Daytona firecracker history pure Americana

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A big Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans this weekend as it’s time to reflect on how great our country is.

Amid all the wonderful activities we’ll be doing with our families this weekend, we’ve got some great American sports that sort of define what our states are all about.

Baseball is ours and it’s been a fabric of American society since the 1860’s. Some say it’s slow, but I say it’s ours and the greatest game ever invented with so many individual battles of competition happening on each and every play.

Then we have NASCAR, which has a pure American feel – think Henry Ford – to it much the way baseball does. It’s ours; the rest of the world can watch Formula One racing all they want, but I’ll take the stock car racing in circles. Yes, prohibition and moonshine running was a big part of who we are as Americans.

This Saturday, both baseball and NASCAR will put on great fireworks shows to help families all across the nation celebrate the birth of our nation. Both sports know their role in America and both do a great job at making us proud of the stars and stripes.

The summer race at Daytona has traditionally been called the Firecracker 400, and they’ll be running the race on Sunday night so fans will get three straight days of fireworks beginning Friday with the practices and also Saturday qualifying.

We might as well celebrate another American pastime by making a few wagers on the race. We didn’t invent gambling in America, but I’d like to think we do it very well.

This will be the third race of the season with cars using restrictor plates – the Daytona 500 and the GEICO 500 at Talladega were the first two. What we saw in each of those races was Hendrick Motorsports being very strong with Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishing third at Daytona and winning at Talladega.

Joey Logano won the Daytona 500, but it was Hendrick drivers leading the most laps led by Jeff Gordon’s race-high 87 laps led, followed by Jimmie Johnson (39) and Earnhardt Jr. (32).

Those drivers all figure to be strong again, but you can probably suggest up to 35 drivers have a legitimate shot at winning. The cars are more equal with the restrictor-plates on than any other type of racing. It’s actually quite thrilling knowing anyone can win, but it makes it extremely difficult to narrow down a few drivers, which is why the books give you a very fair shake with the odds.

In normal weeks, Kevin Harvick is 5-to-1 or less. This week he’s 12-1 as he tries to win his first race at Daytona since 2010. Harvick finished second to Logano in February’s Daytona 500.

The past three years of plate races has seen Joe Gibbs Racing excel with Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth running extremely well. In Hamlin’s past three starts at Daytona, he’s finished second, sixth and fourth. You should be able to get 12-1 odds on him this week. Kyle Busch now has his win on the season with a nice performance last week at Sonoma, but now he needs to concentrate to score max points weekly to try and make the top-30 in points after missing the first quarter of the season.

The best driver over the long haul at Daytona has been Earnhardt Jr., who has a 13.06 average finish in 31 career starts that includes three wins. For a track that is so volatile, Earnhardt Jr. has been the most consistent and has done it during all the different type of changes NASCAR has made with its aero-package. Junior just sees the air of the draft a little better than everyone else, even though teammate Gordon has six Daytona wins.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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