NHRA roars into Las Vegas Speedway

Apr 1, 2003 6:51 AM

The fourth annual NHRA SummitRacing.com drag racing Nationals rips through Las Vegas this weekend. If you have never been to an NHRA event, it is an absolute must attend.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a racing fan or not. For the simple entertainment value of being awed by the earth-quaking, breath-taking excitement of the thunderous Nitro powered engines, it is without a doubt the best show in Las Vegas.

The Friday Night qualifying sessions are probably the most exciting because the power is much more enhanced than any other day sessions as the visible flames exploding from the pipes light up the track. Beyond the actual rumbling thrills on the track, part of the greatest NHRA drag racing experience comes along the rows of pits. The crews work feverishly, tearing down their entire engine, cleaning it, and putting it back together in sometimes less than an hour.

Unlike any other major racing series, every ticket is a pit pass and accessible to all. The drivers freely sign autographs throughout the day which is something rarely seen today in any professional sports. It is the perfect inexpensive sporting event that an entire family can go to and be entertained like no other.

Adding to the excitement for adults is the opportunity to wager on the events. For each of the events that have been held in Las Vegas since 2000, betting has been available for the three major classes at Station Casinos sports books. Odds to win and match-up wagers have been a big hit with long time fans and have helped make fans of auto racing enthusiasts who just like to wager.

The betting also attracts some of the teams and drivers themselves who like to give themselves some extra incentive to win over the weekend. Las Vegas is the only stop on the tour where wagering is made possible, which adds to the lure.

The top story of the first three races is the demise of perennial Funny Car Champion John Force (5-1). In all of his other Vegas starts, he’s always been the favorite and been no higher than 5-2.

Force gained his first Vegas win last October after four unsuccessful attempts, leaving Bristol as the only strip he’s never conquered. Chances are he’ll rebound big this weekend. Force, more than any driver in motorsports, personified the glitz and excitement of Las Vegas.

Restrictors back at Talladega

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series pull their restrictor plates off the shelf and travel to Talladega Super speedway this weekend.

The only drama over the last three seasons on the world’s fastest track is who’s going to finish second. Dale Earnhardt Jr (3-1) has won the last three events on the 2.66 mile monstrous track. On all three occasions, Junior ran away with victories in more convincing fashion than anyone else in the history of Talladega restrictor plate races.

So what is it that makes Junior so dominant at Talladega? Most of it can be attributed to the technology and development of the DEI team that the late Dale Earnhardt founded with help from Earnhardt’s car owner Richard Childress.

Earnhardt accumulated a track record 10 wins at Talladega over his career and learned several tricks over that time that helped enhance Childress’ team as well as give his own team an advantage from the start. The correlation between the two teams is still strong to this day and evident by the way that each team’s drivers qualify and finish abnormally better with restrictor plates than at any other track.

At the other restrictor plate track, Daytona in February, the top four qualifiers and three of the top six finishers were all from the Earnhardt and Childress camp. Seven of the last eight-restrictor plate races have been won by DEI drivers Michael Waltrip (5-1) and Junior.

Due to the dominance by the two DEI drivers, not much value can be had on them to win the race unless 3-1 can be considered value. There could be advantages if looking at driver match-ups or propositions. The Palms and Station Casinos sports books offer several wagering options other than odds to win the race. The bettor has the option to bet on the car number, manufacturer, cautions, lap leaders, and new at the Palms this season is over-under on finish position by selected drivers.

If betting the manufacturer, keep in mind that Chevrolet has won the last eight Talladega races. The over-under on cautions is a tough number to handicap because there are very few at Talladega.

The Palms Fred Crespi is undecided on what number he’ll put on the over-under finish position by Junior but is leaning towards OVER 3½. The under still looks like a good wager simply based on what his past record. Junior is clearly top dog with Waltrip next in line.

Here’s a look at a few drivers that have consistently been close to the DEI team when restrictor plates are in use:

Kurt Busch (8-1): In his first four career races at Talladega, Busch has finished in the top 5 three times. Busch has quickly learned how the draft works and may have the best chance of unseating Junior this week. The Las Vegas resident finished second at Daytona, another restrictor plate race.

Jeff Gordon (7/1): His experience at Talladega makes him one to watch this week. Gordon had an average Daytona SpeedWeeks, but has always done well in any circumstance throughout his career at Talladega. In 20 career starts, Gordon has eight top 5 finishes, including two wins.

Kevin Harvick (15-1): He is the driver of Childress’ top team. Most of the crew remains from the GM Goodwrench team that Earnhardt piloted to most of his 10 Talladega victories. Last season was very mediocre for the team, but they picked up the pace this season at Daytona by finishing fourth.