Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. get back to victory lane this week?
Saturday night racing is just more fun. Something about the paint schemes under the lights, the fact that drinking alcohol on a Saturday night simply feels less taboo than getting bombed at noon on a Sunday (call me old-fashioned), and that you can skip dinner and eat nachos for about four hours.
Heck, a good Saturday-night race can be a terrific precursor to a long night of fun. Finish the race around 10 (in the east), gather up any remaining pork rinds, and hit the town. And hopefully hit it flush with some extra cash from well-placed wagers.
Richmond International Raceway is a funny little place: it's three-quarters of a mile long, but they call it the short track that drives like a superspeedway, because its front stretch is a lot longer than you expect, so the cars get some unexpectedly high speeds before having to brake hard in Turn 1. The guy who's best at the beginning of this race is almost never the race winner, simply because being good late requires you to be easy on your brakes early, and zooming out to an early lead almost always means you use up all your brakes on the first 200 laps. So this week we'll be looking at three things: (1) Richmond success; (2) Car of Tomorrow success; (3) patience patience patience. Let's look at our favorite wagers of the week.
Last Week: It's pretty tough winning money at plate-track races, simply because of the randomness involved with cars driving 190 mph bumper-to-bumper, but win money we did. While none of our straight-up selections won the race (Jeff Gordon did), Kurt Busch managed to finish third and hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished seventh. That head-to-head victory gave us a net positive week of 0.45 units on 1.5 units wagered, a return of 30%. For the season, we're up 1.94 units on 13.5 units wagered, a return of 14.4%. (As always, note that if you eschew the conservative betting scheme we outline below and simply bet one unit for ever wager we recommend, you'd have lost 2.05 units on four units wagered last week, but you'd be up 15.47 units on 36 units wagered for the season, a return of 43%. Of course, on a week-to-week basis, this betting strategy is riskier.)
Take Denny Hamlin (+616), 1/6th unit. Hamlin grew up just 20 miles from RIR, and loves this place. It has been a lifelong dream of his to win a race here, and I think he can do it this weekend. Hamlin was second here in last year's spring race, and he's been exceedingly good in the Car of Tomorrow. He could've won at Bristol, he finished third at Martinsville, and he had the best car at Phoenix (a track that bears some resemblance to Richmond) but sped in the pits, and could only come back from a lap down to finish third. If that event had been 10 laps longer, Hamlin would've won, and I think he's due for a great showing Saturday night.
Take Jeff Gordon (+585), 1/6th unit. And if it's not Hamlin, it'll probably be Gordon. Oh, sure Tony Stewart (+563) has won here three times to Gordon's two, but I'm recalling the way they dueled in Phoenix just a couple Saturdays ago, when Gordon was able to zoom from behind and pass Smoke for the win. Gordon has won two straight races and has taken four of the last five poles, so you know the #24 is really clicking. Plus he legitimately could've won all three Car of Tomorrow races to this point. The Hendrick COT program is awesome (Hendrick cars have won all three COT races to date), and Gordon is the hottest driver around. Three wins in a row is something usually reserved for his teammate, Jimmie Johnson (+827), and there's no question Johnson could win this race, but Richmond is his worst track. I'm going to say Gordon outlasts Stewart, and threatens for the win.
Take Kyle Busch (+881), 1/6th unit. I know, I just made a big deal about patience, and Kyle Busch has very little. But it's hard to find a better finishing average anywhere than Busch's average at Richmond. Take a look at these four results: second, fifth, fourth and fourth. This just in: the younger Busch really likes this place. He's usually very good at flat tracks in general, too, and his COT program has Hendrick stamped all over it. (The younger Busch won the first-ever COT event at Bristol). I'm not going to be surprised to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+1034) win this event, because he's taken two of the last three night Richmond races, and he loves this joint. But the consistency of Busch's numbers is just too strong to ignore.
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