Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

Kobalt Tools 400 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

I’ve been to NASCAR races across the country with the sole purpose of being entertained, not so much by the race itself, but by the environment a race creates and I can say -- without any hint of hometown bias -- that Las Vegas tops them all.

When you look at all the elements that make a trip fun, Las Vegas is hard to top against any city in the world even without a NASCAR race.

There are places like Daytona and Bristol that capture more of a NASCAR feel, or historical places like Richmond, Darlington or Charlotte where you can almost feel the roots of the sport creeping into your soul, but after that, what are you going to do?

Are there hundreds of restaurants catering to all ends of a budget? Is there dozens of places that your kids can have the time of their life at? Or how about just a quality hotel to stay at with little fear of bed bugs invading your NASCAR weekend? Unlike anywhere else, Las Vegas answers all those questions with a resounding YES

It doesn’t matter whether you come with your family, buddies or by yourself, there is always something for everyone which is why over 150,000 people cram into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway every March while other tracks are seeing declines. Fans want to maximize their dollar on the few vacations they get over a year and Vegas gives them all an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

We have another amenity here in Las Vegas that appeals to some. Gambling.

Casino tables with be jumping all night long with little fear of losing this type crowd to the plush clubs where the new generation seems to spend all their money and time at in Las Vegas. Gambling isn’t a new experience to people from all over the country with all the Indian casinos sprouting up, but there’s no place you can roll the dice in such style and luxury as Vegas.

The one gambling equation that is purely unique to Las Vegas alone is actually being able to bet on the race. Sports books around town appeal to the masses by offering propositions on the race in Super Bowl-style propositions.

Most sports books offer odds to win on the weekly races with a small few offering head-head matchups. But when the Vegas race comes around, every book works diligently to put up as much as they can because the demand far outweighs the supply compared to the other races.

Las Vegas sports books can expect to do 95% more volume for this weekend’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup races than they’ll do for any other race this season, minus the Daytona 500. The only reason the Daytona 500 has so much volume is that the betting is open for almost six weeks before the green flags drops and they capture all the new daily visitors over that time.

Jimmie Johnson comes into this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 400 as the 7-to-1 favorite not just because he’s won at Las Vegas four times in the last seven years, but because his top competitor doesn’t look to be as strong.

Carl Edwards won at Las Vegas last year for the second time, but struggled last week at Phoenix, a track he had the best car at for three straight races prior. It’s not an indication that Edwards will do poorly, but it is a sign that his program might not be as good for the next few weeks which is why he is 10-to-1 and not the favorite.

However, this week Edwards is bringing a chassis to Las Vegas that makes it hard to believe it will run poorly like he ran last week when he ran a brand new car. Some of the great history includes runner-up finishes at Homestead and Texas along with a third-place finish at Charlotte. This car is a stud and should contend for the win.

“Last year was a huge weekend for us and I’m excited to go back," said Edwards. "I love racing at Vegas and it’s a fun place to go for the fans. This will be our first opportunity of the year to run on a 1.5-mile track and to try the things Bob Osborne and everyone at RFR have been working on over the winter. It’s a huge event for us strategically on the schedule to build our intermediate program, which is obviously very important in our quest for the championship.”

The fortunate part for bettors this week is that he did run poorly last week giving perhaps the best value on Edwards on this type of track in two years. Granted, his last win on the series was exactly a year ago at Las Vegas, but 10-to-1 is too hard to pass up. He should be included in all wagering equations this week.

Matt Kenseth is a two-time Las Vegas winner and finally might be able to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy his Daytona 500 victory after being paraded around the county on a publicity tour last week. He’s a great candidate this week just because of his success last season on these type of tracks where he won at Texas and Charlotte, the 1.5-mile sister tracks of Las Vegas. It's also a nice attraction with Kenseth that he's brought the exact same chassis that won both of those races.

“Las Vegas has been a good track for this team and organization, so I’m looking forward to racing there this weekend," said Kenseth's crew chief Jimmy Fennig. "It’s a racetrack I enjoy every year because I always look forward to having a fast race car there, and Matt (Kenseth) has had a lot of successful races at Las Vegas as well. We’re bringing a car that was a multiple race-winning car last year for us, so we’re hoping to have similar results out of it starting this weekend for our Zest team.”

Las Vegas remains one of the few tracks Tony Stewart has never won at, but he’s been real close with as runner-up twice. Last season he had the victory snatched out of his hand late with a lengthy final pit stop in car that was head and shoulders above everyone else. He won five races in last seasons Chase after not winning any in the first 26 and three of those wins came on 1.5-mile tracks.

It’s an entirely new season with changes to the car, electronic fuel injection and changes to Stewart's team with Steve Addington taking over as crew chief, but Stewart should be in goods hands this week. It was Addington who lead the way for Kyle Busch to win his Cup race in his home town in 2009.

Kevin Harvick has a 13.2 average finish in his 11 Vegas starts, the first of which was his very first Cup start after taking the ride over for Dale Earnhardt. The city is also a special place for the Bakersfield, CA native because it is where he and his wife Delana got married. The couple is expecting their first child this season with hopes adding to the excitement by finishing the year off with Harvick's first championship.

In order to get that championship it starts with tracks like this that dominate the schedule. Whoever does well in Las Vegas sets the tone to who will be good for the remainder of the season. Stewart and Edwards finished in the top-2 at Vegas last season as well as season points. In three of Johnson’s Vegas wins, he went on to win the Championship.

Other drivers we should expect to do well this week include Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle. Kahne looked to have the best car last week at Phoenix, but hit the wall early on to ruin a great opportunity at a win.

Enjoy the race weekend everyone and good luck with all your bets. Most of all, enjoy the city to it’s fullest and let it all hang out. Remember, there’s no last call in Las Vegas.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

#14 Tony Stewart (8/1)
#48 Jimmie Johnson (7/1)
#99 Carl Edwards (10/1)
#18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
#17 Matt Kenseth (12/1)

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Re: Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

Odds & Ends - Las Vegas
VegasInsider.com

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Data

Race #: 3 of 36 (3-11-12)
Track Size: 1.5 miles
Race Length: 267 laps/400.5 miles
Banking/Corners: 20 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 9 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 9 degrees

Driver Rating at Las Vegas

Jeff Gordon 117.0
Jimmie Johnson 116.4
Kyle Busch 108.0
Greg Biffle 103.8
Tony Stewart 98.7
Carl Edwards 96.0
Matt Kenseth 95.9
Jeff Burton 95.6
Mark Martin 94.7
Kevin Harvick 92.2
Kurt Busch 86.7
Joey Logano 85.5

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (7 total) at Las Vegas.

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: Matt Kenseth (188.884 mph, 28.589 seconds)
2011 race winner: Carl Edwards (135.508 mph, 3-6-11)
Track qualifying record: Matt Kenseth (188.884 mph, 28.589 seconds, 3-4-11)
Track race record: Mark Martin (146.554 mph, 3-1-98)

Driver Ratings for Winners

Driver/Year (Driver Rating-Series - Driver Rating Rank)

Carl Edwards/2011 (100.2-4th)
Jimmie Johnson/2010 (113.0-2nd)
Kyle Busch/2009 (110.7-2nd)
Carl Edwards/2008 (114.8-2nd)
Jimmie Johnson/2007 (103.7-5th)
Jimmie Johnson/2006 (117.8-1st)

Pre-Race Kobalt Tools 400 Driver Ratings of the year the driver won the Kobalt Tools 400 (the past 6 spring races).

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Re: Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Highlights - Las Vegas
VegasInsider.com

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/Meguiar's Ford)

One top five, five top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 14.8
Average Running Position of 10.5, third-best
Driver Rating of 104.0, fourth-best
117 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.984 mph, third-fastest
1,424 Laps in the Top 15 (75.3%), third-most
215 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)

Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s
Average finish of 10.7
Average Running Position of 11.7, fifth-best
Driver Rating of 93.5, eighth-best
44 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
465 Green Flag Passes, second-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.406 mph, ninth-fastest
1,298 Laps in the Top 15 (68.7%), sixth-most
253 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 51 Tag Heuer Eyewear Chevrolet)

One top five, three top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 20.7
Average Running Position of 15.0, 11th-best
Driver Rating of 86.7, 11th-best
1,060 Laps in the Top 15 (56.1%), 12th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Brown Toyota)

One win, three top fives, four top 10s; two poles
Average finish of 15.0
Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best
Driver Rating of 104.7, third-best
83 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.871 mph, fifth-fastest
1,536 Laps in the Top 15 (81.3%), second-most
273 Quality Passes, second-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet)

Two top fives, five top 10s
Average finish of 16.8
Driver Rating of 82.3, 13th-best
49 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
427 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.350 mph, 10th-fastest
1,081 Laps in the Top 15 (57.2%), 11th-most
197 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)

Two wins, two top fives, three top 10s
Average finish of 11.0
Average Running Position of 12.1, seventh-best
Driver Rating of 98.2, sixth-best
137 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
Series-high 486 Green Flag Passes
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.487 mph, seventh-fastest
1,291 Laps in the Top 15 (68.3%), seventh-most
265 Quality Passes, third-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont 20 Years Chevrolet)

One win, six top fives, seven top 10s
Average finish of 14.9
Series-best Average Running Position of 7.9
Series-best Driver Rating of 112.1
177 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
393 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 169.320 mph
Series-high 1,708 Laps in the Top 15 (90.4%)
Series-high 278 Quality Passes

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet)

Three top fives, four top 10s
Average finish of 13.2
Average Running Position of 12.9, ninth-best
Driver Rating of 92.2, 10th-best
40 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
430 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.325 mph, 11th-fastest
1,177 Laps in the Top 15 (62.3%), ninth-most
186 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet)

Four wins, four top fives, five top 10s
Average finish of 10.6
Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best
Driver Rating of 110.3, second-best
Series-high 240 Fastest Laps Run
430 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 169.034 mph, second-fastest
1,338 Laps in the Top 15 (70.8%), fifth-most
258 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Zest Ford)

Two wins, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 11.7
Driver Rating of 93.9, seventh-best
132 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
389 Green Flag Passes, 13th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.809 mph, sixth-fastest
1,025 Laps in the Top 15 (54.2%), 13th-most
187 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Joey Logano (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)

One top 10
Average finish of 14.0
Average Running Position of 12.5, eighth-best
Driver Rating of 85.5, 12th-best
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.010 mph, 12th-fastest

Mark Martin (No. 55 Aaron's Toyota)

One win, six top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish of 13.1
Average Running Position of 14.4, 10th-best
Driver Rating of 92.3, ninth-best
39 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.441 mph, eighth-fastest
1,182 Laps in the Top 15 (62.5%), eighth-most
192 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)

Five top fives, eight top 10s
Average finish of 13.8
Average Running Position of 11.9, sixth-best
Driver Rating of 101.3, fifth-best
140 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
417 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 168.919 mph, fourth-fastest
1,399 Laps in the Top 15 (74.0%), fourth-most
263 Quality Passes, fourth-most

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Re: Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Las Vegas
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400. To help you make your fantasy racing picks, MotorRacingNetwork.com brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 267-lap event.

Who's HOT at Las Vegas

• Jimmie Johnson (two), Carl Edwards (two) and Kyle Busch are the three winners in the five races on the current track configuration.
• Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne have respective average finishes of 8.8 and 10.0 in the four races with the new (COT) car.
• Tony Stewart led 163 laps en route to a second-place finish last season.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr:, Jeff Burton and Denny Hamlin each rank in the top five in average finish in the five races on the current track configuration.
• Jeff Gordon has posted a 3.7 average finish in the three races when he's running at the finish on the current track configuration.

Keep an Eye On at Las Vegas

• Greg Biffle (fourth), Matt Kenseth (seventh) and Mark Martin (ninth) each rank in the top 10 in driver ratings at Las Vegas.
• Las Vegas is Joey Logano's third-best track on the circuit based on average finish (14.0) .
• Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and Ryan Newman each finished in the top five at Las Vegas last season.
• AJ Allmendinger (was at RPM, but Sam Hornish Jr. tested the No. 22) and Paul Menard were among the drivers that participated in the Goodyear tire test at Las Vegas.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks


Jeff Wackerlin: Joey Logano 
Pete Pistone: Marcos Ambrose
Ricky Hamber: Carl Edwards
Craig Moore:  Jeff Burton
John Singler: Jimmie Johnson

Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to Las Veags unless noted)

Denny Hamlin: Finished seventh last year for fourth top 10; Fourth-best average finish (9.4) in the five races on the current track configuration; Has yet to lead a lap in six starts.

Greg Biffle: Seventh-best average finish (12.8) in the five races on the current track configuration; Five top 10s in eight starts; Has combined to lead 55 laps in last three starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 777) that David Ragan piloted to a 12th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick: Fifth-best average finish (12.4) in the five races on the current track configuration; Finished second in 2010 for third top five in 11 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 391) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Matt Kenseth: Won the pole and finished 11th last year; Won the 2003 and 2004 races on the old track configuration; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 741) that he last finished fourth with at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Second-best average finish (9.4) in the five races on the current track configuration; Coming off third top 10 in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 668) that he finished 11th with last season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr: Coming off first top 10 in six starts; Has finished in the top 10 in five of the last seven Cup races dating back to last season.

Mark Martin: Last of three top 10s (fourth) on current track configuration came in 2010; Will make first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Joey Logano: 14.0 average finish in the five races on the current track configuration; Best finish, and only top 10, came in 2010 in sixth.

Kyle Busch: Has one win and a 14.8 average finish in the five races on the current track configuration; Finished 38th last year after engine issues; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 335) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Carl Edwards: Has two wins and the best average finish (7.4) in the five races on the current track configuration; Led 69 laps en route to the win last season; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 739) that he last finished second with at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Bobby Labonte: Finished 24th last season in first track start with JTG/Daugherty Racing; Best finish (fifth) on current track configuration came in 2009.

Brad Keselowski: 30.0 average finish in three starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 811) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Jeff Burton: Third-best average finish (11.0) in the five races on the current track configuration; Won the 1999 and 2000 races with Roush racing on the old track configuration; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 385) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

Paul Menard: Coming off best finish in five starts in 12th; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 379) that he last finished 15th with at Texas Motor Speedway.

Tony Stewart: 4.5 average finish in last two starts; led 163 laps and finished second last season; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 640) that he scored the win at Chicagoland Speedway with last season.

Dave Blaney: Finished 34th last season in first track start with Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Clint Bowyer: 8.3 average finish in last three starts; Will make first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing in the same car (chassis No. 716) that used in a Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway.

Ryan Newman: 14.0 average finish in the five races on the current track configuration; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 686) that he last finished 16th with at Texas Motor Speedway.

Regan Smith: 28.2 average finish in four starts; Finished 39th last season due to engine issues.

Aric Almirola: 41.0 average finish in three starts; Making first track start with Richard Petty Motorsports; Will pilot an updated car (chassis No. 783) that the team raced at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall.

Marcos Ambrose: 12.7 average finish in three starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 735) that he raced to a fourth-place finish last year.

Jeff Gordon: 3.7 average finish in the three races on the current track configuration when he's running at the finish; Crashes took him out of the 2008 and 2011 events; Has combined to lead 368 laps in the last five races; Led 219 laps and finished third in this event in 2010.

Juan Pablo Montoya: Finished third last year for first top 10 in five starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 1205) in the Kobalt Tools 400.

AJ Allmendinger: Coming off best finish (19th) in three starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 812) when he makes his track debut with Penske Racing.

Kurt Busch: Posted three top 10s in previous 11 combined starts with Penske Racing and Roush Racing; Will make first track start with Phoenix Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 665) that Landon Cassill drove to a 12th-place finish last season at Michigan International Speedway.

Kasey Kahne: 15.0 average finish in the five races on the current track configuration; Won second pole in 2007; Will make first track start with Hendrick Motorsports; Will pilot the same car (chassis No. 685) that Mark Martin finished 17th with at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Jamie McMurray: 19.9 average start in nine starts; 30.5 average finish in two starts with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 1208) in the Kobalt Tools 500.

Jimmie Johnson: Two wins and a 14.2 average finish in the five races on the current track configuration; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 659) that he most recently finished 32nd with at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Re: Kobalt Tools 400 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Practice Notes & Driver Ratings     
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

This Week's Race: Kobalt Tool 400

Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Qualified     Practice 2     Practice 3
1     Kasey Kahne     10/1     8th     1st     2nd     8th
Notes: 2004 runner-up with 14.9 average finish in 8 starts; had strongest overall practices.

2     Tony Stewart     8/1     3rd     7th     10th     13th
Notes: Two-time runner-up, one of only three tracks yet to win at; using winning '11 Chicago chassis.

3     Kevin Harvick     10/1     10th     3rd     12th     2nd
Notes: 2010 runner-up with a 13.2 average finish in 11 starts. Fastest average speeds in final practice.

4     Matt Kenseth     7/1     11th     11th     24th     7th
Notes: Two-time winner with 11.7 average finish in 12 starts; using '11 chassis that won two races.

5     Jimmie Johnson     8/1     1st     6th     4th     24th
Notes: Four-time winner with track best 10.6 average finish; using back-up car after wreck in practice.

6     Mark Martin     30/1     9th     13th     21st     3rd
Notes: 1998 inaugural winner with 13.1 average finish; one of only four drivers to start every Vegas race.

7     Kyle Busch     8/1     20th     2nd     5th     19th
Notes: Won in 2009 starting from the rear (engine change); using back-up car and again starts from rear.

8     Dale Earnhardt Jr.     30/1     6th     4th     1st     17th
Notes: Two-time runner-up with 16.8 average finish in 12 starts; using '11 Homestead chassis.

9     Marcos Ambrose     50/1     4th     15th     16th     4th
Notes: Using same chassis that finished fourth at Vegas and fifth at Charlotte; looked good in practice.

10     Greg Biffle     12/1     5th     9th     7th     15th
Notes: Best finish of third in 2008 with a 14.8 average finish; using Texas chassis that ran as No. 6 in '11.

Note: Two-time winner Carl Edwards was one of the favorites to win coming into the weekend, but poor practices revealed that he might struggle again like he did last week at Phoenix.

Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

Las Vegas Betting Notes

I'm a little gun shy with Kasey Kahne after taking a beating in backing him last week at Phoenix. It's almost the exact same circumstances this week as Kahne comes in with the most impressive practice sessions. He'll be starting from the pole and should contend for the win, but he'll have to be careful carrying all that speed around turn four. Several drivers have found themselves in trouble there this weekend.

Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick haven't been talked about much during the week, but they both have the look of a winner this week. A win at las Vegas would be a first for each and also a first for Richard Childress Racing.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is an interesting look at 30-to-1 because he was so solid in all of the practices. It's been quite a while since we saw Junior look so good during a practice on these kind of tracks, but he's on par with all the other Hendrick drivers that should fare well Sunday.

Matchup of the Week:

Matt Kenseth -110 vs. Carl Edwards: Based on what I saw in practice, Edwards looks to be a driver that will be 20th or worse all race. Kenseth should have a top-5 car and could contend for the win.

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Kobalt Tools 400 Preview and Picks
By Greg Engle
Covers.com

After two races in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400.

The 1.5-mile track is unlike the first two events - the superspeedway at Daytona and the one-mile Phoenix Raceway. This week’s stop is perhaps the most important so far since 1.5-mile tracks make up the bulk of the Sprint Cup schedule and running well here can set the table for a successful season.

While it’s too early to predict a clear front runner, one thing is for certain: Those who have run well at 1.5-mile tracks in the past should continue that trend Sunday.

One team which has shined at the 1.5-mile tracks lately is Roush-Fenway Racing. No driver on that team has performed better than Carl Edwards. This week, Edwards is celebrating an anniversary of sorts - it’s been one year since he last went to victory lane and it just so happens that occurred in Las Vegas.

The start to this season has been a near mirror image of last year. He won the pole at Daytona and finished eighth. A year ago, he was second in the Daytona 500. His performance in Phoenix’s spring race hasn’t been memorable in the last two years, finishing 28th in 2011 and 17th last Sunday.

Edwards ranked 12th in points entering last year’s Las Vegas race. He’s currently 10th heading into the weekend. If his history repeats itself, look for Edwards to take the checkered flag Sunday.

“Last year was a huge weekend for us and I’m excited to go back,” Edwards said. “This will be our first opportunity of the year to run on a 1.5-mile track and to try the things (crew chief) Bob Osborne and everyone at RFR have been working on over the winter. It’s a huge event for us strategically on the schedule to build our intermediate program, which is obviously very important in our quest for the championship.”

Osborne pointed out to me this week that they are bringing the same car that ran well at several 1.5-mile tracks least season. Edwards raced that particular car to a second-place finish and led the most laps at the season-ending race at Homestead last November.

Mister Five-Time, Jimmie Johnson has been showing a little muscle early in the season. The five-time champion is another driver who has historically run well at 1.5-mile tracks.

Johnson last won here in 2009 and, coming off a Top-5 finish last week, has momentum on his side - that and the knowledge that he leads all active drivers in wins here with four, including three in a row from 2005 to 2007.

Speaking of momentum, Edwards’ Roush-Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth is still basking in the glow of his Daytona 500 win. He started on the pole here last season, has two wins at Vegas and always runs well early in the season. Kenseth could spoil the show Sunday with his second win of the season and his third in Sin City.

Head-to-head

Kyle Busch vs. Denny Hamlin: Either of these Joe Gibbs Racing teammates could contend for the win here. Busch won at Vegas in 2009 and Hamlin is coming off a victory last week at Phoenix. But neither has shown anything so far that would make them clear favorites. The duo should stage a fierce duel as they try to contend, but since he’s racing in his hometown, look for Busch to outshine his teammate.

Mark Martin vs. Kasey Kahne: Martin is in a new ride - a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota - while Kahne is in the Hendrick Motorsports Chevy that was vacated by Martin at the end of last season. Martin is running a part-time schedule and the big picture of the season points means very little. Kahne on the other hand has struggled in his new car and needs to make some noise. Hendrick has historically run well at Vegas, but look for Martin to out-duel his younger rival and finish ahead of Kahne.

Bottom line

Only six of the 14 races have been won from a Top-10 starting position and only one from the pole - Kyle Busch in 2009. Four of the 14 races have been won from a starting position outside the Top 20. The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 25th, by Matt Kenseth in 2004.

Picks

Carl Edwards (+800)
Jimmie Johnson (+600)
Matt Kenseth (+1,200)

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