Saturday, July 14, 2012

Final 2012 New Hampshire LENOX 301 Driver Ratings Following All Practice Sessions

Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
LENOX Industrial Tools 301
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 15, 2012 -  10:16 am (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds         Practice 1   Qualified   Practice 2   Practice 3

 1. Denny Hamlin 6/1                  9th               3rd            1st               1st    
2007 winner; thoroughly dominated Saturday practices with the fastest average speeds.
 2. Kyle Busch 12/1                    1st               1st             7th               2nd 
2006 winner; his strong practices usually translate well to race day, more than most.
 3. Brad Keselowski 12/1          19th             22nd          12th              3rd 
Runner-up last fall; second fastest 10-consecutive lap average in final practice.
 4. Clint Bowyer 15/1                 13th              5th             5th               4th 
Two-time winner, owns another at Richmond; does very well on shorter flat banked tracks.
 5. Jimmie Johnson 5/1             14th              7th             8th               5th 
Three-time winner, the last coming in 2010; using sixth-place Richmond chassis.
 6. Kasey Kahne 12/1                 4th               2nd            6th               8th 
Career best of fourth-place came as a rookie in 2004; using fifth-place Richmond chassis.
 7. Martin Truex Jr. 15/1             6th               4th             3rd               7th 
Grew up racing on this track; best finish of third-place; consistent practice throughout weekend
 8. Tony Stewart 5/1                  10th             10th           20th             19th 
Three-time winner, including last fall; using third-place Richmond chassis that led 118 laps.
 9. Jeff Gordon 8/1                    11th               8th            2nd              12th 
Three-time winner, the last in 1998; fourth-best 10 consecutive lap average in practice 2.
10. Ryan Newman 15/1            16th               6th            14th             15th 
Three-time winner; using chassis that won here last spring and also at Martinsville in April.

Note: Phoenix and Richmond can be used as a great barometer to determine who might do well at New Hampshire because of the similar distances and banking. Hamlin won at Phoenix in March and Busch won at Richmond in April.

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
If we were to put this race in terms of a football point-spread, Denny Hamlin would be a double-digit favorite in Sunday‘s event. That’s how good Hamlin looked in Saturday’s practices. He didn’t just have the fastest individual lap in both of Saturday’s sessions, he led the field in average speeds and best 10-consecutive lap average. That’s the top-3 speed categories to look for in any practice session and Hamlin swept the board in all of them, twice!

Unfortunately, NASCAR isn’t like football. Instead on one team to beat, Hamlin has 42 other drivers to tackle. And in Sunday’s race, he’ll have about nine other drivers to contend with, one of which is his own teammate Kyle Busch. The thing that is scary about Busch is that when he’s good in practice, it usually always translates well to race day.

Not only do we have Busch doing well in practice, but we also have him with a great history on the flat tracks of Phoenix and Richmond, including winning at Richmond in April -- his only win of the year. He was just a notch below Hamlin in all the categories, but if Hamlin should falter in the pits, find some issues on the track, or have another Gibbs’ engine problem, Busch will be right there to scoop up the win.

Ryan Nemwan and Tony Stewart swept New Hampshire in 2011 (Getty) 
The Gibbs duo is on another plateau than everyone else for this race, but others have to be considered beginning with Tony Stewart.

Stewart’s car didn’t show anything special in practice, but that seems to be the norm with him everywhere. His practice speeds look similar to what posted last fall before getting the New Hampshire win to kick off the Chase. He’s also using the chassis that led 118 laps at Richmond and settled for third-place.

I really liked what I saw out of Brad Keselowski in the final practice where he held his own against Hamlin in the 10-consecutive lap category. Just like Busch, when Keselowski is good practice, he’s good in the race. It has the look of a race he could steal.

Kasey Kahne was strongest among the Hendrick cars in all the practice speed categories, but Jimmie Johnson still has to be rated higher just because of his consistency. It was in March at Phoenix that Kahne had me starry eyed only to watch his day end within the first few laps. He’s got a car good enough to win, but buyer beware.

I love all the Michael Waltrip cars as well, but think they may be rated a little too high in the odds offered which decreases their value, especially considering the two beasts they’ll have to hunt down.

The top value plays of the race in matchups may be Matt Kenseth, Sam Hornish, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt Jr. might also be a driver to pick on in matchups if the price is right.    

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