Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 Sprint All-Star Race Practice Notes: Kurt Busch rating skyrockets to Harvick's level

20 drivers are now in the All-Star Race after the Sprint Showdown 
Kurt Busch put on a nice show of speed during Friday’s lone All-Star practice session to the point where his rating level matches Kevin Harvick‘s. We still don’t know where the two Stewart Haas teammates will start in Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star race -- qualifying Saturday at 7:10 pm (ET), but it’s fair to say Busch’s car looks a little better, and that’s pretty bold considering Harvick has a win and 3 second-places on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

Busch impressed with his average speeds during the 80-minute session. He had the best 10-consecutive lap average as well as the best 5-lap average. With five short 25-lap segments followed by a 10-lap dash, there isn’t a lot of time which might diminish importance of average speeds, but the cream should rise to the top and Busch looks to be that driver to beat in the finals. He is using a chassis that will turn its first laps of 2015, one that teammate Danica Patrick used a few times during 2013. Danica, who won the fan vote to race Saturday, probably wishes she could have her old chassis back.

Harvick actually had the third-fastest lap (188.258 mph), while Busch was fourth (188.121), but Busch was the leader of the session for about 70 minutes. But some late runs put Kyle Busch on top with the fastest lap (188.884), followed by last years All-Star Race winner Jamie McMurray (188.396). All those cars will be good, but Kyle Busch is downgraded from his normal rating just because this is his first race action since a broken leg injury during the Daytona Xfinity Series race.

It’s a good idea Busch gets this race in to use somewhat as a live practice session as he makes his Sprint Cup season debut next week in the Coca-Cola 600 on the same track. Busch also has other things on his mind as his wife Samantha is hours away from having a baby. The short intense format should be great medicine for him moving forward.

Johnson had only the 14th-fastest lap (185.829) among the 17 drivers that participated, but his all-time All-Star record of four wins says his practice times don’t matter much, not to mention that he’s won on three of the four 1.5-mile track races this season. He’s using his Las Vegas chassis that finished 41st, but ran well early. Harvick is using his runner-up chassis from Fontana that led 34 laps.

Start position will play a role in the race just like last night when Greg Biffle raced his way into the All-Star Race by winning the first 20-lap segment of the Sprint Showdown. He got out front and it was light’s out. Clint Bowyer made a bold early move in the second segment and then checked out. However, there are four 25-lap segments to iron out who truly are the fastest, and then a 10-lap dash where you want to have a bet ticket on that driver in the front row at that stage.

Kurt Busch with either Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson look to be those guys. And maybe even Jamie McMurray again, who won at 40-to-1 odds last season, but is 25-to-1 this time around.

Sprint All-Star Race (no-points, 110-laps) 
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Saturday, May 16, 2015 -  6:00 pm (PT)

RATING    DRIVER   ODDS             PRAC 1    VEGAS*     TEXAS*   KANSAS*
 1. Kurt Busch 6/1                    4th       DNP         14th        8th 
2010 winner; fastest 5 and 10-consecutive lap average during lone 80-minute practice session.
 2. Kevin Harvick 7/2               3rd          1st           2nd        2nd 
2007 winner; he’s been the most consistent on 1.5-mile tracks all season with a 1.75 average. 
 3. Jimmie Johnson 6/1          14th        41st          1st         1st 
Race record four-time winner, the last coming in 2013; three wins on four 1.5s this season. 
 4. Joey Logano 6/1                 6th         10th          4th         5th  
Fifth-time All-Star with 8.8 average, including 2 top-five finishes; led 179 laps on 1.5s in 2015. 
 5. Brad Keselowski 6/1           7th          7th           5th         7th  
Seventh All-Star start, one top-five, 12.7 average; led 27 laps, finished fifth at similar Texas.
 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12/1     12th         4th           3rd         3rd 
Won All-Star race as rookie (2000), but hasn’t won at Charlotte, points or non-points, since.
 7. Jeff Gordon 12/1                16th       18th           7th         4th 
Three-time winner, and also happened to win Sprint Cup during same season, the last in 2001.
 8. Kasey Kahne 20/1               8th        17th           8th        17th 
2008 winner with 11.7 average finish, and also claims four other Charlotte wins in point races. 
 9. Denny Hamlin 20/1             5th          5th          11th        41st 
Looking for first Charlotte Cup win of any kind over career; ninth All-Star start with 11.3 average.
10. Matt Kenseth 12/1             10th        9th          23rd        20th 
2004 winner, 6.2 average in 14 starts. First career Cup win came in 2000 Coca-Cola 600.

* Results from the past three races this season on 1.5-mile tracks. Charlotte’s high-banked layout is most similar to Texas among the three.

Odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas Super Book

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