NASCAR Citizens Bank 400

The news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join the Evil Empire, a.k.a. Hendrick Motorsports, will surely reverberate around Michigan International Speedway this weekend, and will continue to do so at every Junior-merchandise-soaked track for the rest of the year.

Remember those Budweiser ads over the past couple years, where Little-E jokes about changing his number from '8' to something different? Well, it might be coming, and if it does, you can expect a fair proportion of the southern U.S. to hold some apparel-burning bonfires.

Junior's daddy, it goes without saying, would never have joined Hendrick (whom he considered one of his fiercest rivals). Knowing this, you can imagine what the most dyed-in-the-wool Earnhardt fans are thinking. Here's a hint: it rhymes with "Schmenedict Arnold."

Whether or not Earnhardt Jr. winds up winning a championship because of this move, or if Kyle Busch goes on to lead a successful resurgence at DEI (or Ginn Racing), or if Martin Truex Jr. goes on to prove you can win tons of races in DEI equipment, the die has been cast. Junior's no better than Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez and the cast of thousands that have paraded through the Bronx in the 2000s. He's a mercenary.

Last Week: The rain continues to have fun with our wagers. Denny Hamlin had the day's best car, and Tony Stewart was probably second-best, but Jeff Gordon played it smart by short-pitting and then barely keeping the lead when the raindrops came out for good. However, our selection of Stewart over Kurt Busch was a good one, so we logged our third consecutive winning week, and fifth in the last six. For the week, we wound up ahead a net 0.41 units on 1.5 units wagered (a return of 27.3%); for the season, then, we're at a positive 3.06 units on 21 units wagered (a return of 14.6%). (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 lost 2.09 units last weekend, but you'd still be up a net positive 8.76 units on 56 units wagered for the year, a return of 15.6%.)


Take Carl Edwards (+1000), 1/6th unit. I just like King Carl on this track style. His career on the two-mile, high-banked tracks is sweet; at Michigan, he's finished 10th, fifth, fourth, second and (most recently) 22nd, and at Fontana he's finished sixth, fifth, fourth, third, fourth and (most recently ) 29th. I grant you, neither of the most recent finishes at these two venues was good, but he qualified 12th for Sunday's race and then put up the fastest times in each of Saturday's practices. He had the best car here for the Father's Day last race but got rained out before he could take the win, and he's due.

Take Tony Stewart (+800), 1/6th unit. The smarter play here might be Matt Kenseth (+500), because he's the defending champ at this track, and won at Fontana earlier this year. However, I remember that race back in February, and Stewart had the best car on the track that day, but suffered a blown engine late to hand the race to Kenesth. I give them equal chances of being near the front when the race ends, but considering the price on Stewart isn't nearly as steep as it is on the #17, I'll look his way.

Take Greg Biffle (+1800), 1/6th unit. This is another shot at a home run (I took one with Brian Vickers (+7500) last week), but it's not without a great deal of logic. Biffle runs terrific at Michigan (as do most Roush drivers): he won back-to-back events here in the summer of '04 and the spring of '05, and has backed up those wins with finishes of sixth, fourth and seventh in the three races since. He qualified just 14th for Sunday's race, but was in the top five in both Saturday practices. I know Biffle's contract situation is up in the air, and I know he wasn't happy to have his crew chief changed (plus he currently sits an ugly 19th in points). But this is the best value bet on the board.


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