|Jeff Gordon to run final Atlanta race this week; he has 5 career wins|
This is no tip of the cap by the SuperBook to honor a four-time Cup champion who is retiring at the end of the season. Gordon was made the favorite because he has proven to be one of the best at Atlanta over his career with five wins and five runner-ups. Since NASCAR began compiling Loop data from each race in 2005, Gordon tops all drivers at Atlanta with a 106.0 rating; Jimmie Johnson is second at 104.9.
Among all drivers with at least two starts at Atlanta, Gordon's 9.9 average finish over the past 20 races is also the best among all drivers. In 41 career starts, he's averaged an 11.9 finish, including his start in the ’92 season finale (Hooter's 500), where he finished 31st (Bill Elliott won the race, but second-place finisher Alan Kulwicki won the season championship. The race was also the final start of Richard Petty's career. This NASCAR royalty story of one generation's end meeting another's beginning continues, as as Elliott's son -- Xfinity series driver Chase Elliott -- will be taking over Gordon's famed No. 24 next season).
Oddsmakers and bettors this week must forecast how these new cars will perform and who truly has the edge. We can look at drivers’ histories at Atlanta and on 1.5-mile tracks to get a base on who should be favored, but no one really knows who will come out strongest in cars with 125 less horsepower and spoilers two inches shorter than in 2014. All those notes with Penske winning five of 11 1.5-mile races or Kevin Harvick dominating during practices can be thrown out the window. This is an entirely new venture, and it's possible for a few unexpected names to show up near the top of Thursday's test session.
The only testing that occurred for the new rules package was for Goodyear tires, and those were closed to the public and media and no speeds were revealed. Only one driver from each team participated, so notes have to be shared among teammates. When the cars come off the hauler, crew chiefs will be getting to work immediately trying to find speed.
Chances are that Hendrick Motorsports drivers will have an edge – they always seem to whenever there are any changes. Stewart-Haas Racing's relationship with Hendrick also leads us to believe that Harvick might be as good as last season, but we won't fully know until Thursday.
Will Penske be as good as the team was in 2014? Even with the same package, it might have difficulty recreating the same success.
How about Joe Gibbs Racing? The team didn't win a race last season on 1.5-mile tracks after winning seven of 11 in 2013. They have to be better this year, right?
There are all kinds of questions around every team, and NASCAR leveling the playing field by banning testing may benefit some of the smaller ones. Maybe Roush Fenway Racing steps it up this year, or how about Richard Petty Motorsports?
Not all of the questions will be answered this weekend, but after Thursday's test and the weekend practices, we'll get a broader view of what to expect in Sunday's race, as well as for the 10 other 1.5-mile tracks this season, including Las Vegas in two weeks.
The best wagering strategy this week is to wait and see what happens in Thursday's testing. Odds on the favorites are low enough that they shouldn't change much, but you'll be looking for that surprise driver who may offer strong value before the books adjust. Maybe it's Greg Biffle (50/1) that comes out blazing fast or an entry from Richard Childress Racing, a team that went winless in 2014.
Be sure to check back over the weekend as we share everything learned from testing and practices that may assist your weekend NASCAR wagering.
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