Not one of his best practices, but is using chassis that won Chicagoland and Las Vegas.

* Results from the April 22, 2012 race held at Kansas Speedway. The Kansas and Kentucky facilities both have 1.5-mile tracks with similar banking that mirror a few of the same traits.

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 on Twitter: MicahRoberts7. 

Betting Notes
Jimmie Johnson looks like he’s going to be tough to beat, but despite looking strong in a few other practices throughout the season, Johnson has also been content with getting top-5 finishes. He’s not a guy you want to mess around with in driver matchups despite the large juicy prices offered to bet against him. Look for a top-3 finish out of him this week.

So who might be the drivers that finish 1-2?

Jimmie Johnson is going to be tough to beat starting from the pole (Getty)
My best guess after watching practices would be Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin or Kyle Busch, all of whom looked outstanding in all the categories we look for out of practice. Kyle Busch looked fast right off the hauler just like he did last season when he went on to win the inaugural Kentucky race. But the engine troubles that have plagued Busch still count as major negative.

Because of Denny Hamlin’s affiliation with Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing, there also has to be a concern about his engine faltering, but his 10-consecutive average lap times make him hard to resist.

Junior’s swagger in the garage today was nothing like we have seen out of him while driving a Hendrick car. He knows he's fast and knows that every driver in the garage knows he's fast. The big difference between now and a few weeks ago is that they all know he can turn good practices into a win like he did at Michigan. He would is my top selection to win after everything that happened during Friday’s practice sessions.

The top long shot to consider would be Martin Truex Jr., and he might have odds better than 25-to-1 just because he wasn’t impressive at in final practice. He may not have the dominant type of car like in Kansas, but we do know they do have speed tucked away somewhere and we also have seen MWR drivers run well at places like Chicagoland and Kansas that are similar to Kentucky.

Brad Keselowski is also a driver that presents some larger odds that should be able to contend Saturday night. It was pretty impressive how quick they were able to get their back-up car dialed in the final practice after getting only a couple laps in the first session. Juan Pablo Montoya and Keselowski got tangled up in practice and neither was too happy about the incident, especially Keselowski who tried to retaliate. Despite a stern warning from NASCAR, we probably haven’t seen the last of the flare-ups between these two.

Tony Stewart presents great value in matchups again even though he looked awful in practice.            

Quaker State 400 Practice Notes

Driver Post-Qualifying Quotes

JEFF GORDON ON BEING HAPPY WITH HIS CAR IN RACE TRIM DURING PRACTICE: “I was very happy in race trim. That’s where I thought our car really shined. We just kept making improvements on it each time we went out. It just worked for us to get a pretty good starting position; we’ll see where this ends up. Hopefully it does that for us and we can show what we’ve got for the race.”

KYLE BUSCH ON HOW TRACK CONDITIONS CHANGED WHEN IT GOT COOLER FOR QUALIFYING: “The track conditions changed tremendously. Just a lot more grip out there from where we were in practice. Obviously, being 140-something degree track temps during practice you’re slipping and sliding and it’s really slick. And then towards the end of qualifying track temp was probably 100 to 105 — something like that. So in that 35 to 40 degree range is definitely a lot faster and you saw it in the speeds you saw it in the cars seeming to stick a lot better than what they were in practice and what our balance was during my qualifying run.”

DENNY HAMLIN ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT SATURDAY'S RACE: “Yeah. I do. I think it’s been good. In qualifying trim we weren’t all that great. I think our teammates were a little bit better. I feel like in race trim we, for sure, had a car that was capable of running in the top-three or four.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON HOW TEMPERATURES WILL AFFECT THE RACE: “Just lack of grip and trying to get the car dialed in. There’s nothing we can do about the temperatures. It’s all about us trying to make the car do what we want it to and be better than the other 42 out there. We’ve got some work to do for tomorrow, like I said. It was off a little in race trim. These guys have done a good job all year and I’m sure we’ll get it fixed tonight.” 

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