Saturday, September 15, 2012

Final 2012 Chicago Geico 400 Driver Ratings Following All Practice Sessions

Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
Geico 400
Chicagoland Speedway
Sunday, September 16, 2012 -  10:16 a.m. (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds        Practice 1    Practice 2     Qualified     Kansas*

 1. Denny Hamlin 8/1                  5th              5th                8th             1st 
Should be very good on long runs; finished third or better on past four 1.5-mile tracks.
 2. Kyle Busch 10/1                   28th              1st               21st           10th 
2008 winner; set-up similar to Hamlin’s; had 2nd best 10-consecutive lap average in practice2.
 3. Kasey Kahne 12/1                24th             6th                6th              8th 
Best finish of third in 2008; using same car this week that won on fast 1.5-mile Charlotte track.
 4. Martin Truex Jr. 20/1             1st             25th              18th            2nd  
Has finished 12th or better on past five 1.5-mile tracks, including a dominating Kansas run.
 5. Jeff Gordon 12/1                  20th            10th              19th            21st 
2006 winner with a 10th-place average in 11 starts; only Hamlin is hotter coming into Chase.
 6. Jimmie Johnson 7/1             25th              7th               1st              3rd 
One of five Cup tracks to never win at; using chassis that has never lost a race (2 starts).
 7. Matt Kenseth 8/1                  32nd             8th                3rd             4th 
Two-time runner-up with 12.3 average; top-10 finishes on last five 1.5-mile tracks; using new car.
 8. Tony Stewart 8/1                  12th            14th               29th           13th 
Three-time winner, including last season; has track best 8.7 average; using new chassis.
 9. Brad Keselowski 12/1            3rd            16th               13th           11th 
Career best fifth-place last season; finished fifth or better on past three 1.5-mile tracks.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12/1        2nd            31st                4th             7th 
2005 winner; only driver to finish in top-10 at all six 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; using Pocono car.

* Results from the April 22 race at Kansas Speedway, a 1.5-mile track with a layout and banking that is most similar to Chicagoland.

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 on the race, go to The Linemakers on or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7. 

Betting Notes
It may sound like a broken record every week, but Denny Hamlin is the driver to beat. It’s not just because he’s won two of the past three races, I mean, it does have a little to do with it. No one is hotter than Hamlin coming into the Chase, but his top-5 practices in both sessions Friday elevate him to the top. Then we also have to consider that Hamlin has been dominant on the 1.5-mile tracks this season, in particular, finishing third or better in his past four starts on them. Oh yeah, he won two of them, including the track that is most similar to Chicago, Kansas.

Jeff Gordon should continue his hot run this week at Chicago (Getty)
Hamlin’s not only fast in single lap times, but also in average speeds. He was fourth fastest behind Kasey Kahne’s top time during the final practice session on 10-consecutive lap averages.

And that brings us to probably the second best candidate. Kyle Busch is rated No. 2 only because of his practices, but Kahne could probably be rated higher than Busch. I could see Kahne being one of the surprises of the Chase just because he’s so good on 1.5-mile tracks. He’s got the horses under the hood, a great crew chief and I think he can smell the trophy. His fate will rest with the other five tracks.

Jeff Gordon wasn’t spectacular in practice, but I think the momentum coming into the Chase is key here. He should be considered in match-up plays against most of the top drivers, other than Kahne, Busch and Hamlin.

Just because the odds are so long and also because he’s so good on the 1.5-mile tracks, it might be beneficial to try a few bones on Martin Truex Jr. If Hamlin sounds like a broken record weekly, then Truex Jr. must be getting overly repetitive. But I wouldn’t suggest him if I didn’t think it was possible. He’ll be fast in this race and should be there near the end contending for the win.  

Dale Earnhardt Jr. should also be considered for matchups due to his consistency. He's almost a guaranteed top-10 finisher for this race.  

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