Fresh off a weekend of me actually getting to watch some racing in person, the column is back in a big way with F1 and NASCAR this weekend. No IndyCar, but I got my fill of that last Saturday. Spent about 12 hours at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis watching IndyCar and drinking Budweiser. May have paid for it on Sunday but we persevere nonetheless.
Next race I gotta have the tailgate setup locked down. Guy a few cars down from me had the blacktop grill out and was making Philly cheesesteaks and the smell wafting my way was making me incredibly jealous. For comparison, my setup was my lawn chair and me watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans on my phone.
I could have brought my electric griddle plugged into my cigarette lighter and very slowly made some burgers I guess. Instead I just accepted defeat and bought a $13 sandwich from some BBQ stand. I also may or may not have purchased a bag of beers for $30. Again we persevere nonetheless.
The racing itself was somewhat chaotic at first, WWT Raceway has a peculiar sorta-egg shaped oval, and it’s tighter and higher banked turn 1 and 2 are often a challenge for drivers braking after the main straight. Because of this, I grabbed a seat right around turns 1 and 2 and sure enough, multiple wrecks happened in front of me in the first 50 or so laps of the race.
Romain Grosjean, the former F1 driver and IndyCar “rookie” who climbed out of a ball of fire during an F1 race last year, made his oval racing debut last weekend. People have flocked to Grosjean and his new story here in the US and IndyCar, and the amount of fans I saw in his gear was incredible, he was clearly the reason many people were there.
He wasn’t fighting for the race win, but he was making some bold moves on the track, and clearly feeling comfortable only turning left. He gave those who came to see him a great show while Josef Newgarden took home a fairly comfortable race win.
Now that I’ve got my little recap of my Saturday at the track out of the way, let’s dive into the weekend ahead. F1 returns to one of it’s hallmark circuits, Spa in Belgian hillside, and NASCAR returns home to Daytona racing under the lights on Saturday night. Couldn’t ask for two better venues for either.
Since there is roughly a day until the NASCAR race we’ll start there. I’m gonna make a very not-so-bold prediction and say that we won’t have a repeat winner, sorry to any Michael McDowell heads out there. But it’s Daytona, and at Daytona there’s always potential for the absurd and extraordinary.
Because “Daytona”, or rather, the type of racing that superspeedways create in NASCAR, that chaos factor really determines everything. Managing that chaos, or minimizing it, is key to a successful race in NASCAR’s spiritual home.
One glance at the odds for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 will show just how much of a toss up the race can be, with Denny Hamlin at +700 (according to our friends at Pointsbet) the only driver with odds better than 10-1.
But before we can go forward, we must look back to our last picks, and boy did we have some picks!!!
- Kyle Larson to win +480: WIN!!!!!!!!
- Kyle Larson top three +125: WIN!!!
- Bubba Wallace head-to-head matchup against Ryan Newman -110: WIN!!!
- Bubba Wallace top 20: LOSS
- Colton Herta to win IndyCar in Nashville +200: LOSS
3-2 on the last round of picks, most importantly nailing our race winner as Kyle Larson held on at Watkins Glen for the victory over the charging Chase Elliott. After these picks, we’re now up about three units total. We continue to build!
A wise man once said “never bet on superspeedway races”. Well that guy never had any fun on Daytona weekend. It’s all about riding the roller coaster and enjoying the ride.
No man in NASCAR embodies a roller coaster more than Brad Keselowski, who a friend in one of my Twitter group chats refers to as “an agent of chaos”. Last week, Brad wrecked Austin Dillon, no two ways about it.
Dillon’s team owner and grandfather, Richard Childress, on Dillon’s team radio, said: “Wrecked him on purpose. I’m an old man, but I can kick his ass.”
No word on if he followed through with that post race.
As an agent of chaos and madness, it only makes sense that Brad Keselowski would come good at superspeedways. He won at Talladega earlier this year, finished 5th at Daytona’s road course, and if he was a little less bold at the Daytona 500 he would have finished second there.
Keselowski is +1300 to win the race and well worth a unit, if only for the ride. For those seeking a little more control to their race evening, I also like Keselowski -115 in the head-to-head matchup against the man he wrecked last weekend, Austin Dillon.
Again, I like Bubba Wallace -120 head-to-head racing against Ryan Newman, Bubba another driver who tends to fluctuate until he finds a groove on the superspeedways. Wallace finished fifth in last year’s version of this race, and I love Bubba at +110 to finish top 10 on Saturday night.
Okay, NASCAR bets out of the way. Quick word count check: 914. Let’s get to F1.
The F1 summer break has mercifully ended and the series is back in action at the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, an iconic F1 circuit, and a lovely drive in just about any racing video game you can get your hands on.
The story this weekend at Spa is more about the weather, or at least, the thought of weather and its implications for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. It’s also the return of fans to the circuit in Belgium, which means another European circuit for Max Verstappen’s Oranje Army to descend upon and support their countryman as he pushes for the F1 Driver’s Championship this season.
Friday’s practices beared what has become apparent as the 2021 season progresses: it is really tight at the top, slight improvements to the Mercedes have closed the speed gap, and races really are a toss-up, which can be a rarity in F1.
Not only are the races more entertaining because of the title fight, it’s a fight between potentially two of the best racing drivers to ever take a seat in a car. It’s Senna/Prost, or Lauda/Hunt, for the social media age.
It would be easy to take Max Verstappen here. The crowd will make Belgium feel like home, he personally loves the track, and the high-speed nature of the circuit, with several flat-out corners where drivers won’t even lift off the throttle, suit the Red Bull car nicely.
But Lewis Hamilton sits as the current favorite following the first two practice sessions of the weekend, at -110 to win the race on Pointsbet. The experience of Hamilton, especially in the predicted wet conditions, gives us this line. Verstappen was faster than Hamilton in both practice sessions, even the second session in which Verstappen spun and went into the wall.
I tend to agree with the oddsmakers here. Current predictions have rain being a factor all weekend, but more than that, it’s very apparent the Mercedes has closed the gap in dry conditions, and wet conditions play even more into their hands.
Which is why I love Valtteri Bottas top 3 +170 on Pointsbet. Bottas is no stranger to a podium, when he doesn’t forget where his brake pedal is. Bottas has proved quick around Spa in practice, edging out teammate Lewis Hamilton in both practice sessions, and topping Max Verstappen in FP1.
Also based on practice performance, and also a man who just wanted to run into people at the Hungarian Grand Prix, I like Lance Stroll top 10 +100. Stroll was sixth quickest in the second practice session, a few tenths up on his Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Now the business end here. It feels like a Max race, but I align with the oddsmakers who give Lewis Hamilton the slight edge. I’ll take Lewis to win -110, and while we’re at it, drop down a future on Lewis to win the Driver’s Championship at -140, while that’s still worth it.
It’s a great weekend to be back. Let’s go racin’.
PS: Illinois +7.5 against Nebraska.