Duck Commander 500
March 31, 2014
By Micah Roberts
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We get our second look at a high banked 1.5-mile layout this week at Texas Motor Speedway, but let’s take a moment to reflect on what we saw last week at Martinsville where Las Vegan Kurt Busch took a beat up car to end his personal 81-race winless streak. He radioed in to his crew saying that their ’day was done’ after an early pit road crunch with Brad Keselowski, and then went blow for blow with a hoodless and fenderless Keselowski for multiple laps, and then finally won on a track where four select drivers had won 17 of the past 19 races.
It was a magical ride for all of us, and with the win, he became the sixth different driver to win in the first six races. The ride would have been better is I actually had Kurt Busch at the 50/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $5,000) offered by the LVH SuperBook. The most encouraging thing is that there looks to finally be hope for other drivers at Martinsville like the days when 30/1 or higher payouts were common with Ricky Rudd, Bobby Hamilton, John Andretti and Ricky Craven. Lately, Martinsville has been won by the big favorites. So make a mental note for when they return to the track on Oct. 26 that longer shots actually do have a chance now.
Over the years, we haven’t seen too many upsets at Texas, so when looking at the best candidates to win Sunday’s Duck Commander 500, you might want to keep your eyes at the top half of the odds board.
You could categorize Jeff Burton’s win in 2007 at 35/1 odds as a longshot, but for the most part, the elite have won. And when getting to see them run in final practices, the eventual winner should become much clearer as the cream rises to the top of the speed charts.
One way to get a head start on who might be the best Sunday is look at what happened during the Las Vegas race from Mar. 9 won by Brad Keselowski. Both are 1.5-mile tracks with each having their own unique characteristics. But since it’s the only relative thing to go off of from this season, it should be an important part of any wagering equation.
In the Las Vegas race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gambled with fuel mileage and was leading when he ran out of fuel on the final lap, whereupon Keselowski passed for the win. Junior would finish second and was followed by Paul Menard, who would be considered somewhat of a long shot candidate this week.
Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch led some laps in that race, and Busch would go on to win at Fontana, which is a race that can also be applied into the betting equation this week.
Here’s a look at how some of top candidates to win have fared at Texas over their careers:
Matt Kenseth: It doesn’t matter what car he is driving, Kenseth has always loved some Texas cooking. Since NASCAR began compiling their loop data in 2005, he has the top driver rating (107.2) at Texas among all drivers. Over his past 20 starts, he’s averaged a seventh-place finish and has two wins overall, the last in 2011.
Jimmie Johnson: He has won two of the past three Texas races and has three wins overall. He is just behind Kenseth on a consistency level with an 8.7 average finish. He hasn’t won a race yet, and this would appear to be a good setting for him to do so.
Dale Earnhardt Jr: He won his first career race at Texas as a rookie, in perhaps his best father-son moment captured on video where Dale Sr. was beaming with pride showing everyone a side most had never seen out of the Intimidator. That was in 2000, and he’s yet to win there since, but he did finish second to Johnson there last fall, and with his great Vegas run, he should be considered a quality candidate to win.
Kevin Harvick: He’s never won at Texas, but has finished 13th or better in the past five races there. He’s a candidate just because his car does have some horsepower, and although his Vegas 41st-place finish doesn’t look good on paper, he did lead twice for 23 laps and was very fast. He was also the star of a test session at Vegas, which gave the team invaluable notes for setting up their cars on all the 1.5-mile tracks.
Kyle Busch: He won this race last spring and has been considered one of the favorites to win here over the past seven seasons. His Fontana win should also elevate him high on any list or ranking.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #4 Kevin Harvick (10/1)
2) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10/1)
3) #2 Brad Keselowski (8/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
5) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)