Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gambling is hard work

LVMS graphic by Mystic

The cry of anguish heard across the Southwest came from me, when both David Reutimann and Brian Vickers failed to qualify for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas this weekend. First of all, it is still very hard for me to believe that a Doug Richert car can't qualify, especially with a talented driver like Brian Vickers at the wheel. Secondly, Reutimann is my bottom dollar driver on my fantasy team in the Sporting fantasy league, and to replace him, I would have to trade him and David Gilliland just to get a driver who qualified, which would still leave me a driver short and not enough to get another qualifying driver, so I'm stuck with only four qualified drivers.
I'm not so worried about my drivers in the top ten picks game at the message boards, because that can be changed with a delete and a new post, and my team is already made up of locked in drivers--their points value system is more liberal than the Sporting News drivers' value so it's easier to get the higher ranked drivers. Fantasy teams aside, I'm more than a little bugged that Vickers didn't make the race.
However, there is a race to be run, Sunday. Tony Stewart isn't happy with the tires, so we can probably say this won't be the year he gets his first win at Las Vegas. When Smoke's not happy with something, it usually means he knows he can't run a good race. He wasn't so happy with the new track at Vegas anyway. Still, you never know. There are two more practice sessions before the race, and things may work out for him, and we'll see him drive his way to a top ten finish.
Once again, the name Richard Childress comes to mind. This is a team on a mission, and hard tires or not, they are going in with a very positive attitude. Jeff Burton has said he doesn't care much for the hard tires, but he ran one of the fastest times in the first practice and in qualifying. This guy is on a roll, and you can't even call it a comeback, the way he has been driving. It is more like a breakout for him. He has been driving some of the best races in his career. Burton won the first two races at the old track in Vegas, and is running very well on the new track. Watch this guy, Sunday, he has a very good chance of winning.
His Childress teammate, Clint Bowyer, is another driver looking to have a breakout season. He is good on the mile and a half tracks, and Vegas just may be his venue. I like the way he drives, and if he is having a sophomore slump, he doesn't show it. Bowyer is out to win, and he will at least finish in the top ten.
It will be interesting to see how Sterling Marlin does Sunday--he was once one of the best drivers in the business. The crowd would truly go wild to see a top ten finish for Marlin, and we would all be happy to see him make a comeback, but, sadly, I just don't think that Vegas is the place where it will happen. The track is too new, and Marlin has to learn it all over again, in a car he hasn't raced in before. But keep in mind that the track is new to everybody else, so Sterling isn't really at that much of a disadvantage. Before I argue myself into picking him for a top ten finish, it would be wise to look at some of the other drivers first.
Bill Davis Racing has become the flagship team for the Toyotas, this year, since none of the other teams have consistently qualified for races so far this year. Dave Blaney is a consistent driver, if nothing else. The 2000 World of Outlaws winged Sprint Car champion has shown some brilliance in the NASCAR sleds, and he has shown what it takes to be a winner. He has the patience and the instinct it takes to get around the guys who will be having trouble with the hard tires on a hot track. If he doesn't get caught up in someone else's wreck, he could very well finish somewhere near the front.
There will probably, judging by the first practice and the qualifying runs, be plenty of cautions in this race. Even if there weren't the thirteen gallon fuel cells will ensure that there will be many pit stops, the pit window for green flag fuel runs being about 38-40 laps. Knowing that pit stops will be important, we have to give an edge to Matt Kenseth, whose driving will put him up front and whose pit crew will help him get there and stay there. Kenseth is another very talented and consistent driver, and the only thing that would keep him out of the top ten would be mechanical troubles or, of course the dreaded someone else's wreck. He won't have problems with the tires, being the kind of driver who can adjust to almost any conditions. If he doesn't win, I would almost bet that he can finish in the top three.
Two reasons why I can't pick Kenseth as the winner are the Busch brothers. Las Vegas is where they live, and they will definitely feel at home at their home track. Kurt Busch has a good record at thie old track, and, so far this weekend, has had no problem with the new track. Certainly NASCAR's most unpopular former champion will finish in the top ten, if he doesn't win.
Brother Kyle is a very diverse driver when it comes to different tracks. When he does well, he can win, or come very close to winning. His problem is that he drives as if it is all or nothing. He will either win the race or wreck trying to do so. I don't think he will make any serious mistakes in front of his home crowd, but just the way he drives tends to use up the car and the tires, even the hard tires. It will be fun to watch him race, and I'm going to gamble by picking him for a top ten finish.
Now, how about those Dodges? Kasey Kahne, David Stremme, Scott Riggs, and Elliott Saddler all up in the first three rows. No doubt, Kahne, who has the pole position, will lead a lot of laps. He has to overcome the bad luck he has had in the pits to win, but he is clearly the favorite at any 1.5 mile track, with the outstanding performance he had at such tracks I would like to pick Kasey as the winner at Las Vegas, but gut feeling tells me it will be Jeff Burton's day.
David Stremme and Scott Riggs have both been improving over the past season, and the beginning of this season. Scott Riggs has just missed winning on several occasions, and he has taken his time getting his first win. He does have the ability to do it, but he needs to have better luck with his car and mechanical problems than he has had so far this year. I believe in him, though--he has beaten some of the same drivers he is racing against now when they were all in the trucks and in the Busch series, and there is no reason why he can't beat them now. It has taken him a while to get to where he is, but he is probably the best driver who hasn't yet won a Cup race.
David Stremme is another driver who has proven that he is better than his record shows. However, he still has a reckless side to him that he needs to overcome. I feel that if Kyle Busch can do it, so can he. But my heart is with Elliott Sadler, another driver who is much better than his record shows. He should have fewer problems finishing in the top ten than Stremme, if only for the facet of having more experience. Saddler in, Stremme out.
The last spot in my top ten list is a toss up between Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. I would be a fool not to pick the reigning champion of the race, but I like my foolish side. The track is different than it was when Johnson won the last two races at Vegas, and I still think Hamlin is more talented at different kinds of tracks, so even though I call heads, and the coin says tails, Hamlin finishes up my picks for the top ten.
Which brings me to the disclaimer. This post is by no means a fantasy preview, I am not an expert at picking the best choices. This is only a guide to the drivers I think will be the most fun to watch during the race. Sometimes, I predict well, but mostly it seems like a jinx to the drivers I pick, so please don't base your fantasy game selections on solely what is written here. I have done some research, but my research does not go as deep as that of the experts. This is just for fun. I do encourage the reader to take this as a challenge--to see how well your picks stack up against mine.

1 comment:

racefan57 said...

yup pay attention to the RCR boys