All State 400 from Indy

The NASCAR world's batteries are recharged after an off week, and one of the sport's marquee events is headed your way. The stock-car world descends on Indianapolis this weekend for the Brickyard 400.

The problem with the Brickyard is that for all its history and ambiance, it doesn't make for particularly good stock-car races. It's perhaps the hardest track on which to pass in the entire sport. The straightaways are so incredibly long that cars easily get up to 200 miles an hour, but then they have to brake hard in the relatively shallow (only nine degrees of banking) turns. That means you probably won't pass effectively in the turns unless you're out-braking someone else, and you'll only pass on the straightaways if you've got more horsepower. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is perhaps the most aero-sensitive track in Nextel Cup racing, so once a car gets out front in clean air, it tends to check out.

So be prepared for long green-flag runs and not a lot of passing. On the bright side, though, you can also be prepared to see some sweaty gear-head stoop over and plant his lips on a greasy yard of bricks. Yum.

Two Weeks Ago: Chicagoland wasn't good to us this year, as not only did our three selections never really sniff the front, but the guy we picked against in our head-to-head wager, Tony Stewart, won the race. Whoops. For the week that dumped us 1.5 units, our second straight defeat. For the season, though, we're still up 5.2 units on 28.5 units wagered, good for an 18.2% 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 lost four units last weekend, but you'd still be up a net positive 19.07 units on 76 units wagered for the year, a return of 25.1%. Clearly, though, this is a riskier betting pattern.)

Take Tony Stewart (+600), 1/6th unit. Smoke's wins tend to come in bunches, and now that he's broken through, look out. He was dominant here in 2005 winning his first Brickyard, and though he didn't really show anything here last year, when Stewart gets it hooked up, he's tough to beat. Let's also add that he hasn't failed to finish inside the top 12 in his last five trips to the yard of bricks.

Take Denny Hamlin (+900), 1/6th unit. This would be a pretty big upset, because a sophomore winning at the Brickyard isn't typical. But Hamlin isn't your typical sophomore. I recently read in Sports Illustrated that Hamlin's peers privately consider him an overrated driver, but I wonder if that isn't just some professional jealousy showing, because the kid stands second in points in his second season of Nextel Cup racing. Maybe he hasn't paid his dues in some crusty vets' eyes? Regardless, you can't argue with the results, and just about no one is better this year at hanging around, making his car better, and contending in the end. Add to this fact that Hamlin is one of the best current drivers at Pocono, a track that bears some driving similarities to Indy, and Hamlin could make an interesting sleeper pick this week.

Take Matt Kenseth (+1000), 1/6th unit. Kenseth hasn't had his typical spate of wins in '07, and truthfully hasn't really even threatened to win many races. In fact, all of Roush Fenway Racing seems mired in a mini-slump. But Kenseth is quietly a beast at this track: he's got four top-five finishes at the Brickyard in his last five tries here, including a second place here last year in which he would've won if Jimmie Johnson (+500) hadn't been able to inhumanly zoom from the back like he did at race's end. You have to believe it's just a matter of time before Kenseth kisses those bricks.

by Michael Cash - - Email Us

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