It's time once again for NASCAR's biannual ode to right-hand turns, as the Smokeless Set heads to Sonoma, California, for a road race at Infineon Raceway. This event is a handicapper's dream, because so many of the regulars on the Nextel Cup circuit hate driving their big ol' lunky cars through courses meant for much smaller, lighter vehicles.
Guys you usually see contending each week, like Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr., aren't likely to be near the front on Sunday, and guys like Sterling Marlin are apt to hold a press conference complaining about the fact that NASCAR even runs here at all.
And then there are the ringers. Oh, sure, Nextel Cup regulars like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are the favorites to take Sunday's race, and road-course vets like Juan Pablo Montoya and Robby Gordon are threats, too. But Boris Said, Ron Fellows, P.J. Jones, A.J. Allmendinger and even Terry Labonte will ride in one-offs this weekend; they'll be "road-course ringers" (okay, Allmendinger supposedly has a full-time Cup ride, but he's only a threat at road courses) who have legit shots at running near or at the front in a Nextel Cup event. For all but two races a year, that'd be pretty much impossible.
So the field of contenders is dramatically narrowed. Let's take a look at which guys we think have the best chance of finishing up front at Sonoma on Sunday.
Last Week: Bully for us. A big week here in NASCARland, as Carl Edwards came through on a +1055 bet to win the Michigan race outright, and thus also win his head-to-head match-up against Martin Truex Jr. (who finished the race second). That made it a happy, profitable weekend: we netted a positive 2.38 units on 1.5 units wagered (a 158% return), putting us at a positive 5.44 units for the season on 22.5 units wagered (a 24.2% return). (Note that if you'd eschewed the conservative betting scheme we outline below, and simply bet one unit per wager on everything we recommend, you'd have won 11.5 units last weekend on four units wagered (a 287% return), and for the year you'd be up 20.26 units on 60 units wagered (a 33.8% return)).
Take Jeff Gordon (+313), 1/6th unit. It ain't sexy, but what can you do? Gordon has won at Sonoma on five occasions, including last summer. Plus, this is a Car of Tomorrow race, and we all know Hendrick Motorsports has won every COT event they've run so far this year save one. Gordon's dirt-tracking background serves him well in these road-course events; he also has four career wins at Watkins Glen, where the Smokeless Set will run later this summer.
Take Tony Stewart (+497), 1/6th unit. Again, not what you'd call an adventurous pick, but it's hard to ignore Smoke on road courses, too. He had the second-best car all day last summer (Gordon was best), and would've easily finished second except he pushed the limit late and wound up hurting his car and coming in 28th. Stewart has won twice at Infineon and three times at Watkins Glen, and he's been exceedingly good in a few COT events so far this year. He also hasn't won a race yet this year, which makes him due.
Take Juan Pablo Montoya (+627), 1/6th unit. Yes, I've just gone and done it: I've picked the three favorites at this race. I'm sorry...I'd like to be more adventurous, maybe try my luck with Ryan Newman (+1790), Kurt Busch (+1226), Boris Said (+1727) or Robby Gordon (+986). But I can't do it. Montoya is a Formula One veteran who's been salivating for the opportunity to get these round-and-round drivers on his home turf; now that they're at a road course, you're going to see the tiger unleashed from his cage. Remember, Montoya won a Busch Series road event earlier this year, in which he bumped aside his teammate, Scott Pruett, to win.
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