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Sprint Cup Preview: Las Vegas

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Who’s going to get lucky in Vegas?  If you want Lady Luck to smile on your car, they’ve got to be willing to roll the dice with a late race gamble, but even then, they might just crap out.  One thing is for sure: if you want to win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, you’ve got to go all-in.

I figured I would go ahead and get all of the Las Vegas puns out of the way early.

I’m a big poker player.  Vegas for me isn’t necessarily about all the glitz and glamour, it’s about playing the odds (I thought I had covered all the puns up there, but I guess not).  And, if you take a look at the odds to win the Kobalt Tools 400, here’s what you’d find:

  • Jimmie Johnson (5-1) No surprise here.  He’s finished 1st and 2nd in the first two races of the season & he finished 2nd at the same race last year.
  • Kyle Busch (8-1) I guess they’re giving Rowdy hometown odds here.  The #18 has struggled early on this season.
  • Brad Keselowski (8-1) I like these odds!  Jimmy and Brad have come out of the gates firing early on this year, and I don’t expect Keselowski to be far off the pace.
  • Greg Biffle (12-1) I’d take this bet, too.  Biffle finished third in the race last year & has been strong in years past at mile and a half tracks.
  • Danica Patrick (500-1) Well, who doesn’t like a long shot, right?

There are also plenty of storylines as we head out to the first 1.5 mile oval of the season.

Here’s what to watch for this weekend at Las Vegas:

Denny Hamlin got fined $25,000.  This seemed a little excessive to me.  Denny simply said he didn’t think he could pass as well in the new Gen-6 racecar as he could in last year’s model.  That’s been pretty obvious to me, and probably everyone else that’s watched the first few weeks of the season.  Apparently NASCAR saw things differently and fined him for Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing.  And Hamlin ain’t happy about it.  He got on twitter and said he doesn’t plan to pay the fine & also plans on appealing the penalty.  We’ll have to keep an eye on this in the coming weeks.

The Gen-6 car will break the track record at Las Vegas.  Well, at least the car is fast.  Hamlin might’ve criticized it for making passing more difficult, but the stopwatch doesn’t lie.  Greg Biffle had the fastest time in Thursday’s test session, 189.427 mph, which is just below Kasey Kahne’s record lap of 190.456 mph set in qualifying in 2011.

Jimmie and Brad are duking it out.  I’m really hoping this keeps up all season.  You know what makes a rivalry?  Not being a fake tough guy in the pits, running at a guy when you know your crew, team PR department, the NASCAR officials, family and friends are all going to hold you back.  It’s when two guys are both really fast and find battle for wins at the end of races.  Not that a punch or two would hurt…

PREDICTION: Since I am a betting man, I’m putting my money on 16 this weekend.  Greg Biffle was fastest in the first practice, and his teammate Carl Edwards won last week. Roush-Fenway has won more races at Las Vegas than any other team (seven, to be exact), and I’m thinking they figure this car out before anyone else.

Bet on it.

Tommy Joe Martins is a former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver & a weekly racer at the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.  A graduate of the University of Mississippi, he’s been a sports columnist for The Daily Mississippian, a radio host & a life-long NASCAR fan.

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