Sterling 400!

Mar 5, 2002 9:24 AM

Last week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway set another Nevada record for wagering on a single auto racing event.

The amount pales in comparison to the estimated $59 million the Las Vegas Chamber of Congress figured the city of Las Vegas would benefit from by having held the race, but figures show that this was the ultimate race experience for the Books.

“Our books have never handled as much on race as Sunday for the Vegas race,” said Boulder Station’s Kelly Airgood. “It has been a building process since the race was first initially held here (Las Vegas) and every year as the local and visiting guests get more accustomed to the various types of wagers and props we offer, the handle rises steadily to a rate of about 35percent per year.”

The Palms also saw an increase in action despite not having been around to compare previous seasons, but Marcus Hurd says they set a record in handle, “We wrote almost twice as much for this race as we did for Daytona which was our record.”

Overall, the books reported wins for the weekend even though it seemed everyone had a winning ticket on Jeff Burton to win Saturday’s Busch Series race. Burton was listed as part of the Field at 10-1 at most books. The oversight was due to some confusion with the entry list.

The extraordinary amount of money handled on Sunday’s race is another sign that NASCAR has established it’s own permanent niche at the Sports Books.

“This type of thing never happens in the books where a sport comes out of nowhere to become a major player in our business,” said Mandalay Bay’s Hugh Citron.

“We have been forever established with football, baseball, basketball, and hockey because of the mass interest, but over the last three seasons we have seen NASCAR’s growth make it’s own impact and get near the level of betting interest of hockey,” Citron continued. It’s just a matter of what the public wants, and right now NASCAR appeals to many.”

Sterling Marlin came in as the winner with a closing line of 8-1 at most books. Usually after the practice times and qualifying prior to a race, the winner can be found by looking for someone who was consistently fast throughout. Marlin qualified 24th and wasn’t fast in any practice session, nevertheless, he was the points leader coming in and he finished third in Las Vegas last season.

If going by the normal equation of following the practice times to find the winner, then Las Vegan Kurt Busch would have been the easy choice. Busch was super quick in all sessions and at Station Casinos Sports Books he was moved all the way to the favorite.

“We had more tickets written on Busch than any other driver,” said Boulder Station’s Airgood. “He opened at 55-1 and closed at 4-1.”

After being in the top three for much of the race, Busch fell back to 20th after a late caution shuffled the field because of pit strategy.

This Sunday, the Series travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Atlanta’s track is similar in size to its sister track at Las Vegas, but the 24-degree banking make it much faster. The favorite coming into this race is always Bobby Labonte (5-1). His four wins in 18 starts along with seven other Top 5 finishes give him one of the more impressive resumes for any driver at a particular track. Labonte’s last win there came in the fall of ’99.

Jeff Gordon (5-1) won the fall race in Atlanta last season clinching his fourth championship. Gordon falls just short of Labonte’s accomplishments in Atlanta with five Top 10 finishes in the same time span.

The variable due theory comes into effect with Gordon because he hasn’t won yet. Until he wins, it’s hard to leave him out of any wagering scenario. His dominance at Charlotte and Atlanta since Robbie Loomis took over as crew chief make Gordon the one to beat Sunday.

Gordon’s teammate Jerry Nadeau (18-1) has compared favorably with the defending Winston Cup points champ in practice times in Atlanta and captured a victory there in the fall of 2000. A good look at him this week is warranted. Rusty Wallace at 10-1 is also worth a shot this week.