Friday, November 23, 2007

Food City 500 - Tomorrow Is Today

By []Brian Gabrielle Tomorrow is now. We've heard all the chirping, all the complaining, all the speculating, and finally the first Car of Tomorrow race arrives on Sunday at Bristol, TN. What's the Car of Tomorrow? C'mon, pull your head out from under that rock there! The CoT is the result of a program to make Nextel Cup cars vastly safer, and also to lower the financial barriers to entry, so that smaller teams have a chance to win races against mega-teams. You'll notice that the cars are more upright, boxier, have a front splitter and a rear wing (instead of a rear spoiler). In theory, the cars are less aerodynamically sensitive, and thus are more usable at multiple track types. No more having to fabricate a new car nearly every week (maybe). All I know is: it looks funny. And it also may completely throw away any predictability these races have. Will the guys who are typically good at Bristol still be good at Bristol on Sunday? Those short-track wonders? The bad part is: it's pretty much impossible to know as of this moment. The good part is: we'll all be going to school as soon as the checkers wave Sunday afternoon. Last Week: That's three straight-up winners predicted in four races so far this season. I had Jimmie Johnson to win again in Atlanta, and this time I wisely paired that bet with a J.J. win over Tony Stewart in the head-to-head. Johnson needed a dramatic late-lap pass of Stewart to make good on my wagers, but make good he did. For the week, that was a positive net of 1.72 units on 1.5 units wagered. For the season, we're up 2.95 units on six units wagered, for a return of 49.2%. (It's also worth noting that with this straight-up hot streak to begin the year, if you simply chose to bet one unit per recommendation, you'd currently sit at a net positive 18.17 units on 16 units wagered, or a 113.6% return. Of course, there's a much higher reliance on getting straight-up wagers right using that system, which definitely increases risk.) Take Jeff Gordon (+500), 1/6th unit. Hendrick Motorsports reportedly has a pretty big head start on the CoT, and Gordon has won at this track five times, though none of those wins have come since 2002. Gordon showed a ton of speed on Friday, practicing very fast and then taking the pole during qualifying. You never like taking the chalk at Bristol Motor Speedway, because the leaders are in traffic almost the entire day. Still, this place agrees with the #24. Take Tony Stewart (+700), 1/6th unit. Smoke has done nothing but complain about the CoT. He calls it a "flying brick," among other things. Still, if you're going to put these guys in identical cars and have them race around, I'd probably take Stewart over just about anyone else as a pure driver. Heck, he'd probably lap the field in a Soapbox Derby. The #20 wasn't as fast as Gordon on Friday, but he did lead the most laps during this event last year before fading badly late, and he hasn't won at Bristol since 2001, when he drove a Pontiac. Take Greg Biffle (+1500), 1/6th unit. I know he's sucked this year, I really do. Still, something tells me Biffle will contend for this win, and if he doesn't, I wash my hands of him for a while. It shocks me not to be taking Kurt Busch (+1200) and Matt Kenseth (+800) at this track, because they've been the kings here the past several years, but they qualified terribly (Kenseth starts 38th; Busch the Elder rolls off 42nd), and it's just so hard to get to the front at Bristol from way back there. So instead I'm going with a guy who should have a Bristol win, but for a bad pit decision in this race in 2004. Biffle is excellent at the concrete high-banked tracks, and he qualified 11th for this race. Brian Gabrielle is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League.
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