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September 16, 2014
By Micah Roberts
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Brad Keselowski is an amazing driver with some amazing equipment. How can anyone stop him?
His win Sunday at Chicago was his second straight on the season and gave him a series leading five overall. This is how he's going to start the 2014 Chase? It's like he's riding a tidal wave above everyone into the Chase. It's a much better entrance to the Chase than in 2012 when he won at Chicago and went on to win his first Cup title.
The win Sunday enhances his win at Richmond two weeks ago even more. Remember when he led 383 of the 400 laps at Richmond? It was one of the more dominant ass-kickings on a race track I've ever seen -- at least a top-10 contender. Now he heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where one of his five wins on the season came in July.
If you've been reading this column through the years, then you've probably heard over and over again about how I like to group New Hampshire, Richmond and Phoenix into one group because they're all flat and nearly the same distance. Sure, it's repetitive, but it's the most important part of handicapping the race, especially this late in the season when we have four races of data to go off of.
Here's the drill you want to go through this week. Print the results from Phoenix, New Hampshire and both Richmond races and put them side to side in order of date they ran. Look at who has gotten better on each run and look who has been the most consistent. The driver that has gotten progressively better is Keselowski, which is hard to do when no finish is worse than fourth. But wins in the last two on them, and pasting the field at Richmond, puts him at a distinct advanatge Sunday.
The Pesnke Racing team has won the past three on these types with teammate Joey Logano winning at Richmond Apr. 26. They didn't win at Phoenix -- Kevin Harvick did, but Keselowski was third and Logano was fourth. And of the four races we're comparing, least important in the equation is Phoenix because it was so long ago.
Now that we have figured out that Keselowski is easily the driver to beat, the problem is getting good value and we're not going to get it. The sports books have their results sheets laid out too and they know Penske and Keselowski are the team to beat by a wide margin. Because he's so good, it's going to take some enticing odds on the other contenders to stray away from just going all in with Keselowski.
The best candidate to beat Keselowski would be Jeff Gordon who has twice finished second to a Penske car this season at Richmond. He's a three-time winner at New Hampshire and has led the most laps there all-time.
If looking for drivers with a little more punch in the odds department, you might take a chance with Clint Bowyer who raced his tail off at Richmond to a third-place finish while trying to make the Chase. He's a two-time winner at New Hampshire, including his first career victory. He finished sixth in the first New Hampshire in July.
The best car doesn't always win, so I'll ride with the second best car with Gordon. As always check out the final practices on Saturday to finalize your wagers.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #24 Jeff Gordon (6/1)
2) #2 Brad Keselowski (4/1)
3) #4 Kevin Harvick (6/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (10/1)
5) #15 Clint Bowyer (30/1)