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Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
Las Vegas sports books enjoyed a great Daytona 500 with Joey Logano winning because hardly anyone bet him. The books all had Logano low to start with at 12/1, but when all the action started showing up on Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson, they raised Logano to 18/1 and still not many takers. Like a broken record, once again, the house does extremely well in a restrictor-plate race.

The Sprint Cup series travels to Atlanta’s 1.5-mile track this week where value is usually shifted back to the bettors because instead of 35 drivers having a chance to win, there are only about 15 with a legitimate shot. But this is year is a little different because of the new rules package that will see horsepower cut down from 850 to 725 as well as the rear spoiler shortened from eight to six inches.

As much of a crap shoot as Daytona was coming in, the cars were exactly the same as what was run last season so it wasn’t hard to forecast that Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing would be the cars to beat. They solidified that notion during practices, but still lost to Logano.

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This week is much tougher because of less horsepower and down force. The cars figure to run a little more loose which may benefit a few drivers, but we still don’t know because there was no open testing in January to figure this new car out. The only testing that occurred happened with a few drivers in closed Goodyear tire testing. Most crew chiefs will be going off of notes from those sessions ran by a teammate and will be coming in cold with little idea of how they’ll run this weekend.

To get every team better acclimated to the new cars, NASCAR has scheduled five hours of testing on Thursday then they’ll start their regular race weekend schedule with practice and qualifying on Friday and the final two practices on Saturday.

So from an odds-making and bettors’ standpoint, you have to be careful here. The bookmaker can just lower odds on several drivers and wait to see what happens with testing. Regardless of the changes, the big-money teams like Hendrick, Gibbs and Penske Racing all figure to be fast right off the hauler, but there is still that hint of uncertainty compared to other 1.5-mile tracks over the past three seasons. For the bettor, there is almost no reason to bet early because you could get stuck with a driver that doesn’t perform well in Thursday’s test.

The best bet scenario for wagering this week is to wait until at least seeing Thursday’s practice times. There is really nothing you can go off of that makes any bet a good one prior to Thursday. Several of the drivers haven’t even been able to drive the cars with the new rules package and Thursday will be their first go-around.

Here’s the NASCAR betting strategy I follow each week that I’ll share with you. First, you start off with your core group of drivers based on history at track. This list can be anywhere from 15 to 20 drivers, but it’ll be based on how they’ve done in recent history, the past five years and the past 10 years. Certain drivers like certain tracks and over the long haul, it’s easy to identify who the best are.

After that, you’ll look at current form. In the case this week, we only have one race and Daytona doesn’t apply in any way to Atlanta and the only nugget from last week that can be found is that someone like Logano could go all out for wins with no regret since he’s already made the Chase.

Past history and current form are two pieces of information that is the foundation to set weekly NASCAR odds, but it also applies to betting. I would then forecast practices based on similar past practices and come out with an early rating on each driver. And then after seeing the practices and start position, I would upgrade or downgrade each driver and finally have a finished product ready for action.

This week in Atlanta, there is only half of the equation in play here and the remainder won’t be known until Thursday with even more solid information gained Saturday as crew chiefs do the final tuning and set-up of the car we’ll see race Sunday.

There’s only half of the equation in, so why bet now? You’ll probably have a better chance of wining a bet by just taking red or black in roulette. Isn’t that why we all wager, because we think we have some type of advantage over the odds? So my advice this week is to slow play it and see what the books do and if they make a mistake after Thursday’s all-telling practice, then you should bet the drivers who shines that weren’t updated enough.

The most likely of candidates to be good again are the big names with the new rules package, but who knows? We didn’t see a Gibbs car win on any 1.5-mile track while Keselowski and Logano combined to win five of the 11. Kevin Harvick dominated on 1.5-miles last season even though he won only one of them. Kasey Kahne’s only win of 2014 came at Atlanta, which gave him three there for his career. Jeff Gordon also makes his final start at Atlanta, a track he made his Cup debut at in 1992. He’ll be going for his sixth career Atlanta win.

One driver I know I’ll be rooting for will be Brendan Gaughan driving the No. 62 Chevy, who is now Las Vegas’ only representative in the Cup Series driving with both Kyle and Kurt Busch out. Gaughan’s last Atlanta appearance in the Cup Series was in 2004 when he finished 18th.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1 #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12/1)
2) #2 Brad Keselowski (7/1)
3) #24 Jeff Gordon (6/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (7/1)
5) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)

  
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