PEPSI MAX 400 ODDS

It’s about time.

Greg Biffle wins at Kansas. I win my second race in a row. And for the first time in the history of ever, I’m up fake money picking every race this year. Seventy dollars may not mean much to you. Especially when it’s not real. But wow does it feel great to be ahead, even if it’s in my own mind.

The logical person would quit writing this column to avoid potential humiliation or sing songs of self-praise as to how they climbed from the abyss. But as it turns out, the reasons I’m winning are the reasons NASCAR is losing, at least in the TV ratings battle.  Reports suggest ratings were down 18 percent at Kansas from a year ago, with ESPN seeing a 10% ratings reduction in their coverage. Those struggles actually help explain my successes in recent weeks.

There’s no parity

Every weekend, 43 drivers start. This season, 12 different drivers have won. That’s a 28 percent clip, meaning 72 percent of drivers have never smelled the aroma of victory.

In every other major sport, there is a fighting chance that the worst team has a puncher’s chance of beating the best team. The Royals beat the Yankees. The Clippers beat the Lakers. David Ragan isn’t beating anyone.

When teams stink, their attendance struggles. It’s not a surprise the Cleveland Indians (sorry to my editor who is from Cleveland) had the biggest drop in attendance this year. They were out of it by June 1st. The Buffalo Bills failed to sell out for the first time in more than five years. Why? They’re terrible.

If it makes sense to not follow winners late in the season, it makes sense to not follow 72 percent of drivers right now. That’s not good for the sport.

 
The Yankee Factor

What’s not good for the sport is good for my selection process. I’ve whittled down a list to drivers to pick from 43 to 8.

Many fans hated Dale Earnhardt because he took Richard Petty’s spot at the top of the sport. Many more fans hated Jeff Gordon because he took Earnahrdt’s spot and wasn’t from a southern state. Polarizing personalities who were hated or loved. No middle ground. Kind of like the Yankees in baseball, Cowboys in football, or Ric Flair in pro wrestling.

There’s no Ric Flair right now. Kyle Busch is the closest thing out there, but his popularity numbers aren’t there yet. Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t been good enough in three years to be disliked. Jimmie Johnson is nice. But people are ambivalent about him, not passionate.

This keeps the betting odds honest, allowing me to look at objective numbers to make the most educated guesses I can about who will win. It’s numerical analysis, not blindly tossing a dart because of an emotional reaction. I don’t need to pick a driver because I like them or stay away from a driver I disdain. They all seem OK to me for the most part. Such emotion or lack thereof, is great for fake wagering. It’s terrible when trying to build a passionate fan base.

With that in mind, let’s make it a wagering turkey.

40 fake dollars on Jimmie Johnson at 2/1

Jimmie Johnson has five wins at Auto Club. Nobody else has more than three. Dude has led 720 laps at Auto Club in the last five years. Nobody else had led more than 300 laps in that same time. In Johnson’s last nine starts here, he’s won four times and finished 11th or worse once. It’s not a matter of if I bet on the new King, just how much.

10 fake dollars on Card Edwards at 8/1

A Roush Fenway driver has won at California each of the last five years. Matt Kenseth hasn’t won since his February 2009 win and has had 235,685 different crew chiefs since then. Greg Biffle doesn’t have a great track record here.  David Ragan…yeah. Not so much.

This leaves Edwards, who won here in 2008 and has the third best average finishing position of any active driver.  Diversifying my portfolio worked for Greg Biffle last week. Why not one more dance?

I’m ready for Sunday. I’m not sure the casual fan is. Here’s what The Spread thinks, and insert random catchphrase here.

Jimmie Johnson 2/1
Carl Edwards 8/1
Jeff Gordon 8/1
Greg Biffle 8/1
Kevin Harvick 10/1
Kurt Busch 12/1
Kyle Busch 12/1
Tony Stewart 15/1
Matt Kenseth 15/1
Denny Hamlin 15/1
Jeff Burton 20/1
Kasey Kahne 25/1
Juan Pablo Montoya 25/1
Jamie McMurray 30/1
Clint Bowyer 30/1
Joey Logano 40/1
Ryan Newman 40/1
Martin Truex Jr 50/1
David Reutimann 50/1
AJ Allmendinger 60/1
Mark Martin 75/1
David Ragan 100/1
Reed Sorenson 100/1
Brad Keselowski 100/1
Dale Earnhardt Jr 100/1
Travis Kvapil 100/1
Bobby Labonte 100/1
Scott Speed 100/1
Paul Menard 100/1
Regan Smith 100/1
Elliott Sadler 100/1
Marcos Ambrose 100/1
Sam Hornish Jr 100/1