Friday, April 11, 2014

2014 Bojangles Southern 500 Practice Notes: Gordon looks to be driver to beat

Gordon has everything in his favor this week to have another great run
Darlington Raceway may not have the sandpaper grit on its surface like it used to before the track was resurfaced in 2008, but it’s still a tough track to get around because of it’s unique configuration which is why some past trends on the track had a lot more emphasis placed in our ratings than usual.

On a normal race track, we weight the drivers mostly by what happened during Friday and Saturday practices on the track. It’s about 70 percent of the equation, but that figures drops significantly because there is no other track like Darlington, and it’s a lot easier to look and be fast on the track during practice when no one is racing for position.

Over the years, we consistently see the same names atop the top-10 finishers because they have learned how to race the track first and then the other drivers surrounding them second. It’s may sound like an easy process, but it takes time to get it mastered, and only a select few have been able to get it done on a regular basis.

This is why Jeff Gordon is considered our top driver to win Saturday night’s Bojangles Southern 500. And while he was no slouch during Friday’s two practices -- fifth and third respectively, he shoots up to the top our list just because of consistency on the track 'Too Tough to Tame'. Gordon has seven wins on the 1.366-mile layout, but none since 2007, which was the last year of the old surface. On the basis of coming in strong on big horsepower tracks like Fontana and Texas, along with strong practices, and then all his fantastic history on the track, we think he’s the driver to beat.

Had history and the track itself not played such role in the rating equation, Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano might be considered the drivers to beat. Both have been fast on just about every track and both had the best 10-consecutive lap average during each of Friday's practice sessions.

Last season it was Matt Kenseth winning who had never won at Darlington in 19 career races, but after winning at 1.5-mile tracks like Las Vegas and Kansas, he grabbed his first win. Keselowski and Logano have each won on the only two 1.5-mile tracks raced on this season at Las Vegas and Texas. Still, ‘The Lady in Back’ looms large as the only reason not to go all in with both of these drivers and the reason that tilts the scales in Gordon's favor.

Read More Here..........Final Driver Ratings

Micah Roberts, a former race and sports book director in Las Vegas, has been setting NASCAR odds since 1995. For more post-practice analysis, visit the Linemakers on or follow MicahRoberts7 on Twitter.

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