Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Sonoma Raceway Data

Season Race #: 16 of 36 (06-23-13)
Track Size: 1.99-miles
Number of Turns: 12
Race Length: 110 laps / 219 miles / 350 Kilometers

Top 12 Driver Rating at Sonoma

Kurt Busch 107.8
Tony Stewart 107.5
Marcos Ambrose 106.8
Jeff Gordon 101.1
Juan Pablo Montoya 97.8
Jimmie Johnson 96.6
Clint Bowyer 93.3
Kyle Busch 92.8
Ryan Newman 89.9
Carl Edwards 84.9
Elliott Sadler 84.9
Jamie McMurray 84.4

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2012 races (eight total) among active drivers at Sonoma Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data

2012 pole winner:
Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 95.262 mph, 75.203 secs. 6-22-12

2012 race winner: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 83.624 mph, (02:39:55), 6-24-12

Track qualifying record: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 95.262 mph, 75.203 secs. 6-22-12

Track race record: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 83.624 mph, (02:39:55), 6-24-12

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Driver Tale of the Tape at Sonoma


Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Stanley Ford)


· Two top fives, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 10.9, third-best
· Driver Rating of 106.8, third-best
· 49 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.807 mph, second-fastest
· 452 Laps in the Top 15 (81.1%), 11th-most
· 187 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), fifth-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota)

· One win, four top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 9.7
· Average Running Position of 14.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.3, seventh-best
· 476 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.333 mph, seventh-fastest

Kurt Busch (No. 78 Furniture Row/Sealy Chevrolet)

· One win, five top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.0
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.2
· Series-best Driver Rating of 107.8
· 35 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.684 mph, third-fastest
· 705 Laps in the Top 15 (79.5%), second-most
· 186 Quality Passes, sixth-most

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

· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 18.6
· Driver Rating of 92.8, eighth-best
· 48 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.540 mph, fifth-fastest
· 512 Laps in the Top 15 (57.7%), sixth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)


· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 17.1
· Average Running Position of 16.0, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.9, 10th-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Series-high 515 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.331 mph, ninth-fastest
· 471 Laps in the Top 15 (53.1%), ninth-most
· 181 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)

· Five wins, 12 top fives, 16 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 8.6
· Average Running Position of 12.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.1, fourth-best
· 56 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 439 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.560 mph, fourth-fastest
· 593 Laps in the Top 15 (66.9%), fourth-most
· 206 Quality Passes, second-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet)

· Three top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 16.1
· Average Running Position of 15.4, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 82.2, 13th-best
· 20 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-most
· 455 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· 499 Laps in the Top 15 (56.3%), eighth-most
· 153 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)


· One win, four top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 13.8
· Average Running Position of 12.7, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.6, sixth-best
· 52 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 625 Laps in the Top 15 (70.5%), third-most
· 204 Quality Passes, third-most

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 CESSNA Chevrolet)

· One top five, one top 10; one pole
· Average finish of 17.1
· Driver Rating of 84.4, 12th-best
· 441 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.330 mph, 10th-fastest

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)

· One win, one top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 13.2
· Average Running Position of 11.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.8, fifth-best
· 23 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.332 mph, eighth-fastest
· 509 Laps in the Top 15 (76.3%), seventh-most
· 195 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 Haas Automation 30th Anniversary Chevrolet)

· Two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 12.9
· Average Running Position of 13.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 89.9, ninth-best
· 448 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.375 mph, sixth-fastest
· 571 Laps in the Top 15 (64.4%), fifth-most
· 185 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/Brass Pro Shops Chevrolet)

· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 10.9
· Average Running Position of 10.0, second-best
· Driver Rating of 107.5, second-best
· Series-high 79 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 89.877 mph
· Series-high 706 Laps in the Top 15 (79.6%)
· Series-high 252 Quality Passes

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

After 15 weeks of running in circles with only left turns, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series right gets to turn right this week at Sonoma's 1.99-mile 10-turn road course, a track that highlights a drivers true ability to drive race cars. Because some drivers are less skilled at driving on road courses, there isn't as much excitement out them when they visit one of the two road circuits on the schedule.

It even gets so bad for a few of them that car owners hire a road specialist for a race to drive their cars. Although the hired guns have never won a Cup race before, they usually run well and take a car that would have been doomed to a 30th-place finish or worse into a respectable finish position. From a fans perspective, some of the greatest racing on the season occurs when watching these hired guns, with all kinds of skill on their playground, mix it up with the regulars.

From a betting perspective, you can narrow down the list of candidates to win at about 10 drivers, or just under 25 percent of the entire field. On a normal race weekend, there about 18 legitimate candidates, but the road course is the variable that really puts a major gap between those contenders.

The top candidate to win this week is Marcos Ambrose. Although he has never won at Sonoma, he has won the past two races at Watkins Glen. The two road courses are about as different as they can get with Sonoma being more technical featuring elevation changes while Watkins Glen runs much faster. Ambrose has finished eighth or better in his last four starts at Sonoma. His skills on the roads come from the Australia V8 Super Series, which is much tougher than anything he seen in NASCAR. To him, these races have become rather simple. His two road course wins are the only two wins he's had in NASCAR.

The same can be said for Juan Pablo Montoya, who has yet to win on any track other than a road course. He won at Sonoma in 2007 during his rookie season, and then won at Watkins Glen in 2010. Montoya's chances of winning become even stronger this week due to the upgrade in the entire program over the past two months. His skills on the road courses have never been questioned over his illustrious career. Not many drivers can say they have won the Monaco Grand Prix, especially those driving in NASCAR.

Because of their past excellence in other series, Ambrose and Montoya stand alone as the most technical road racers, but a few Cup drivers that have success on the ovals have also found the roads to be to their liking. Jeff Gordon is a five-time winner at Sonoma, which is the closest track located to his birth-place in Vallejo, CA. He hasn't won these since 2006, but hasn't finished worse than ninth in his last six starts there.

Tony Stewart took over the road racing crown from Gordon for a while between events at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but he captured the last of his two Sonoma victories in 2005. He's been runner-up twice since then, including last year.

The most interesting choice this week is Kurt Busch because of how fast he's been everywhere this season. His outstanding practice times haven't translated into good finishes the past few weeks, but we should expect a great run on Sunday. He won at Sonoma while driving for Penske Racing in 2011, and then came in third last season while driving for his current underfunded No. 78 program. He's always been good at Sonoma and should be considered one of the favorites.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (12/1)
2) #24 Jeff Gordon (7/1)
3) #9 Marcos Ambrose (4/1)
4) #78 Kurt Busch (10/1)
5) #14 Tony Stewart (7/1)

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Sonoma
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

To help you make your fantasy racing picks, MotorRacingNetwork.com's Jeff Wackerlin brings you his weekly detailed analysis to help steer you toward Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Who's HOT at Sonoma

• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with five wins and has finished in the top 10 in his last seven starts.
• Defending race winner Clint Bowyer has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six starts.
• Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top 10 in the last four races, including a win in 2010.
• Marcos Ambrose has a 5.5 average finish in his last four starts.
• Tony Stewart has nine top 10s in 14 starts, including two wins.
• Kurt Busch, the 2011 winner, has posted a 2.0 average finish in his last two starts.

Who to Keep an Eye On at Sonoma

• Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 2007 race, has the fifth-best driver rating in the last eight Sonoma races.
• Boris Said (No. 32 Ford), Jacques Villeneuve (No. 51 Chevrolet), Ron Fellows (No. 33 Chevrolet), Justin Marks (No. 7 Chevrolet) are among the "road course aces" that will each make their first Sprint Cup start of the season this weekend.
• Last week's winner Greg Biffle finished in the top 10 in both road-course races in 2012.
• Carl Edwards, who finished third at Sonoma in 2011, tested at Virginia International Raceway last month.
• Kevin Harvick has posted a 9.3 average finish in his last four starts at Sonoma.
• Kyle Busch won the 2008 race and has led the most laps (88) among all drivers in the last five races at Sonoma.
• Aric Almirola has yet to post a finish inside the top 25 in two Sonoma starts, but looks to improve after testing at the track last month with teammate Marcos Ambrose.
• Brian Vickers, who is the only driver pulling double duty at Sonoma/Road America, finished fourth last season in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing.
• Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano each tested at both Virginia International Raceway and Road Atlanta.

Note: Teams will be running run a new tire code at Sonoma this weekend which will feature a slight compound change and a reduction in thread thickness. This code is the same for the right-side tires at Martinsville Speedway.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Writer Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Marcos Ambrose
Pete Pistone: Jeff Gordon
Dustin Long: Jacques Villeneuve
John Singler: Jimmie Johnson

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

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

Jimmie Johnson: Has finished seventh or better in the last four races, including a win in 2010; Second in average finish (6.0) and laps led (82) among drivers that have competed in the last five races.

Carl Edwards: Last of three top 10s (third) in eight starts came in 2011; Seventh-best average finish (15.0) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 853) in the Toyota/Save Mart 350; This is the car he tested at Virginia International Raceway in May.

Clint Bowyer: Defending race winner; Win was second consecutive top five and fifth top 10 in seven starts; Third-best average finish (9.6) and fourth in laps led (73) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Tested at Virginia Internatonal Raceway.

Kevin Harvick: 9.3 average finish in last three starts; Best finish (second) came in the 2007 race - the first road course race with the COT Gen-5 chassis; Will return in the same chassis (No. 395) that he last finished 15th with at Watkins Glen International.

Matt Kenseth: Only top 10 in 13 starts came in 2008; 16.6 average finish in the last five races; Making first road course start with Joe Gibbs Racing; Tested at Virginia Internatonal Raceway.

Kyle Busch: Winner of the 2008 race; Win was last of two top 10s in eight starts; 18.0 average finish and the most laps led (88) among all drivers in the last five races.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in 13 starts; Finished 11th three times, last coming in 2010; 22.6 average finish in the last five races; Tested at Carolina Motorsports Park; Will return in the same chassis (No. 747) that he last finished 28th with at Watkins Glen International.

Greg Biffle: Coming off fourth top 10 (seventh) in 10 starts; Eighth-best average finish (15.2) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 764) that he finished sixth with at Watkins Glen International last season.

Brad Keselowski: 19.0 average finish in three starts; Best finish (10th) came in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 837) that he last finished sixth with at Martinsville Speedway; Tested at both Virginia International Raceway and Road Atlanta.

Tony Stewart: Last of two wins came in 2005 with Joe Gibbs Racing; 13.0 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Fourth-best average finish (12.4) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will return in the same chassis (No. 731) that he started 24th and finished second with last year at Sonoma.

Paul Menard: 22.8 average finish in five starts; Will return in the same chassis he races to respective finishes of 17th and 20th in 2011 and 2012 at Sonoma.

Kasey Kahne: Won the 2009 race with Richard Petty Motorsports; Finished 14th last season in first track start with Hendrick Motorsports; Sixth-best average finish (14.4) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will debut a new chassis (No. 802) that he tested at Carolina Motorsports Park.

Martin Truex Jr: Only top 10 (eighth) in seven starts came in 2011; 22.6 average finish in the last five races; 24.0 average finish in three starts with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Joey Logano: Has finished in the top 10 in last two starts; 17.0 average finish in four starts; Will make first track start with Penske Racing in a new car (chassis No. 835); Tested at both Virginia International Raceway and Road Atlanta.

Aric Almirola: 28.0 average finish in two starts; Tested at Sonoma last month with teammate Marcos Ambrose.

Jeff Gordon: Last of five wins came in 2006; Has finished ninth or better in the last seven races; Leads all drivers with a 5.0 average finish in the last five races.

Jeff Burton: 21.2 average finish in the last five races; Last of five top 10s (third) in 19 starts came in 2007; Will return in the same chassis (No. 357) that he finished 11th and 30th, respectively, at Sonoma and Watkins Glen International last season.

Ryan Newman: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Last of five top 10s (seventh) came in 2008 with Penske Racing; 16.6 average finish in the last five races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 545) that he tested on June 13 at Virginia International Raceway; This car last seen competitive action on 2010 at Watkins Glen where he finished 12th.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr: Making first track start; Tested at Virginia Internatonal Raceway; Will return in the same chassis (No. 816) that Carl Edwards last drove to a 14th-place finish at Watkins Glen International.

Kurt Busch: Won the 2011 race with Penske Racing; Finished third last season with Phoenix Racing; 16.6 average finish and third among laps led (79) among all drivers in the last five races; Tested at Virginia International Raceway in preparation for first track start with Furniture Row Racing.

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Race on Sonoma's Road Course Means Shakeup on NASCAR Oddsboard
By: Micah Roberts   
Sportingnews.com

LAS VEGAS -- The LVH SuperBook has installed Marcos Ambrose as the 7-to-2 favorite to win Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, the first of two road course events scheduled this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Ambrose has never won at Sonoma, but he has established himself over the past four seasons as one of the best road course drivers on the circuit. He has won the past two races at Watkins Glen and was eighth at Sonoma last season, where he led 11 of the 112 laps.

The 1.99-mile layout at Sonoma features 10-turns – both left and right – with elevation changes, and is much more technical than the faster course at Watkins Glen. More than half field will find themselves like fish out of water, which is why 10 drivers have odds at 15-to-1 or less while everyone else is 20-to-1 or higher.

When else are you going to see Kasey Kahne at 20-to-1, Denny Hamlin at 30-to-1 or Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle at 40-to-1? How about Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 100-to-1?

Jeff Gordon, who hails from nearby Vallejo, Calif., has won five times at Sonoma and is the co-second favorite at 7-to-1 odds, along with 2010 winner Jimmie Johnson and two-time winner Tony Stewart.

Gordon hasn’t won a road race since 2006 at Sonoma – his fifth at the track – but does claim nine road wins over his great career, which is two ahead of Stewart for the most in NASCAR history. Gordon’s 8.6 average finish in 20 starts at Sonoma is also a track record.

Stewart last won there in 2005, but has finished second on two occasions since, including last year.

Johnson has become a very strong road racer and has finished seventh or better in his past four Sonoma starts.

2011 winner Kurt Busch comes in with 10-to-1 odds, followed by last year’s winner, Clint Bowyer, and three others at 12-to-1.

One of those 12-to-1 drivers is Juan Pablo Montoya, who won at Sonoma as a rookie in 2007. His only two Cup wins have come on road courses – trophies we’re sure look nice on his mantle, but not nearly as nice as the one for his Monaco Grand Prix victory. With the way his team has performed lately, Montoya looks to offer the most value among the favorites.

The big question many will ask this week is whether Danica Patrick has an advantage over some of the other drivers. Normally, you would favor a driver with open-wheel experience in these type of races in NASCAR. Montoya has shown that he has an edge in these races, but what about Danica? Does her past experience help her here?

The answer is probably yes. Although she wasn’t better than her competitors in the IndyCars, she has more than held her own in road races on the Nationwide Series circuit. That stock car experience should bode well for her this week, and her owner – Stewart – knows what type of set-up is required to win there.

We’re not saying she’ll win this week, but getting 100-to-1 on Danica wouldn’t be the worst bet of the week you could make.

For road races, which many drivers have difficulty mastering, car owners like to bring in hired assassins, and two of the best are Ron Fellows and Boris Said. Each has won road course events in the Nationwide and Truck series – Said has two wins and Fellows has six – but they’ve yet to taste victory in the Cup series. Fellows is listed at 60-to-1 this week, while Said is part of the field at 100-to-1.

One of the most interesting and entertaining drivers to watch on Sunday will be Jacques Villeneuve, listed at 60-to-1. Like Montoya, Villeneuve has some pretty impressive international wins, and he’s not afraid to ruffle anyone’s feathers on the track. He’s aggressive and uses every inch of his fenders to create his own space. He’ll be driving the No. 51 James Finch Chevy this week, the same car that Kurt Busch wheeled to a third-place finish last season at Sonoma.

Here’s a look at the complete list of odds to win this week:

ODDS TO WIN TOYOTA/SAVE MART 350

MARCOS AMBROSE 7-2
JEFF GORDON 7-1
JIMMIE JOHNSON 7-1
TONY STEWART 7-1
KURT BUSCH 10-1
CLINT BOWYER 12-1
KEVIN HARVICK 12-1
KYLE BUSCH 12-1
JUAN MONTOYA 12-1
BRAD KESELOWSKI 15-1
KASEY KAHNE 20-1
CARL EDWARDS 30-1
MARTIN TRUEX JR 30-1
DENNY HAMLIN 30-1
JOEY LOGANO 30-1
MATT KENSETH 40-1
JAMIE McMURRAY 40-1
GREG BIFFLE 40-1
RYAN NEWMAN 60-1
BRIAN VICKERS 60-1
RON FELLOWS 60-1
JACQUES VILLENEUVE 6-1
DALE EARNHARDT JR 100-1
RICKY STENHOUSE JR 100-1
JEFF BURTON 100-1
PAUL MENARD 100-1
DANICA PATRICK 100-1
ARIC ALMIROLA 100-1
CASEY MEARS 300-1
FIELD 100 -1

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR hits the road
By portsbook.ag

The NASCAR drivers take to the road, literally, Sunday when they tackle Sonoma’s road course on Sunday for the Toyota-Save Mart 350. The course was originally constructed in 1968 as a 2.52-mile course, but was re-designed in 1998 to the current 1.99 miles, increasing the distance of the event to its current 218.9 miles covering 110 laps. The course has 10 turns with varying elevation changes. Turn 3a reaches 174 feet, while Turn 10 is the lowest elevation at a mere 14 feet. Since 1998, Jeff Gordon has five wins on this track (1998-2000, 2004 and 2006), while Tony Stewart is the only other driver with multiple wins in this 14-race span, taking the checkered flag in 2001 and 2005. Clint Bowyer is the defending champion.

Drivers to Watch

Jeff Gordon (7/1) -
Winning at Sonoma is all about experience, and Gordon certainly has that with five wins, 12 top-5’s and an average finish of 8.6 in 20 all-time starts at this track. Although he hasn’t won this road course since 2006, he continues to run with the front of the pack with finishes of 7th, 3rd, 9th, 5th and 2nd and 6th in the past six races here. And although Gordon has been unlucky during the 2013 season with three crashes and a suspension issue, he's finished no worse than 13th in the past eight races that he's been able to complete. This includes a trio of third-place showings, including two of the past five starts (Darlington and Dover).

Clint Bowyer (10/1) - The defending champion at this track has placed fourth or better in three of the past four road races. In 2011, he placed 4th at Sonoma and 11th at Watkins Glen. In 2012, he won at Sonoma and finished 4th at Watkins Glen. In his past six starts at this particular road course, Bowyer has racked up four top-4 finishes. And he continues to climb steadily up the points standings this season, holding steady in third place thanks to an impressive 10-start span in which he has a 8.9 average finish with six top-8's.

Greg Biffle (40/1) - We've recommended Biffle as one of the handful of drivers to wager on in the past two races, and he responded by finishing second at Pocono and then winning at Michigan last week with 12-to-1 odds. Sunday's odds are quite a bit longer based on his pedestrian 14.9 career average at Sonoma. However, he's finished seventh or better in four of his past seven starts at this course, including a 7th-place showing last year. And in the most recent road course, Watkins Glen in 2012, Biffle churned out a sixth-place finish.

Kasey Kahne (20/1) - He has been tremendous in qualifying at Sonoma, starting no worse than 8th (including two poles) in six of his past seven starts at this track. And in two of the past four races here, he has capitalized on his envious starting position, winning the race in 2009 and finishing fourth in 2010. Although Kahne has posted poor finishes in his past two races this season (36th at Pocono and 35th at Michigan because of a crash), don’t forget his impressive four top-two finishes this season.

Brian Vickers (60/1) - Our longshot of the weekend has to go to Vickers, who is hopping back into the seat of Mark Martin's No. 55 car for this race. In last year's Sonoma race, Vickers finished fourth, but couldn't build upon that at Watkins Glen because he lost his engine on Lap 1. He also won the pole at Sonoma in 2009. In five races this season, Vickers has either started or finished in the top-8 four times, with the one exception being Kansas. In his most recent start in Richmond, he earned the No. 2 starting spot, but crashed during the race. If you're feeling lucky, put down a one-unit wager on Vickers.

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Post-Practice Betting Notes
By: Micah Roberts 
Sportingnews.com

Jamie McMurray will be on the pole for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, the first of two road course races this season. Marcos Ambrose was fastest in Friday's first practice session and last years winner, Clint Bowyer, was fastest during happy hour, but we still feel Juan Pablo Montoya is the driver to beat Sunday.

Even before practices, Montoya was high of the short list of candidates to win just because the road course races are basically his entire season. While his Earnhardt/Ganssi team has shown improvements on the season at other tracks, the one constant for Montoya -- regardless of how good of bad the team was running -- has been road courses. His only two wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series have come on the roads, the first coming at Sonoma as a rookie in 2007 and the other coming at Watkins Glen in 2010.

During Friday's practices, Montoya came in with the second fastest lap in the early session and was fifth quickest during happy hour. During the final session, Montoya also had the best 10-consecutive lap average among the seven drivers that ran that many. Many of the drivers didn't feel the need to run that many laps in a row because the 1.99-mile course is so long, but knowing that Montoya is fast on long runs is a nice bit of reassurance for those siding with the former Monaco Grand Prix winner.

Ambrose is going to be the driver Montoya will have to pass to make it happen, but we think he will, and at 12-to-1 odds when maybe only 10 drivers have a chance to win, that's good enough for us to endorse.

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Your guide to the Toyota/Save Mart 350
By Jim Utter
Thatsracin.com

Three things to watch

1 . Clint Bowyer won his first race with Michael Waltrip Racing one year ago at Sonoma and shows plenty of signs of a repeat, having one of the fastest cars so far this weekend.

2. Marcos Ambrose has won in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide at Watkins Glen but a win at Sonoma has eluded him. He's still a threat every time he races here.

3 . All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers had their days cut short last weekend at Michigan. Surely, that won't be repeated this weekend?

Observations

• Lots of talk that Jimmie Johnson has lost his one-race "cushion" in the points standings, where he could miss a race and still remain the series leader. In reality, that means nothing. So long as Johnson remains in the Top 10 - not just first in points - he would still receive the highest seeding possible at the start of the Chase because the order is set by number of wins, not points position. So theoretically, Johnson has a 121-point cushion he could give up and still remain in the Chase and still start the Chase as the No. 1 seed.

• For the second consecutive NASCAR Cup weekend, a Ferris wheel dots the skyline at the track. In fact last weekend at Michigan it was part of a complete carnival on track property. I always thought a carnival would go well with a race weekend, at least in terms in providing additional entertainment for race fans who elect to spend the entire weekend at the track, particularly those with small children. Tracks are coming up with more ideas every year on expanding the at-track experience, which I think is key to convincing fans to watch races in person rather than just on TV.

• Nowhere on the NASCAR schedule has the addition of double-file restarts altered the dynamic of the racing than on the Cup series' two road courses. Already-tight quarters became tighter and contact became inevitable. Also high on the list of tracks where the racing has most changed due to the restarts are Martinsville, Bristol and Dover.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch

Notes

Michigan 'one of those days' for Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie Johnson there wasn't any common denominators which took out all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers at Michigan last Sunday.

"My tire issues seemed to be a little different than Kasey's (Kahne). Kasey's blew out. Mine, I think I ran something over the way it went down. It just got soft and then went flat," Johnson said.

"The other two guys, (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. broke a motor. Nobody else did. And then Jeff (Gordon) got wrecked. It was just one of those days. We couldn't get out of Michigan fast enough."

The engine issue was Earnhardt's second in the past four races. One was a piston issue and last weekend's problem at Michigan was a bad valve spring.

Karsyn Elledge expands schedule: Karsyn Elledge, the granddaughter of the late Dale Earnhardt, is expanding her racing schedule to the West Coast.

Elledge, the 12-year-old daughter of Kelly Earnhardt Miller and Jimmy Elledge, will run races in mini-Outlaws sprint cars in California, Oregon and Montana this summer.

"I will be competing at a much higher level of competition," Karsyn said. "I like to race because it's fun, not just because it's my family's 'thing.' I want to race Nationwide and Sprint Cup some day."

Does it matter? While points accumulated on the two road courses certainly go towards a driver's ability to qualify for the Chase, is road course performance illustrative of predicting a champion? It doesn't appear so, at least in regards to Sonoma.

Seven of the 12 drivers who qualified for the 2012 Chase failed to finish in the Top 10 at the Sonoma race.

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