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Cheez-It 355 at The Glen

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Check out Dale Earnhardt Jr. who just won his third race of the season to tie him for the most in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. His win at Pocono last Sunday gave him a season sweep there -- the only two wins of his career there -- which was also his first sweep since winning both Talladega races in 2002. It also gave him his series leading 10th top-5 finish on the season.

Yes, this is definitely a new Dale Jr., probably better and more consistent than we have ever seen out of him, including his days driving the No. 8 Budweiser car for DEI. After his win Sunday the LVH Super Book dropped his odds to win the Sprint Cup Chase from 8/1 (Bet $100 to win $800) down to 6/1 showing that they believe a little bit in the crazy numbers Junior is spitting out.

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Remember, last season, even though he didn’t win a Chase race, he would have won the Championship under the new format that will be employed this season which is kind of a bracket where Homestead will be the championship game for the final four drivers.

Junior has never won on a road course before and this week he’ll try and tackle the course at Watkins Glen International where his best finish was third-place in 2003, one of two top-5 finishes he has on the course. Between the two road courses run on each season -- Sonoma being the other -- Junior‘s best chance at winning on one is at The Glen just because it‘s less technical and runs much faster. He’ll have 40/1 odds this week, but I’m not ready to jump on board the Junior train here yet. I’ll stick with the meat and potatoes.

You have to start with Marcos Ambrose, who has his only two career Cup wins at Watkins Glen and has an average finish of 6.8 in six starts. He’s finished third or better in five of those starts. He is the driver to beat and has run well in every car he's been given at the track. There's no reason to believe he won't be fast here and possible get the win which should be an automatic ticket into the Chase.

Then you have Brad Keselowski, who has finished second the past three seasons, twice behind Ambrose and then also last year to Kyle Busch. That type of consistency is attractive from a wagering standpoint because you're getting great odds on him and he's still hungry enough to do all he can to race his heart out for his first win on the track. He is the best value play of the bunch and he's be one of two early plays I made prior to Friday and Saturday's practices and qualifying.

Busch is at two-time winner at The Glen, Tony Stewart is a five-time winner and Jeff Gordon is a four-time winner. Stewart last won in 2009 and Gordon last won in 2001, which surprisingly is his last top-5 on the course. That’s right, Gordon, one of the best road course racers in NASCAR history has gone 12 straight races at Watkins Glen without a top-5 finish.

The odd part about Gordon is that at Sonoma, he's been amazing with nine straight top-10 finishes including runner-up in three of the past four events. What the hell happened to him at Watkins Glen? The one strong point with Gordon this week that may buck the trends is that he hasn't been as consistent every like he is this season since his last championship in 2001, which is also the last time he won at The Glen.

Carl Edwards won at Sonoma in June and should be considered a live candidate to win this week because of his 8.8 career average finish at The Glen. He was fourth last season and should get another top-5 on Sunday. Edwards will be my other early wager and can be found at nice 25/1 odds.

Be sure to check out qualifying and the practices before finalizing your plays. Qualifying might be more important here than at any other track. Of the 31 races run on the course, 21 of the winners have started from within the top-5. That's 67 percent and about as telling a stat as you'll find in NASCAR.

Top-5 Finish Prediction

1) #2 Brad Keselowski (8/1)
2) #9 Marcos Ambrose (5/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)
4) #99 Carl Edwards (25/1)
5) #15 Clint Bowyer (12/1)

  
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