The entire NASCAR season comes to end this weekend in Miami as the Craftsman Truck series and Busch Grand National Division races will determine the season championship.
This weekend the Miami Speedway also debuts its new configuration, a 1.5 mile paper clip-shaped track that increases its banking around the turns from six degrees to 20 degrees.
Track officials hope the steeper banks will create more side-by-side racing, but only time will tell.
NASCAR fans in Las Vegas will have a special interest in Friday’s Craftsman Truck race as native son Brendan Gaughan attempts to win the championship. Brendan is the son of Coast casino founder Michael Gaughan.
The task won’t be easy as Gaughan has three other drivers within 39 points of his lead, but he says he is up for the challenge and likes his position entering the race.
"I’d rather be the leader and know that they not only have to beat your team, but they also have to root for a little bad luck for the others," said Gaughan, who leads the series with six victories. "There’s only one strategy for us — to win."
Gaughan added that the race is shaping up as an all-out war. "I wouldn’t call it a free-for-all but it’s going to be one heck of a battle," he said.
Two weeks ago in Phoenix, veteran NASCAR driver Ted Musgrave passed Travis Kvapil in the points chase to close within 26 points of Gaughan after Gaughan suffered engine problems.
"My first reaction when I saw Brendan have problems was that his problems weren’t big enough," said Musgrave. "Now we need to go to Homestead, sit on the pole, lead the most laps and win the race. Then we will see what happens to Brendan, count up the points and see who wins (the championship)."
Close behind Kvapil in fourth place is short-track specialist Dennis Setzer who is 39 points back.
Nevertheless, Gaughan’s toughest competitor appears to be Musgrave. Both of these drivers have faired very well on the bigger fast tracks and that is exactly what Miami has become. They are co-favorites at 7-2 to win the race at Station Casino sports books.
Boulder Station’s Kelly Airgood said he slightly favors Musgrave, but the odds are equal because of the heavy betting on the local favorite. "Brendan has a mass public appeal in Las Vegas and his supporters always bet him in every race, so from a bookmaking standpoint, we have to always shade Gaughan down in anticipation of what will be bet so we don’t get buried on a number," Airgood said.
Regular Winston Cup drivers Ken Schrader and Kevin Harvick will also drive in the truck race. Harvick should fare much better than Schrader, and it’s possible Harvick could get in the way and hurt some of the other drivers’ chances.
We see instances like this all the time in the Busch series, but for the final race of the season with a championship on the line, I think it would be more appropriate to allow for only the series regulars to participate in a title race.
Friday’s Truck race can be seen live on Speedvision at noon in the Palace Station sports book.
Saturday’s Busch Division race also has a championship to be decided with six drivers all within 89 points of each other.
Brian Vickers currently leads and has better goods under the hood from the Hendrick Motorsports shack than the others; his advantage should propel him to the title.
Another Las Vegan will be racing this week in Miami. Kyle Busch, the younger brother of Kurt, will be making his Winston Cup debut in the No. 60 Hendrick Motorsports Monte Carlo.
Kurt Busch won this race last year, but with the changes at the track, this is basically a new track and all past trend data is useless. For whatever it’s worth, this is the 5th race inMiami with Tony Stewart (8/1) winning the first two and Bill Elliott winning the other.
Miami Truck Race odds
1. #62 Brendan Gaughan (7-2)
2. #6 Kevin Harvick (5-1)
3. #1 Ted Musgrave (7-2)
4. #75 Davd Starr (10-1)
5. #2 Andy Houston (7-1)
Miami Winston Cup odds
1. #48 Jimmie Johnson (8-1)
2. #12 Ryan Newman (6-1)
3. #24 Jeff Gordon (9-1)
4. #20 Tony Stewart (8-1)
5. #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr (10-1)