GEICO 400 Betting News and Notes

GEICO 400 Betting News and Notes

Odds & Ends - Chicago
VegasInsider.com

Chicagoland Speedway Data

Chase Race #: 1 of 10
Season Race #: 27 of 36 (09-16-12)
Track Size: 1.5-miles
Banking/Turns: 18 degrees
Banking/Tri-Oval: 11 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 2,400 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,700 feet
Race Length: 267 laps / 400 miles

Top 12 Driver Rating at Chicago

Jimmie Johnson 112.2
Tony Stewart 111.0
Matt Kenseth 104.1
Kevin Harvick 98.5
Kyle Busch 97.8
Jeff Gordon 95.4
Carl Edwards 92.8
Clint Bowyer 90.7
Mark Martin 89.5
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 89.2
Greg Biffle 88.5
Kurt Busch 87.8

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2012 races (7 total) at Chicagoland Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: Matt Kenseth, Ford (183.243 mph, 29.469 sec., 09-17-11)
2011 race winner: Tony Stewart, Chevrolet (143.306 mph, 2:47:41, 09-19-11)
Track qualifying record: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet (188.147 mph, 28.701 sec., 07-08-05)
Track race record: David Reutimann, Toyota (145.138 mph, 2:45:34, 07-10-10)

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Re: GEICO 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Highlights - Chicago
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1 - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.8


2012 Rundown

-- Four wins, 11 top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
-- Average finish of 12.6
-- Led 18 races for 899 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- One top five, two top 10s
-- Average finish of 19.2 in six races
-- Average Running Position of 18.7, 18th-best
-- Driver Rating of 81.8, 15th-best
-- 164 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 12th-most

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


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 108.0


2012 Rundown

-- Three wins, 12 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 11.3
-- Led 17 races for 1,033 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- Five top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 10.0 in 10 races
-- Average Running Position of 8.0, second-best
-- Series-best Driver Rating of 112.2
-- Series-high 237 Fastest Laps Run
-- Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 169.022 mph
-- 1,589 Laps in the Top 15 (84.9%), second-most
-- 205 Quality Passes, fifth-most
   
3 - Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.9


2012 Rundown

-- Three wins, 10 top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 13.4
-- Led 11 races for 378 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- Three wins, eight top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 8.7 in 11 races
-- Series-best Average Running Position of 7.7
-- Driver Rating of 111.0, second-best
-- Series-high 1,638 Laps in the Top 15 (87.5%)

4 - Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 95.9


2012 Rundown

-- Three wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s
-- Average finish of 11.5
-- Led 14 races for 409 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook

-- One top five, one top 10
-- Average finish of 18.3 in three races
-- Driver Rating of 75.8, 19th-best

5 - Greg Biffle (No. 16 Scotch Blue Ford)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 102.7


2012 Rundown

-- Two wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s; two poles
-- Average finish of 9.7
-- Led 14 races for 634 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- One top five, one top 10
-- Average finish of 18.8 in nine races
-- Driver Rating of 88.5, 12th-best
-- Series-high 469 Green Flag Passes

6 - Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.6


2012 Rundown

-- Two wins, six top fives, 15 top 10s
-- Average finish of 11.5
-- Led 7 races for 185 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook:
-- One top five, five top 10s
-- Average finish of 10.2 in six races
-- Average Running Position of 12.9, eighth-best
-- Driver Rating of 90.7, ninth-best

7 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/7-Eleven/National Guard Chevrolet)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.5


2012 Rundown

-- One win, 10 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 9.9
-- Led 12 races for 340 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- One win, three top fives, four top 10s
-- Average finish of 14.8 in 11 races
-- Average Running Position of 13.5, 10th-best
-- Driver Rating of 89.2, 11th-best
-- 423 Green Flag Passes, second-most
-- 220 Quality Passes, fourth-most

8 - Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Best Buy Ford)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 102.4


2012 Rundown

-- One win, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 10.3
-- Led 16 races for 362 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- Two top fives, four top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 12.3 in 11 races
-- Average Running Position of 10.5, fourth-best
-- Driver Rating of 104.1, third-best
-- 177 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
-- Average Green Flag Speed of 168.787 mph, third-fastest
-- 1,318 Laps in the Top 15 (70.4%), fifth-most
-- 180 Quality Passes, 10th-most

9 - Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.2


2012 Rundown

-- Four top fives, 11 top 10s
-- Average finish of 12.0
-- Led 7 races for 229 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- Two wins, six top fives, seven top 10s
-- Average finish of 10.4 in 11 races
-- Average Running Position of 11.2, fifth-best
-- Driver Rating of 98.5, fifth-best
-- 45 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
-- Average Green Flag Speed of 168.538 mph, fourth-fastest
-- 1,361 Laps in the Top 15 (72.7%), fourth-most
-- 188 Quality Passes, ninth-most

10 - Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.3


2012 Rundown

-- Six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 11.3
-- Led 11 races for 423 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- One top 10
-- Average finish of 18.2 in six races
-- Average Running Position of 13.2, ninth-best
-- Driver Rating of 86.7, 14th-best
-- 74 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
-- 409 Green Flag Passes, third-most
-- Average Green Flag Speed of 168.229 mph, seventh-fastest
-- 1,110 Laps in the Top 15 (69.2%), 10th-most
-- 202 Quality Passes, sixth-most

11 - Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 93.0


2012 Rundown

-- Two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
-- Average finish of 14.3
-- Led 7 races for 252 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- One top five, two top 10s
-- Average finish of 21.0 in eight races
-- Average Running Position of 20.2, 23rd-best
-- Driver Rating of 75.3, 20th-best

12 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)


Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 95.8


2012 Rundown

-- One win, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 14.9
-- Led 16 races for 443 laps

Chicagoland Speedway Outlook
-- One win, six top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
-- Average finish of 10.0 in 11 races
-- Average Running Position of 11.5, sixth-best
-- Driver Rating of 95.4, seventh-best
-- 87 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
-- 398 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
-- Average Green Flag Speed of 168.206 mph, eighth-fastest
-- 1,380 Laps in the Top 15 (73.7%), third-most
-- Series-high 234 Quality Passes

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Re: GEICO 400 Betting News and Notes

Geico 400 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

When I look at the NASCAR Chase odds and see Jimmie Johnson as the 5-to-2 favorite, my first thought is, "Yes, he's a five-time champion with 20 wins in 80 Chase starts, he should be the favorite." But after that brief moment, reality sets in that those 20 wins from the past mean nothing now. He wasn't a factor in last year's Chase and it's probable that he won't be this year's, either.

This year's Chase is wide open as ever. There is no doubt that Johnson has one of the best teams in NASCAR. They have the top crew chief, pit-crew, engine builders, and entire organization surrounding him that make him the most respected driver coming into the Chase. Those five championship trophies carry a lot weight and are intimidating to some of the other upstarts that are trying to regain or make their mark in the sport.

Most everyone will agree that the key to wining the Chase is doing well on the type of track that there are more of. Of the 10 Chase races, five of them are on 1.5-mile tracks. When Johnson won his championships, there was no one better on those type of tracks. Last season, we started to see a demise in the first 26 races where his only win was a Talladega and it carried over into the Chase. Sure, he won at Kansas during the Chase last year, but it was Tony Stewart who won three of the five 1.5-mile races and five overall to win the championship.

This year we have the same type of thing with Johnson. Of the six 1.5-mile tracks run at this season, Johnson has failed to win at any of them. He finished runner-up at Las Vegas and Texas early on, third at Kansas, but then dipped to 11th at Charlotte and sixth at Kentucky. Three weeks ago at Atlanta he was involved in a wreck and finished 34th. He's progressively getting worse at these tracks at the wrong time of the year. This is go-time and his team doesn't appear to be the second or third best on these type of tracks, which kind of makes you wonder how he's the favorite.

The biggest question is why Denny Hamlin isn't favored.

Hamlin is the only driver this season to capture two wins on the 1.5-mile tracks this season and he's done so recently. In the past four races on 1.5-mile tracks, Hamlin has finished third or better. He has more wins (4) overall than anyone this year and he comes in as one of the hottest drivers on tour.

So we've established that Hamlin is the best on the recent 1.5-mile tracks, and we expect him to continue the run through the five races, but what about the rest? Well, he's one of the absolute best on flat tracks and he'll have New Hampshire and Phoenix to show off his skills during the Chase. At New Hampshire he has an 8.5 average finish, the best among all drivers, that includes a 2007 win. At Phoenix his average finish is 10.9 that includes a win this year.

Then we have his favorite track on the circuit at Martinsville where the native Virginian has won four times over his career. We should expect a top-5 finish there considering he's averaged a finish of 6.4 over 14 career starts.

The only wild cards for him during the Chase and Dover and Talladega. He's got eight of the 10 races in the bag on paper and if he can finish 12th or better on the two wild card tracks for him, he'll be hoisting the trophy in Miami.

I also love the angle of crew chief Darian Grubb taking Hamlin to the next level. For some strange reason, Grubb was let go by Tony Stewart following a championship season. The crew chief change on Stewart's car was done behind the scenes before the Chase started last season, but Grubb put five winning cars together during the Chase and got it done. He's now Hamlin's crew chief and his expertise on the 1.5-mile tracks is what is making a champion. Before Stewart, Grubb was also the car chief under Chad Knaus for Johnson during those dominant years on the 1.5-mile tracks.

It all begins this week in Chicago, the first of five 1.5-mile tracks, and Hamlin should be considered the favorite to win because of his recent excellence. I like to group Chicago with Kansas and Kentucky because of similar banking. They all run differently, but the set-ups required are similar. Hamlin won at kansas in April and was third at Kentucky in June.

Other drivers expected to run well this week include Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth.

I've altered my thought on Tony Stewart this week. He has the best average finish (8.7) at Chicago since the track opened in 2001, and has won three times there -- including last season, but he hasn't done a thing on thing 1.5-mile tracks since winning at las Vegas in March. Oh yeah, he also doesn't have Darian Grubb to set his cars up.

Top-5 Finish prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (8/1)
2) #56 Martin Truex Jr. (20/1)
3) #29 Kevin Harvick (12/1)
4) #24 Jeff Gordon (12/1)
5) #17 Matt Kenseth (8/1)

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Re: GEICO 400 Betting News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Chicagoland
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

Motor Racing Network brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Who's HOT at Chicagoland

• Defending race winner Tony Stewart leads all drivers with an 8.7 average finish.
• Jeff Gordon has finished ninth or better in seven of the last 10 races, including a win in the 2006 race.
• Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers a 112.2 driver rating.
• Two-time winner Kevin Harvick has finished in the top five in four of the last six races.
• Carl Edwards has posted a 3.0 average finish in his last two starts.
• Clint Bowyer has finished in the top 10 in his last three starts.

Keep an Eye On at Chicagoland

• Denny Hamlin (6.5), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (7.3), Greg Biffle (8.2) and Martin Truex Jr. (8.2) have the top four average finishes among all drivers in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.
• Matt Kenseth has posted two runner-up finishes and has led 346 laps at Chicagoland.
• Kyle Busch, the 2008 winner at Chicagoland, has led 239 laps on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
• Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski each have a win on a 1.5-mile track this season.
• Martin Martin has posted an 8.3 average finish in the last three Chicago races, including a win in 2009.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Martin Truex Jr.
Pete Pistone: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ricky Hamber: Brad Keselowski
John Singler: Greg Biffle

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

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

Denny Hamlin: 19.2 average finish in six starts; Has finished eighth or better in two of his last three starts; Leads all drivers with a 6.5 average finish and is fifth in laps led (208) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

Jimmie Johnson: Tied for the second-best average finish (10.0); Has finished 10th or better in three of his last four starts; Seventh-best average finish (9.7) and fourth in laps led (214) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 728) that he scored wins at Dover International and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Tony Stewart: Leads all drivers with three wins and an 8.7 average finish; Defending race winner; Has finished ninth or better in last five starts; 19.5 average finish and 135 laps led in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

Brad Keselowski: Finished fifth last season for first top 10; 18.3 average finish in three starts; 14.7 average finish and 72 laps led in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 832) in the GEICO 400.

Greg Biffle: Only top 10 in nine starts came in the 2008 race in fourth; Tied for the third-best average finish (8.2) and first in laps led (297) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 817) that he won with at Michigan International Speedway.

Clint Bowyer: Has finished ninth or better in last three starts; 10.2 average finish in six starts; 19.2 average finish in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will make first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Finished third last season; 14.3 average finish in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Won the 2005 race with Dale Earnhardt Inc; Second-best average finish (7.3) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 726) that he raced in both events at Pocono Raceway.

Matt Kenseth: 12.3 average finish in 11 starts; Last of four top 10s (seventh) came in the 2008 race; Sixth-best average finish (9.5) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 821) in the GEICO 400.

Kevin Harvick: Has finished fourth or better in four of the last six races; Winner of the 2001 and 2002 races; 10.4 average finish in 11 starts; Fourth-best average finish (8.3) and 106 laps led in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 396) that he finished 14th with at Pocono Raceway last month.

Martin Truex Jr: 14.5 average finish in two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Tied for the third-best average finish (8.2) and second in laps led (282) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

Kasey Kahne: 7.0 average finish in last three starts; 21.0 average finish in eight overall starts; Eighth-best average finish (10.0) and 96 laps led in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

Jeff Gordon: Tied for the second-best average finish (10.0); Has finished third or better in two of his last three starts; Winner of the 2006 race; Fifth-best average finish (8.5) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

Kyle Busch: Winner of the 2008 race; Win was last of two top 10s in seven starts; Ninth-best average finish (10.5) and third in laps led (239) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

Carl Edwards: 3.0 average finish in last two starts; 16.3 average finish in seven overall starts; 14.5 average finish in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 739) that he finished sixth with at Michigan International Speedway.

Marcos Ambrose: 19.3 average finish in three starts; Best finish came in 2009 in 11th; 18.5 average finish in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 754) that he most recently finished 19th with at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Ryan Newman: 12.0 average finish in three starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; 15.9 average finish in 10 overall starts; Winner of the 2003 race; 21.3 average finish in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 733) that he last finished eighth with at Michigan International Speedway.

Paul Menard: 26.6 average finish in five starts; Lone top 10 came in 2010 in 10th; 10th-best average finish (13.0) in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will pilot the same chassis (No. 371) that Kevin Harvick drove to a 13th-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Joey Logano: 17.7 average finish in three starts; Scored best finish last season in 16th; 18.8 average finish in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012.

Jeff Burton: 19.4 average finish in 11 starts; Last of four top 10s came in 2010 in seventh; 20.0 average finish in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 367) that he most recently finished 19th with at Michigan International Speedway.

Jamie McMurray: 22.9 average finish in nine starts; Won the pole and finished fifth in 2010; 16.0 average finish in the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1112) that he finished 22nd with at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Re: GEICO 400 Betting News and Notes

Geico 400 Betting Preview
By Greg Engle
Examiner.com

The anticipation is over. The 12 drivers for the 2012 version of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup have been set. After a week of media events the top 12 and the rest of field, is ready to get down to the business at hand. For the first time in Chase history the first of the ten races that make up NASCAR’s playoffs will held at the 1.5 mile Chicagoland Speedway with Sunday’s Geico 400.

The Favorites:

Tony Stewart is the defending winner here and there’s no reason he won’t end up at the top of the field Sunday. Stewart leads all Chasers, and active drivers for that matter, with three wins here, two of those coming in the last five races at Chicago. In addition he has two top fives and a top ten finish. The reigning Sprint Cup champion is seeded third in the Chase and coming off a fourth place finish last week at Richmond, Stewart is looking to move up in the standings and has a pretty good shot of doing just that and adding a fourth win to his season total and his Chicagoland resume Sunday.

“I feel like we’ve got a shot at it,” Stewart said. “But I don’t watch the stats very much. You just take it week to week. Technology in this sport changes so fast. What was good the last time you were there doesn’t mean it’s going to be good the second time around. You constantly have to work. You’ve got to keep pushing the envelope. It’s a place I like. This place is really getting racy as far as finally being able to move around and change lines and run anywhere from the bottom to the top. It’s a fun track because of that.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters the Chase as a legitimate contender, perhaps for the first time in his career. In a season filled with strong finishes and a win at Michigan, Earnhardt could race to a win Sunday. He won here in 2005 and was third here last year in a season where he wasn’t running nearly as strong as he is this time around.

“We've been consistent all year long, and I think our chances are as good as they have ever been for me,” Earnhardt said. “I had a pretty good shot at it back in '04, but I think this year is a better opportunity. We've got the team, and we’re poised to make a run at it. You've got to put the guys that have won the championship at the top of the list as the favorites but we are in the conversation, and we're going to work hard to still be in that conversation at Homestead ."

Clint Bowyer hasn’t won a title, but this year may be his best chance so far. Bowyer seems poised to surprise many in the Chase with his new ride at Michael Waltrip Racing and that surprise could include a win Sunday. Coming off a victory last week at Richmond, his second of the season, Bowyer is on a roll and could add a second victory at the track where he’s scored two top 10 and one top five finish in the last five races here.

The Rest:

1. Denny Hamlin has never won here. He has one top five and two top ten finishes with an average finish of 19.2

2. Jimmie Johnson. This is only of two tracks in the Chase that Johnson has never won at, the other being Homestead. He has a record of five top five and eight top 10 finishes along with a DNF here. His average finish is 10.

4. Brad Keselowski has only raced here three times, but has one top five and a top ten finish to show for his efforts. His average finish is among the lowest of the Chase field however at 18.3.

5. Greg Biffle. The Biff has one top five and one top 10 finish in nine starts; his average finish is also among the lowest of the Chase field at 18.8.

8. Matt Kenseth has never won here but has a pole along with two top five and four top 10 finishes in 11 starts with an average finish of 12.3.

9. Kevin Harvick has two wins here, but those came a decade ago. Since then he has six top five and seven top 10 finishes with a an average finish of 10.4

10. Martin Truex Jr. Bowyer’s teammate has one top five and a top 10 finish to show for his six starts here. His average finish is 18.2

11. Kasey Kahne. Chicagoland has not been historically kind to Kahne. In eight starts he has one top five, two top 10s and two DNFs. His average finish is lowest among the Chase field at 21.

12. Jeff Gordon. He has one win here along with one pole, six top five and seven top 10 finishes. Gordon has an average finish of 10.0.

The Others:

Keep an eye on Carl Edwards. After just missing out on the Chase, Edwards wants redemption and while he has never won here, he was fourth in this race last year and second the year prior. Overall he has three top five and three top 10s with an average finish of 16.3. With no Chase points to protect, Edwards has one goal Sunday and for the rest of the season.

“We are going to Chicago to win the race,” Edwards said. “We have nothing to lose. We almost had nothing to lose at Richmond, but now we really have nothing to lose. We are going to go out and just enjoy these last 10 races for what they are. It’s a chance to go have fun, to try things we’ve been wanting to try all year that we want to try for next year and just try to get victories. I wish so bad this was the first race of our 2012 championship, but really it’s the first race of our 2013 championship run. We’re just getting a head start on these guys and that’s how we have to look at it.”

Another of the non-Chasers to watch is Ryan Newman. Newman has won here and finished eighth last season. He has two top fives and six top 10s with an average finish of 15.9.

Bottom Line:

Kyle Busch won the 2008 race from the pole, the first time a driver won from the pole. It was also the only time a driver had won from a top-five starting position. Kevin Harvick won the 2002 race from the 32nd starting position, the deepest in the field that a race winner ever started at Chicago. Only one starting position has multiple wins: 14th. Mark Martin won from the 14th starting position in 2009, as did Ryan Newman in 2003.

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Re: GEICO 400 Betting News and Notes

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

This Week's Race: Geico 400

Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Practice 2     Qualified     Kansas*
1     Denny Hamlin     8/1     5th     5th     8th     1st
Notes: Should be very good on long runs; finished third or better on past four 1.5-mile tracks.

2     Kyle Busch     10/1     28th     1st     21st     10th
Notes: 2008 winner; set-up similar to Hamlin’s; had 2nd best 10-consecutive lap average in Practice 2.

3     Kasey Kahne     12/1     24th     6th     6th     8th
Notes: Best finish of third in 2008; using same car this week that won on fast 1.5-mile Charlotte track.

4     Martin Truex, Jr.     20/1     1st     25th     18th     2nd
Notes: Has finished 12th or better on past five 1.5-mile tracks, including a dominating Kansas run.

5     Jeff Gordon     12/1     20th     10th     19th     21st
Notes: 2006 winner with a 10th-place average in 11 starts; only Hamlin is hotter coming into Chase.

6     Jimmie Johnson     7/1     25th     7th     1st     3rd
Notes: One of five Cup tracks to never win at; using chassis that has never lost a race (2 starts).

7     Matt Kenseth     8/1     32nd     8th     3rd     4th
Notes: Two-time runner-up with 12.3 average; top-10 finishes on last five 1.5-mile tracks; using new car.

8     Tony Stewart     8/1     12th     14th     29th     13th
Notes: Three-time winner, including last season; has track best 8.7 average; using new chassis.

9     Brad Keselowski     12/1     3rd     16th     13th     11th
Notes: Career best fifth-place last season; finished fifth or better on past three 1.5-mile tracks.

10     Dale Earnhardt, Jr.     12/1     2nd     31st     4th     7th
Notes: 2005 winner; only driver to finish in top-10 at all six 1.5-mile tracks in 2012; using Pocono car.

* Results from the April 22 race at Kansas Speedway, a 1.5-mile track with a layout and banking that is most similar to Chicagoland.

Betting Notes: It may sound like a broken record every week, but Denny Hamlin is the driver to beat. It’s not just because he’s won two of the past three races, I mean, it does have a little to do with it. No one is hotter than Hamlin coming into the Chase, but his top-5 practices in both sessions Friday elevate him to the top. Then we also have to consider that Hamlin has been dominant on the 1.5-mile tracks this season, in particular, finishing third or better in his past four starts on them. Oh yeah, he won two of them, including the track that is most similar to Chicago, Kansas.

Hamlin’s not only fast in single lap times, but also in average speeds. He was fourth fastest behind Kasey Kahne’s top time during the final practice session on 10-consecutive lap averages.

And that brings us to probably the second best candidate. Kyle Busch is rated No. 2 only because of his practices, but Kahne could probably be rated higher than Busch. I could see Kahne being one of the surprises of the Chase just because he’s so good on 1.5-mile tracks. He’s got the horses under the hood, a great crew chief and I think he can smell the trophy. His fate will rest with the other five tracks.

Jeff Gordon wasn’t spectacular in practice, but I think the momentum coming into the Chase is key here. He should be considered in match-up plays against most of the top drivers, other than Kahne, Busch and Hamlin.

Just because the odds are so long and also because he’s so good on the 1.5-mile tracks, it might be beneficial to try a few bones on Martin Truex Jr. If Hamlin sounds like a broken record weekly, then Truex Jr. must be getting overly repetitive. But I wouldn’t suggest him if I didn’t think it was possible. He’ll be fast in this race and should be there near the end contending for the win. On the consistency note, Dale Earnhardt Jr should also be considered in matchups. He's almost a guaranteed top-10 finisher.

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