Saturday, August 11, 2012

Final Driver Ratings for 2012 Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen

Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
Finger Lakes 355
Watkins Glen International
Sunday, August 12, 2012 -  10:16 am (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds         Practice 1    Practice 2   Qualified    Sonoma*

 1. Tony Stewart 6/1                    4th             13th            7th              2nd 
Five-time winner; seven road course wins; using runner-up chassis from Sonoma.
 2. Marcos Ambrose 9/2              7th              4th             5th              8th 
2011 winner with a 2.3 average finish in four starts; using Sonoma chassis this week.
 3. Jeff Gordon 6/1                      5th              6th            12th             6th 
Four-time winner, the last coming in 2001; five Sonoma wins; coming off Pocono win.
 4. Juan Pablo Montoya 10/1     12th            2nd             1st             34th 
2010 winner, using same chassis this week; his only two Cup wins came on road courses.
 5. Kyle Busch 10/1                     9th              1st             2nd             17th 
2008 winner, won at Sonoma same year; rating diminished due to consistent breakdowns.
 6. Carl Edwards 25/1                  6th             3rd            18th             21st 
8.7 average finish in seven starts; had one of his best practice sessions of season.
 7. Clint Bowyer 20/1                  19th            15th            8th               1st 
Best career finish of ninth in 2009; using winning Sonoma chassis this week.
 8. Jimmie Johnson 8/1               8th              7th             3rd               5th  
One of five tracks on circuit he’s never won at; using winning 2010 Sonoma chassis.
 9. Brad Keselowski 20/1             3rd             8th             4th              12th 
Runner-up last season; strong average speeds in practice; using Sonoma chassis.
10. Martin Truex Jr. 25/1            11th            5th             9th              22nd 
Career best fourth-place finish last season; sixth or better in three of past five starts.

* Results from the June 24 race at Sonoma Raceway. Sonoma and Watkins Glen are the only road courses on the Cup circuit, though vastly different with Watkins Glen being a much faster course.

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
I’m not exactly going out on a limb by saying Tony Stewart will win Sunday, but so be it. Those who go out on limbs on the road courses usually lose. In the end, the best drivers usually DO win on the road courses. It’s a very rare occasion that we see a driver win at Watkins Glen or Sonoma that we all collectively said, “I didn’t see that coming.“

Tony Stewart has the look of a winner this week at Watkins Glen (Getty)
In Stewart’s case, he’s got the all-time track record for wins (5), but more importantly, he looked great in practice. He’s also starting close to front (7th) which should make it easier for him to get up front than was the case in June at Sonoma where he started 24th and finished second. He’s using that same car again this week.

Marcos Ambrose has an amazing 2.3 average finish at Watkins Glen over his four starts and won last season, but he didn’t do anything extraordinary in practice like we’ve seen out of him in the past. He can still be expected to finish in the top-5, but I’m not fearing him this week as I have in the past.

I could see this race coming down to Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon and Stewart. Again, not exactly going out on a limb.

If I had to go out on a limb and take a driver to do well that we may not first think of, it would begin with Brad Keselowski. The Penske cars have been very good over the last two season on the road courses and because of that, I also think Sam Hornish could have some value in matchups.

Brian Vickers had an impressive fourth-place finish at Sonoma and he seems to make the most of every opportunity while driving the MWR No. 55 car.

I also like Kevin Harvick to run well Sunday and maybe contend with the big guns which presents some value in matchups. Harvick won at Watkins Glen in 2006 and finished sixth last year. It seems that ever since Harvick became a Father, he’s not been heard from much on or off the track. It’s like he’s been going through the motions with decent, but not special finishes.

Carl Edwards has the look of a top-5 finisher as well this week and it should be interesting to watch how aggressive he is on the track as he tries to get his first win since Las Vegas last season. His impressive practices and great past history at Watkins Glen suggest that he’ll come close to getting the win.

Driver Quotes Following Qualifying

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON HIS LAP – QUALIFIED 10th: “It was okay. I haven’t had the speed that I really need this weekend. Juan (Pablo Montoya) was really good right before practice was over. We actually put a lot of their stuff in. We tightened the car up a lot but it seemed freer or looser there. The bottom of the esses was really wild for me. Sometimes it doesn’t look wild on TV, but in the car it was a handful. Really that was all the faster I could go. Our McDonald’s Chevy is okay. I don’t think that will be a great lap, but it’s going to be an okay lap.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON HIS LAP – POLE WINNER: “Our Target Chevy has been pretty good this weekend. It has been pretty stable; put it in qualifying trim it was really quick in practice. We ran a little slower than practice, but with the sun out, it’s like 20 degrees hotter. I don’t know. I had a pretty good lap. You can always say I could have got a little more, but sometimes when you want a little more you actually lose.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON HIS LAP – QUALIFIED 3RD: “It was a good lap. In Turn 6 through the Carousel I had a moment and a slide that I think I lost a fair chunk of time on. It’s tough to get a perfect lap around any road course. I wish that I didn’t slide that much because I feel like I could have been on the pole. But it was a great effort and I feel really solid about our car come race time.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON HIS LAP – QUALIFIED 6TH: “It was a good lap by U.S. Army Chevy today. We picked up from where we were in practice, which was a good thing because the track definitely lost some grip. It was a good job by all the guys are the U.S. Army Racingteam. I think we have a pretty good car. We just need to have a pretty clean race tomorrow, and I feel like we’re going to be in contention.”

TONY STEWART ON STEWART-HAAS – QUALIFIED 7TH: “It’s a good testament to what the team did this week. I was hoping we’d get a little bit more than that but we pretty much backed-up what we ran in practice. It’s a lot warmer now, so I’m pretty happy with that.

TONY STEWART ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT SUNDAY'S RACE: “I don’t know. I think we can put up a single lap time but I’m not sure that we’re good in the long runs. But the good news is that we have all day today to let (Steve) Addington and the engineers go to work and look at the notes from yesterday and this morning and see what they can come up with tomorrow.”

Expect Sam Hornish to have a very good finish Sunday at the Glen (Getty) 
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON HIS LAP - QUALIFIED 4TH: “A really solid lap for the Miller Lite Dodge team. We haven’t qualified well this year but today was a great effort. Track position is key on road courses especially at a fast place like The Glen. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get the pole. I’m positive I could have squeezed another tenth out of it for sure. We’ll take it. We can see the front and will have a good pit selection. Our car is fast.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON WHERE HIS CAR IS FAST IN RACE TRIM? “Everywhere. Paul (Wolfe) has done a great job getting this Miller Lite Dodge prepared. We unloaded fast and have showed good speed throughout the weekend.”

SAM HORNISH JR IN HOW GOOD HIS CAR IS IN RACE TRIM: “So-so. We need to be better. I feel that we made a big gain overnight but not where we need to be yet. If we can make another gain like we did last night, we’ll be pretty good tomorrow.”

KYLE BUSCH ON HIS LAP AND EXPECTATIONS - QUALIFIED 2ND: “I think our lap was really, really good. The M&M’s Camry drove well. There were a couple corners where I got a little bit loose in and maybe that was kind of the hindrance of us running a little faster and sitting on the pole again today like we did last year. Great effort, the guys did a good job on qualifying second today. We can see the front at least and we’ll get good pit selection here in a little bit, hopefully. We’re going to try to work on keeping our track position all day tomorrow.”

“For the next five or whatever it is, it’s ‘win or bust’ yeah, basically. Finishing second or third or fourth isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

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