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Sprint Unlimited Preview
It seems like an eternity since I've heard the beautiful sounds of multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup engines purring while running at max RPM's. I know it's only been since November when they last ran, but something is embedded in my system as a NASCAR fan where I need that weekly NASCAR fix, and it almost burns when I don't get it.

Finally, the wait is over. It’s time to go racing again and my first fix of 2016 is Saturday night with the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
 
My first real joy begins Friday at 5:00 p.m. ET when the 25 eligible drivers for the 75 lap non-points race have their first practice. It’s like spring training -- the dawning of a new year. Some wait for the rodent in Pennsylvania to come out of his hole and brilliantly tell them it'll be winter longer, but I know my spring and summer is coming as soon as I hear those badass cars for the first time in practice.
 
As with most restrictor-plate races, the practices mean very little, and I’ll gain really nothing from watching it. It’s almost like a waste of 55 minutes and then I’ll watch another one an hour later for the final 55-minute session just to hear people talking NASCAR again. For me, it's better than being a kid again and waiting up all night for Santa Claus. Yes, as you can tell, I‘ll be pumped for those couple of meaningless practice sessions. The Broncos cap goes back on the hat rack, and the No. 3 camouflage hat comes back out.

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New season. Opening day. Love it.
 
Of course, if I’m going to watch the race I’ve got to have some action on it, right? The thing I like about the Sprint Unlimited is that it’s a short race with only 75 laps. It’s over in an instant. It’s like a Saturday night special at the local short track. And we get only the best of the best -- drivers that won a pole last season or any Daytona 500 pole, won a past Sprint Unlimited, or participated in the Chase last season. There are no hobos participating -- no jalopies to get in the way. This race is about getting out front quick and trying to maintain good position throughout because it’s over real fast.
 
There are a few drivers that really seem to like this format, such as three-time winner Kevin Harvick and two-time winner Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth won last season and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won twice, the last coming in 2008.
 
Not a lot has changed with the cars design, so we should see similar racing in plate races that we have the past two seasons. The one major change is a larger hole in the restrictor plate which will give each of the cars an extra 10 horsepower. That will be interesting to see just how big of an impact it has. 
 
Junior won two of the four plate races last season between Daytona and Talladega and Joey Logano won the other two. Overall the past two years, the best teams who have consistently run near the front in all the plate races have been Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.
 
I’m going to roll with a few of those drivers this week, especially Hamlin who is getting a nice 15/1 price at several books. It’s a contract year for Hamlin and I’m expecting big things out of him to force a fat new deal from Joe Gibbs before the silly season starts in late summer.
 
As with most plate races, don't get too involved with driver matchups unless getting baited at +105 or higher. And remember, a Joe Gibbs Toyota has won three of the past four Sprint Unlimited's.
 
Now let’s drop that green flag and get this season started.

Happy 2016 NASCAR to all!
 
Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (15/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (8/1)
3) #4 Kevin Harvick (10/1)
4) #20 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
5) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (6/1)
  
WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERBOOK ODDS
SPRINT UNLIMITED
DAYTONA INT'L SPEEDWAY
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2016

RACE CONSISTS OF 75 LAPS
 
DALE EARNHARDT JR. 6/1
JIMMIE JOHNSON 8/1
MATT KENSETH 10/1
JOEY LOGANO 10/1
KEVIN HARVICK 10/1
KYLE BUSCH 10/1
DENNY HAMLIN 15/1
KURT BUSCH 15/1
KASEY KAHNE 15/1
CARL EDWARDS 15/1
BRAD KESELOWSKI 15/1
MARTIN TRUEX JR. 15/1
AUSTIN DILLON 25/1
TONY STEWART 25/1
GREG BIFFLE 30/1
JAMIE McMURRAY 25/1
RYAN NEWMAN 30/1
PAUL MENARD 30/1
CLINT BOWYER 30/1
AJ ALLMENDINGER 60/1
DANICA PATRICK  50/1
ARIC ALMIROLA 50/1
KYLE LARSON 25/1
CASEY MEARS 60/1
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. 60/1
  
SPRINT UNLIMITED RACE MATCHUPS
 
DALE EARNHARDT JR -135
MATT KENSETH +115
 
JIMMIE JOHNSON -125
KEVIN HARVICK +105
 
JOEY LOGANO -110
KYLE BUSCH -110
 
DENNY HAMLIN -110
BRAD KESELOWSKI -110
 
CARL EDWARDS -110
KASEY KAHNE -110
 
KURT BUSCH -110
MARTIN TRUEX JR -110
 
AUSTIN DILLON -120
PAUL MENARD EVEN
 
CLINT BOWYER -110
JAMIE McMURRAY -110
 
ARIC ALMIROLA -120
RICKY STENHOUSE JR EVEN
 
KYLE LARSON -120
DANICA PATRICK EVEN


  
HEADLINES
NASCAR finale a respite from exodus
Glory and a fitting end to Junior story
Truex claims EcoBoost 400, Series title
Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth say goodbye
Busch finishes one spot short of title
Close friends Earnhardt, Truex celebrate
Patrick crashes in final NASCAR race
France optimistic about NASCAR
Earnhardt: 'This is gonna be a weird day'
MORE HEADLINES
 
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