Ford's The Favorite in Cali: Auto Club 500 Betting Preview

Daytona is a cruel mistress. At least when it comes to predictions.

Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch looked mighty fine about two-thirds of the way through last Sunday's race, and it looked like a nice payday for us. But then Smoke and Busch the Elder wrecked one another, and all heck broke loose. That green-white-checker finish was exciting as could be, but it didn't do anything for the bettors among us. Kevin Harvick made for a nice story in pulling out his hundredths-of-a-second victory, but Mark Martin would've been far more incredible. It also would've meant the books would've taken a big-time bath.

Anyway, let's move onto Fontana, for this weekend's Auto Club 500.

Last Week: A rough beginning to '07. As I mentioned above, Stewart and Busch were looking strong; Kurt led the most laps in the race, and Stewart had a firm hold on the lead when he made his fatal mistake, running down onto the apron just a bit, causing his #20 car to check up and forcing Busch's #2 to ram him from behind. So in a puff of smoke and a tear of sheet metal, our day was over. That's a loss of 1.5 units.

Note: Please be sure to check back late Saturday or early Sunday for our head-to-head selection for this weekend's race, which we'll put online as soon as the books post their odds.

Take Matt Kenseth (+1003), 1/6th unit. Frankly, Kasey Kahne (+585) may be the most likely wager on the board to come through, but it's hard for me to justify taking him at such a steep price. Yes, Kahne was the king of downforce tracks last year, winning six times on the cookie-cutter unrestricted intermediate speedways, and yes, one of those wins came at this very track, Fontana, last fall. But realize that the Dodge Charger has a new nose; its new aerodynamics are supposed to improve the Dodge's handling in traffic, but methinks Kahne didn't have much of a problem with the way the old one handled. Anyway, if I can get something like Kenseth at half the price, I'm taking it. Kenseth won this race last February, and is three-for-three in top-10s at this joint. He's also a master at Michigan, Fontana's twin track, where he's won twice and posted top-10s in seven of the last eight races. You'll notice a pattern to my picks this week...I'm making a pretty heavy speculative bet that the Roush cars still have their overall strength at this track style. I know the #17 car will be without crew chief Robbie Reiser, but I think Kenseth has a serious chance to win this race despite that.

Take Carl Edwards (+1103), 1/6th unit. Always a bridesmaid. Edwards has raced in Nextel Cup cars at Fontana five times. His finishes? Fourth, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. That's sick. Now, there's certainly no guarantee Edwards suddenly learns to close the deal here, but you're not going to find a better Fontana finishing average on the entire board this weekend, and at more than 11-1 odds, I'm willing to take the chance that King Carl can get 'er done. He, too, is also very good at Michigan International Speedway, where he's raced five times in Cup cars and posted four top-10s (and a second-place). Edwards' reunion with crew chief Bob Osborne didn't bear fruit last weekend, but that was Daytona. Look for the #99 to run really well here deep in his comfort zone.

Take Greg Biffle (+1204), 1/6th unit. There are any number of drivers who can be great at these cookie-cutters. Jimmie Johnson (+902) is always a threat; Jeff Gordon (+1103) has won here three times; Tony Stewart (+1003) was a downforce demon toward the end of '06; Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+1003) was surprisingly strong at the two-milers last year. But I'll use my third bullet on The Biff. Again, I'm obviously convinced Roush will be good at this track style again this year, and if I'm wrong, well, I'll know it right quick and adjust accordingly hereafter. But Biffle dominated this exact race last year, building an insurmountable lead with just 21 laps to go when his engine went boom. Biffle has won here before, and also has a second place, to go along with his two wins and five consecutive top-10s at Michigan. Perhaps more than any other team in NASCAR, when Biffle and his #16 crew hit on their setup, they're well nigh impossible to beat. Hopefully that happens again on Sunday.

by Michael Cash - - Email Us

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